Monday, September 01, 2014

Somebody Will Have to Explain this to Me

I'm having some difficulty parsing this statement, in a NY Times article by Adam Nagourney, by the former president of the San Diego Opera board of directors, Karen S. Cohn:
“I cannot support what is going on,” she said of the new coalition and its efforts. “This is a group of people who are not focusing on going forward. They are focusing on ruining people who spent 31 years doing wonderful things for San Diego. I don’t want to ruin their chance of going forward, but I don’t appreciate how they have handled this.”
Okay, a person who voted to close the company is calling the people keeping the company going "a group of people who are not focusing on going forward." That is what I need explained to me. Can someone help? Somehow I am not smart enough to make sense of the paragraph I quote above. 


Zwölftöner said...

I realize that you are very smart and asking a rhetorical question, but for my benefit, as a European who genuinely isn't sure if he's reading this loopiness correctly: her claim is that her successors are disingenously taking on the thankless challenges and risks of salvaging an opera company *purely* to spite her? Really THAT vain?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Apparently so, or very close to that. She was in the wing of directors ready to march over the cliff, following Ian Campbell's lead, because they wouldn't be able to present opera in glittering grand opera style. And thinks that somehow it is all about ruining the people who were ready to close the company instead of changing it.

Quoting her verbatim was smart of the author, because it is such obvious doubletalk. Closing the company = moving it forward, and keeping it open = ruining people.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, from the above comments, you're less puzzled by the statement than you seem from your post. It seems clear enough to me, and the introductory statement before the quote, "she was appalled at how the current opera board and staff members continued to criticize the last administration’s actions," makes it clear if it wasn't already.

"Not focusing on going forward" is not hypocritical nor nonsensical. It means not focusing on the job they've undertaken, and instead on (as her following sentence says) carping at their predecessors.

Whether it's an accurate charge or not is another question. I wonder if the very fact that they've reversed the previous board's shut-down decision operates as a criticism of its actions. Certainly there's something behind the earlier reference to "the intense polarization created by this battle."

But what really conveys Cohn's hurt-feelings tone is her declaration later down that she won't even go to the shows. Now that's either cutting your nose off to spite your face, or else a belief that if it isn't overproduced glamor, it isn't opera.

Incidentally, I think new management is very wise in having scheduled a couple of recitals, which are less expensive and less trouble to put on, to keep the fires burning and demonstrate their commitment to putting on performances, while they're getting ready to stage an actual opera later down the road.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I was obviously playing dumb, or, perhaps, exaggerating for effect.

I have not seen examples of the current board criticizing the previous board since the events of the spring. That is, they may exist and I haven't seen them. In the spring, there was plenty to criticize, including the outsized pay to general/artistic director Ian Campbell and his wife; the failure of the board to figure out how to keep the opera going; the decision to close despite having no debt; the disinterest in perhaps changing artistic directions to something less extravagant in the way of production style, or hiring less-expensive singers in the future, etc.

The article I linked to makes it clear that the current board certainly is moving forward: by cutting expenses and staff, by relocating their offices, by cutting the season from 4 operas to 3, by bringing in a couple of recitals.

Yes, she won't go to the shows: she'll go to NY or London instead. That's a pretty clear sign that she thinks it's not opera if it isn't glittering and expensive.

All opera companies can't, and shouldn't, be the Met. West Edge Opera produces works that SF Opera doesn't, and does really interesting things when they overlaps in repertory. Both companies make important contributions to the Bay Area's music scene, on different scales.

And yes, regarding the recitals. It's very smart.