Why He Walked Out
Sometimes it takes a non-critic to think critically about a work of art. Ron Rosenbaum's Slate essay on "Doctor Atomic," the John Adams opera at the Met, is spot-on in its mocking assessment of Peter Sellars' disastrous libretto and its deadening effect on the piece. It also poses interesting questions about why some of New York's most prominent critics weren't bothered by the words.
Like Rosenbaum, I attended the opening-night performance, but my impression of the crowd was different from his. He saw reverence in the operagoers' expressions when the lights came up, but in the darkness I heard a restless, sighing audience that couldn't be bothered to shush people who coughed and coughed. The elderly man next to me -- I may be wrong, but he seemed like a Met regular -- checked his watch more often than I checked mine.
Rosenbaum left at intermission. I stayed, but only because the friend who'd brought me is an agent with a client in the production. Dreading Act II, wanting desperately to leave, we stood on the balcony and looked out over the construction site where the plaza's fountain used to be, watching enviously as people slipped away.