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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Reviews, scams and justice, with
classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,

Have you heard the news (hot off the press) that The National Symphony Orchestra and Slatkin are to part?

J Newsome in Maryland

Dear J N,

No, but I can't say I'm surprised. Though I escaped being conducted by Slatkin at the BBC Symphony, my friends there assure me he is loathed there as much as is any conductor anywhere in the world. Comments such as his suggesting that some female members would look better on stage wearing black circus tents due to lack of pulchritudinousness did not, er, 'sit well,' while his range of musical expression (as I can testify, having suffered his diabolical 'Planets' in person at the opening night of the last Proms) is commonly held to run the entire gamut of emotions from A to B (copyright: Dorothy Parker). Combine that with his embarrassing ability to attract scandal (his well-publicised affair with Evelyn Glennie) and an amount of talent in direct inverse proportion to the amount of ego, and you have a conductor-orchestra marriage made in hell. Why should a top US orchestra put up with that any more than a top UK orchestra?

What is more interesting is WHY someone of such meagre gifts ascended anywhere near as high as Leonard Slatkin in the first place.
Answers on a postcard to:
Asinine Appointments
14 Nepotism Road


Ask Alice

Dear Alice

Re the Nigerian scam: an Aussie was recently jailed for eighteen months for making five million dollars out of it. You might find details in Sydney Morning Herald or The Australian of about ten days ago. The report I saw commented, reasonably enough, that since he kept the money he probably still reckons he's done OK.

Malcolm Tattersall (Australia)

Dear Malcolm,

Thanks for this, which I had not heard of. (The mind, which was already boggling, now reels!!!!!!!!!)


(PS For those of you not knowing what Malcolm is on about, click on 'previous columns' below.)

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Dear Alice,

I am a concertgoer and opera-lover in the Washington DC area, and I am absolutely furious about the Washington Post's acidic review of Washington National Opera's recent production of Il Trovatore. It was so rude (one of the 'worst performances' Tim Page 'had ever seen) that someone called Michael Klein (more power to his elbow, and may his shadow never grow dimmer) wrote in to complain, and had his letter printed, though his letter noted that the review had frightened many opera-lovers away, and that there were an unusual number of empty seats, as there also were at the performance I attended.

What recourse do singers and producers alike against such travesties of justice?

AG in Alexandria Virginia

Dear AG,

Well, the answer is, of course, not a lot. A musical in London recently closed down after ONE PERFORMANCE, so rotten were its reviews, but it seems that in the case you mention the review was out of line. At least your fellow opera-lover got his rebuttal printed: the paper is not obliged even to do that, though the more people who wrote in to object (as I assume you did) the more likely it would be that the paper would feel honour-bound to do so. We also don't know whether the acidic reviewer you mention, Tim Page, might or might not have been carpeted by his boss for upsetting as many opera-lovers as it seems he may have. (It would be interesting if you kept us up to date with his NEXT review of the Washington Opera: and, if another reviewer is assigned that task, that might also speak volumes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

As for any comeback singers and producers might have, you can forget it. Artistes are fair game to be shot at, and the loss of ticket sales, bad though it may have been, won't even begin to be as painful as a bad review of one's singing would be. (Not that I've had more than one review personally, being only a lesser-spotted cellist, but the Daily Telegraph did many moons ago describe my cello solo in Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time as 'hauntingly evocative' and -- although one lives only for One's Art, and the opinion of reviewers means Absolutely Nothing At All, I still for some reason have it in a frame to this day ... very odd ...

'Hauntingly evocative' McVeigh

Copyright © 19 November 2004 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK



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