Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Abridging the Classics

Today's Times brings a report that the Metropolitan Opera plans to present a 90-minute version of The Magic Flute. ACD is predictably up in arms over the matter.

My friend Bill Kasimer is annoyed, too, and presents better reasons than ACD. Here's what he had to say about it on

Why is it necessary to abridge Magic Flute? It's short enough already. I took my son to a performance of it at the Met, and he didn't have any trouble sitting through the whole thing. He was seven at the time. A few months later, I took him to a "family performance" of the opera, and he bitched about the cuts.

If the Met really wants to be "family friendly", they should schedule Sunday matinee performances, and start some of the evening performances earlier, so that they end at a reasonable hour. Or how about a "family series", a small number of weekday performances that begin around 4:00, with a longer intermission for dinner, and then finishing up early enough to get kids to bed a reasonable hour?

It'll never happen.

I have to agree with Bill on all of those points, although I also understand the reasons the Met might not be able go with his ideas - union contracts, scheduling issues, etc. They're still great ideas.

I don't especially mind the abridgement, myself. There's a long history of cutting operas in performance, for better or for worse, depending on circumstances, conductorial fancy, the demands of running an opera house, current fashion, and current scholarship. San Francisco Opera has had a portable one-hour, piano-only production of Hansel und Gretel for decades; it's played at schools and mostly during the holiday season. Last year, Berkeley Opera put on a bang-up one-evening production of the Ring that I, for one, loved. My partner, not much of a Wagner fan herself, thought it a ton of fun and even flirted with the idea of going to the Seattle Ring with me this year. So, sure, there's a place in the world for abridgement. It does not mean the sky is falling, unless, of course, you think any change means the sky is falling.

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