To the editors:
George Grass, in your February 22 issue, has been allowed once again to indulge himself in that narcissistic journalism so occupationally hazardous to critics. His self-conscious diatribe about Chicago Opera Theater's fine production of Idomeneo didn't begin to jibe with reviews of Robert Marsh and John von Rhein and their praise of same.
Patience. I am not suggesting that Mr. Grass coincide with other critics in his views. I am suggesting that he develope a mature, evenhanded style. For instance: "The plot is the typical mythic mishmash preferred for works of the period." In one fell swoop he dispatches a treasury of ancient cautionary tales. Again, "Chicago Opera Theater has established its niche as a fish swimming near the maw of the Lyric shark" dismisses the fact that the Lyric has been a great friend to COT and taps its resources frequently. Finally, Mr. Grass displays an embarrassing ignorance when he presumes to inform the reader that "Its stock-in-trade is mounting productions of moderate size in a more accessible and intimate format than is available from its wealthier cousin." The slightest bit of research would have led Mr. Grass to the fact that COT's actual stock-in-trade is in providing a vital springboard for new talent into its beloved cousins; the Lyric, the Metropolitan, and European opera houses. But the shiniest star in its crown is producing dazzling, rollicking operas in English for children--who attend in happy droves--and who will become the future audiences for those "cousins."
(Chicago Opera Theater does have a future, Mr. Grass, and no thanks to you.)
Linda Lentine Clark
George Grass replies:
I plead guilty to the occasional disagreement with von Rhein and Marsh. But there is nothing that implies hostility between Lyric and COT in the shark-fish analogy, only a difference in scale. Lyric has only occasionally "tapped the resources" of COT. It is almost embarrassing, for example, how long it took Lyric to notice Frank Galati and Robert Orth. And while it is true that part of COT's original manifesto was to cultivate new local talent, in recent years a "New York is better" provincialism seems to have somewhat eclipsed this objective.
Clark obviously feels that COT needs good notices because of its financial plight and that this should be the primary consideration in a review. Though I have enjoyed COT productions for 15 years and wish the company every success, I will not let them off the hook for a disappointing production.