To the editors:
Dennis Polkow tells an interesting story about his qualifications to review opera [Letters, January 12]. I'm sorry, I missed the autobiographical music reviews he talked about because (as I said) I have not been in town very long. I do not read his reviews very often anyway, because he barely knows a countertenor from a bass. If Polkow's story is true it just proves that neither heredity or environment are enough to cover basic lack of ability. My father, grandfather and two uncles were all doctors and I lived with medical terms from birth. That does not mean I am qualified to practice medicine. Polkow proves his almost complete ignorance of opera and voice every time he writes a review.
Polkow's review of the mostly pleasurable Die Fledermaus at Lyric Opera was terribly negative and unfair [January 5]. I guess we must assume Lyric did not give Polkow the two free front row $79 tickets he always demands. That is extortion and it is dishonest.
Too bad you always give your writers the last word (no matter how twisted that word may be). I am told it discourages a lot of people from writing you. These questions are really for the publisher and the editor in chief. Why do you hire an extortionist to write reviews? Why do you hire someone who doesn't know anything about singing? If Polkow admits that his opinion should not "be more respected or taken more seriously than anyone else's" why do you hire him? Polkow complains that his critics are "vicious, narrow and elitist." He is more vicious than any of the critics you have printed letters from. By calling them narrow and elitist he is trying to cover up for his own inability to tell good singing from bad singing. I have read many letters critical of Polkow, but if there have been any praising him I've missed them. By smearing his critics Polkow is trying to cover up for his own many failings.
With total sincerity,
PS: (Dennis Polkow may call me "Mr." Hyatt)