15 Dec Notable Performances and Recordings of 2014: The New Yorker
The Metropolitan Opera flailed for much of the year, surviving a summer-long labor crisis and then becoming engulfed in protests over its presentation of John Adams’s “The Death of Klinghoffer.” But the Met faces a problem more fundamental than the issue of how it will maintain its generous salaries or respond to the music criticism of Rudolph Giuliani. The house has so little relation to modern life that a politically charged piece like “Klinghoffer” has a disorienting effect on audiences, eliciting bewildered questions that would never be asked of plays, novels, films, or television shows (“How can you put a terrorist onstage?”). In October, the composer Suby Raman published a series of graphs illustrating the severity of the disconnect: after 1950, the Met has presented season after season in which not a single opera by a living composer has been performed. (The longest stretch was from 1974 to 1991.) Alas, the company is hardly exceptional in this regard. Conventional wisdom has long held that programming too much new music is suicidal, yet the L.A. Phil, the boldest of major orchestras in this regard, also happens to be the one in the healthiest financial condition. The institutions that are stuck on repeating the past are, I would guess, condemned to join it.
A shamefully misguided, exploitative protest, involving New York politicians who should have known better than to condemn an opera they had not seen, failed to stop New Yorkers from attending, and acclaiming, “The Death of Klinghoffer.” Far from dishonoring the terrorist victim Leon Klinghoffer, the opera has insured that he will not be forgotten.