To the editors:
I was fortunate enough to attend one of the Chamber Opera Chicago performances of Madame Butterfly and feel I must respond to Dennis Polkow's ludicrous review [June 2] of my colleague Lauren Miller in the title role.
Normally, I would assume that a bad review of any good singer could be attributable to the fact that no single voice can please every taste. However, to comment upon a performance that was exquisitely phrased and rich in musical insight and nuance with remarks like, "if the work were not so familiar, one would wonder at times what she was trying to sing," goes far beyond expressing a distaste for a particular voice. It displays a tremendous ignorance of vocal musicianship. Judging from the sold-out house response to Ms. Miller's singing, I can only assume that the "one" who would wonder was Mr. Polkow alone. I don't know Mr. Polkow, nor am I aware of his credentials as a critic of opera, although in light of this review and the letters to the editor in the same issue, they seem dubious at absolute best, but what he has produced here is simply irresponsible rubbish.
As for Darrell Rowader, while his singing may not have been as consistent as one could have wished, by nomeans did he at any time during the performance at which I was in attendance sound like Bert Lahr. Perhaps a less "clever," more accurate approach would lend a little credibility to anything valid that the critic might have had to say regarding the singing. As it is, the reader will never know. My own schedule made it impossible for me to see The World of the Moon, and I must admit to being no clearer as to how the performance went for reading the review, although I was gratified to learn that "all of the singers managed to sing all of the notes. . . ." Honestly, if this is the best the Reader can come up with in the way of an opera critic, perhaps you should consider doing without one.
I must confess to some relieved amusement, after I had sufficiently cooled down, upon reading the letters to the editor column of the same issue and finding that his Albert Herring review [April 14] had provoked similar reader responses. I feel compelled to add that, having sung with Julia Parks, I can assure you that she most definitely is a mezzo soprano; she sounds best and is most comfortable in that repertoire, however she may have sounded to Mr. Polkow's extremely questionable ears.
It is disturbing to find in the Reader, one of the few Chicago papers that can lay a claim to any kind of critical acuity, such embarrassingly inept work. Dump this chump.
Just another baritone Chicago
Dennis Polkow replies:
Assuming that your singing ability matches your hearing ability, I can well understand your not wanting to reveal yourself.