Friday, September 26, 2014

Opera in Boston

Jeremy Eichler, the chief classical music critic at the Boston Globe, has started what I gather will be a multi-part series on opera in Boston. This is a fraught subject, for various reasons: the city demolished what was supposedly a first-class venue in 1958 - for a parking lot - and the brilliant but erratic Sarah Caldwell burned through gigantic amounts of money and good will. 

I'm finding a few things to quibble with in the first article, though not in what Eichler himself writes. First, there's the cringeworthy graphic illustrating the article. There's curvaceous woman with a halberd and horned helmet, with, uh...are those breastplates?....on stage looking at the orchestra pit, in which the players are facing the stage, not the audience. Uh....if that's supposed to be a Wagnerian soprano, and the stereotypes suggest it is, could it be any worse? I, uh, think I would have used a photo of the old Boston Opera House. (I can find plenty of photos of the exterior, but I believe the interior shots are all of the current theater called the Boston Opera House, a different venue entirely.)

But here's a quotation I consider to be unadulterated bullshit:
“To remain among the major cities in America, Boston needs world-class opera, and this requires a proper performance venue,” said Ray Stata, a technology entrepreneur who has been part of BLO’s think tank, in a statement last week. “It is not just about providing access to opera for music lovers. A city with cultural diversity and excellence attracts the best and brightest minds to build a strong economy.”
I think it would be great for Boston to again have an opera house, but c'mon. A metropolitan area that includes Harvard, MIT, BU, BC, Tufts, Brandeis, NEC, Wellesley, a host of smaller colleges, the BSO, Mass General and many other important medical institutions, the USS Constitution, dozens of musical organizations, and a giant swath of US history is in absolutely no danger of becoming less than one of the major cities in the US, whether or not it has an opera house. 


Anonymous said...

It's really more the other way around. A major city (which Boston by definition is) looks silly without some of the facilities that a major city ought to have.

Contrarywise, a city that's not a major city looks silly boasting of its major-city facilities. (Listen up, San Jose!)

Lisa Hirsch said...

I don't know that Boston looks silly for its lack of an opera house; more short-sighted, considering why they knocked down the old building. But your formulation makes more sense than Mr. Entrepreneur's does.

Unknown said...

I agree with you about the BS comment but he's presumably just one of many folks in this "think tank."

What was more interesting to me was to discover that the Globe has relented on its firewall policy regarding Mr. Eichler's articles. I don't know when it occurred but I had stopped going to the site when they wanted what I considered too much money to read one person's articles. I'll keep count to see whether I get to more than 10 articles in a month, although I used several just to catch up on the BSO and its new music director.

Michael said...

Ray Stata founded a long-lasting integrated circuit company nearly 50 years ago (full disclosure: my wife works there) and has been a major donor to the BSO, MIT, and probably many other organizations I don't follow as closely. Even if you disagree with him, he deserves more respect that your sarcastic "Mr. Entrepreneur" tag.

I'm thrilled that he's involved in getting an opera house for Boston, and if he thinks a little sales pitch hyperbole helps, that's fine with me. Mr. Stata has probably forgotten more about sales than any of us posting here will ever know.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That's fair enough, but it is also true that I don't (and can't) investigate the background of everybody who is quoted in every article I read or quote from. He's described by Eichler only as a technology entrepreneur and part of the BLO think tank.