To the editors:
I must confess that I read the venomous grumbling about your opera/music critic Dennis Polkow with great amusement [Letters, June 2 and 30], and find that I must add my two cents as a veteran survivor of Chicago opera, for better or worse.
I'm impressed with a Chicago critic with enough balls to call a spade a spade, and give us accurate reporting about individual voices. As far as I'm concerned, and I've personally attended most of the operas that have been reviewed, Polkow accurately reports on the vocal range, power, sound and color of all the important singers in a given production (Julia Parks is a mezzo, however), but also pays close attention to the accuracy of singers with regard to pitch. This is something I have never seen another critic attempt, and I find it welcome and fascinating. I have perfect pitch, so believe me, he is dead on here, although singers see red when they are judged on this fundamental issue (my conductor-grandfather shared Mr. Polkow's sensitivity to such matters--and screeching soprano-types from the old country hated him, including his own daughter). He also always deals with the quality of the overall production and its individual constituents, acting, costumes, sets, direction, etc., and usually gives an interesting and accurate historical perspective on the work. The problem with most singers and "opera people" is that they don't pay the slightest bit of attention to these issues, and God knows, those two tone-deaf milktoasts that write for the dailies have neither the space nor expertise to deal with them.
Believe me, if Polkow is annoying opera twits as much as recent reactionary letters indicate, you should give him a raise. It means he's doing his job exceptionally well because he's getting them to think a bit for a change. Even those that strongly disagree or are offended with what he has to say should be glad there's at least one critic in town who will take a point of view.
Just sign me,
A long-lost sextuplet from Lucia