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Dressed Up and Going Nowhere

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To the editors:

I am writing to thank you for George Grass' review [October 21]. It was refreshing to hear from a critic with enough integrity to allow himself not to be taken in by the Lyric Mafia, whose campaign included two articles in the program itself trying to bully patrons into accepting adolescent witlessness as profundity, stupidity as innovation, and banality as revelation.

Like Mr. Sellars, in his program notes, I am not deeply committed to twelfth-century footwear, but it is a great clue to his method that his entire "defense" of the production involved the costumes. It never once occurred to this aging enfant terrible that meaning might go deeper than fashion. He apparently was never troubled, for example, by the absurdity of a "Born Again Preacher" sending a sinner on a pilgrimage to the Pope. Mr. Sellars is apparently as ignorant of religion as he is of opera, although typically he assures us that the evangelists are accurately dressed. The problem with the production is not that it is shocking, but that it is trivial, not that it is radically contemporary, but that it is conscientiously meaningless.

Or perhaps there is a meaning. Perhaps the real point of the whole sorry mess was to build up to the third act advertisement for American Airlines, whose logo dominated the scene. This combination of corporate huckstering and pseudo-sleazy semi-sex seems to be the leitmotif of the new age of innovation at the Lyric.

I would go on to argue that far from being radical and thought-provoking the new Tannhauser is both conventional and cowardly, but I shan't belabor it. Instead, let us adopt the strategy of Claudia Cassidy, who paid to hype this horror, merely acknowledges its existence, then shares with us a memory of the 1962 Bayreuth production. We can all, even those of us who have seen no other production, imagine a better one. And certainly a truer one.

Thanks for allowing me a moment of self-indulgence. And thanks again to Mr. Grass.

Don Hoffman

N. Larrabee

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