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March 12, 2010

more front-page news (and other tales of the NYTimes)

My earlier post regarding arts news on the front page was, I believe, a bit misconstrued--I'm no purist when it comes to writing or reading about the arts (in fact, most of my own work on music during the past few years might reasonably be considered political stuff). Yet I'll not belabor the points I was trying to make back then.

I will however take note of arts news on the front page again (below the fold), in today's New York Times. It's a piece about the Lincoln Center Festival's presentation of "The Demons" this July. Since my wife is the fest's general manager (thus, I never actually write about the festival), this was much the dinner table talk at my home. And since this site's own John Rockwell was founding director of the festival (during a short hiatus from his long career at the Times), I figured the piece raised at least his eyebrows.

Patrick Healy's article is interesting not just for its placement, but for its approach to what is ostensibly an arts-marketing "hot ticket in town" story: Healy quotes at length folks who have purchased tickets (sort of like in those Broadway TV ads, only this time before the show has been seen, and with admittedly more substantive comments) and gets into the sticky business of box office politics (how many tickets go to institutional patrons and to press). I'm curious to know how all this struck our crowd.

And while I'm on the subject of the Times, I wonder if anyone read the March 9th piece on the Met Opera production of "The Nose." In a none-too-subtle link to the paper's ArtsBeat blog, a roundtable discussion of sorts was held: Anthony Tommasini, chief classical music critic; Roberta Smith, art critic; and Dwight Garner, book critic, with Daniel J. Wakin, classical music reporter, moderating. It's a discussion only "of sorts" to me because it suffers from what Granta's John Freeman described in the interview posted here by Laura Collins-Hughes (conducted via email, and nonetheless fascinating):

...doing this over e-mail also means it's very hard to have a spontaneous conversation. I'm responding to your questions -- thanks for them, by the way! -- but if we were to have met face-to-face we probably would have wandered down a few tangents which could have produced a richer conversation.

The Times roundtable, stiff though it may have been due to lack of face-to-face engagement, interested me for a different reason. It dealt with an issue not often acknowledged by newspaper culture departments, at least not too loudly: That many works, especially in the performing arts, defy strict genre and discipline to the point that it is not entirely clear which critic is best qualified to evaluate the work, or which audience will be most keenly interested. In the case of "The Nose," of course, opera is still opera, William Kentridge's visual-arts standing and Nicolai Gogol's literary place notwithstanding. But the approach of engaging the perspectives of critics who specialize in more than one discipline is at least interesting. And regarding presentations that are more clearly interdisciplinary, it might be deeply useful. One wise editor, when asked the "who should review it?" question by me, said simply, "We decide based on the venue." Maybe that's changing. Should it?

March 12, 2010 7:35 PM | | Comments (0)

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