1984 - you decide

I have a lot of admiration for people who have the humility to change their point of view when new facts become available. For that reason I admire fellow blogger Jessica Duchen. Her day job is as a high profile music journalist (as well as a pretty damn good musician), and she did a pre-premiere interview with Lorin Maazel which was (understandably) fairly bullish about the prospects for his new opera 1984 - the subject of my earlier posts Big Brother is paying you and 1984 - the sequel .

Now Jessica has been to see the new opera, and in an updating post she writes...

"I must concede that my various colleagues who panned this thing were dead right: it should NOT have been put on at Covent Garden."

Respect Jessica for writing with honesty and integrity.

1984 has generated a lot of healthy debate in the blogosphere. And the good news is you can now judge for yourself. BBC Radio 3 is broadcasting the whole opera from Covent Garden this Wednesday evening (25th May) at 7.00 o'clock in the evening UK time (Click here for a time zone converter to find out what time it is on in your time zone). You can listen live anywhere in the world on the net using this link, and the performance should be available online for a week after the broadcast date using the BBC 'Listen Again' service via this link.

Covent Garden's poster for Maazel's new opera, 1984

So now there's an opportunity to leverage the internet and find out what the fuss is all about. And when you've heard it post your comments here, and let us know whether Jessica was right and 1984 should not have been put on at Covent Garden.

If you found this post interesting you should also enjoy MaxOpus
invisible hit counter


Jessica said…
Thank you, "Pliable" - I try to be reasonably pliable too!

The circumstances of my interview with Maazel may be of interest. The maestro was originally going to write the article about the genesis of his opera himself. Having tried various ways in, and with copy deadline fast approaching, he eventually decided, somewhat at the last moment, that it would be easier if he could be interviewed instead. Therefore he had thought out everything he wanted to say and my job was essentially to put that across. I had 3 hours' notice to do the interview and not much more than a weekend to write it. As for background material, the ROH let me read the libretto (which I found impressive) and gave me lots of material about the team involved. The one thing I did not have was access to the music itself in any shape or form...until the other day! I felt that Maazel made some excellent points in the interview, "1984" seemed ideal for an opera and it looked very much as if everyone was giving him a hard time just for the sake of it. That was all I could go on at the time.

As they say, the proof is in the pudding......
Pliable said…
Richard Friedman has emailed me....

"In today's (Sunday's) New York Times, Emmanuel Ax replies in a letter to Anthony Tommasini's scathing article on 1984. You can find it at: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/22/arts/22alsmail.html
(You might have to register, for free, to read it.)
Here's the text:

Published: May 22, 2005

The Ins and Outs of Opera

To the Editor:

I feel that I must write regarding Anthony Tommasini's article about Lorin Maazel ["Vanity of Vanities: The Conductor as Composer as Entrepreneur," last Sunday], because I disagree strongly with its conclusions and with how he arrives at them. I want to say immediately that we differ on the merits of Mr. Maazel's music-making - I am mostly a fan, and I am aware that Mr. Tommasini is mostly not. I am sure that this colors my point of view about the article, but I venture to suggest that perhaps Mr. Tommasini's feelings about this have pushed him in the other direction, a little unfairly.

First, I am sure he is aware that no commission, and certainly no large-scale opera, is put on without substantial funding from private sources. To my knowledge, works like "The Tempest" by Thomas Adès, which was an immense critical success and a sellout for all its performances (I was lucky to have gotten in at the last minute on returned tickets), still required a large infusion of cash from Covent Garden. It is misleading, I feel, to make it sound as though Mr. Maazel's opera was the only one that needed money - the issue is where the money is to come from.

Second, he prescribes the proper path for a composer to take in a career of writing opera, and concludes with, "By the time you get through it and are ready to write a substantive work for a major company, you should have learned the ins and outs of opera." May I point out that Mr. Maazel is 75, and during his career has been the head of the Deutsche Oper in Berlin and the Vienna Opera? I grew up with his recordings of several operatic masterpieces. Is it not a little presumptuous for anyone to suggest that he is not aware of "the ins and outs of opera"?

Mr. Maazel believes in his work enough to contribute a substantial amount of his own money to support it. I find this praiseworthy, rather than reprehensible. Why should his judgment of music be considered less accurate than the judgment of any number of general managers of opera companies, who may not even be as interested in music as in drama or staging? If the music turns out to be wonderful and exciting, all to the good. If not, it simply will disappear, as is true of most music that is not worthy of repeated performances.

Lastly, I feel that Mr. Tommasini's analogy of Laurence Olivier's writing and producing a substantial drama actually bolsters my point of view. I cannot imagine not standing in line for a ticket to an event like that - and the fact is, it might turn out to be a great play. Emanuel Ax


Recent popular posts

Folk music dances to a dangerous tune

A tale of two new audiences

Does it have integrity and relevance?

The Berlin Philharmonic's darkest hour

Master musician who experienced the pain of genius

Is classical music obsessed by existential angst?

Music and malice in Britten's shadow

Le Voyage de Sahar

So it's not just listening ...

Nada Brahma - Sound is God