Friday, July 15, 2005


The Pasatiempo letters section today got me hot under the collar.

There were all these letters blasting Pasa's opera critic, Craig Smith. One even called Craig "the MOST jaded reporter on your team" for his July 3 review of Turandot.

Hey, what about me? I feel left out! Granted, I do get some angry letters about my political writing (right wingers calling me a loony liberal, left-wingers calling me a Republican), but only rarely do get a stray letter in Pasa disagreeing with one of my CD reviews.

(Oh, o.k, I did get Dave Grusin writing in once to denounce me for contributing to the "dumbing-down of America" or something like that. And there was that package I got in about 15 years ago from an angry Stevie Ray Vaughan fan who sent me a ready-to-use Fleet enema in response to one of my Tune-up columns. )

I get to pick and choose from hundreds of CDs or music DVDs to review and usually I prefer to tell the world about the ones I like instead of kicking some musical dog. On the other hand, Craig, in his role as opera critic, has to review whatever opera is playing here.

I know far more about the Opry than the opera -- and I haven't seen Turandot. So I won't attempt to defend Mr. Smith. I don't know whether his scathing remarks about the direction and the set and other problems were justified or not.

But I will attack some of the letters. There were some real bone-headed statements there.

Some guy from Kansas City complained:

... one may reasonably doubt that Craig Smith has ever been a director of opera or otherwise a an opera singer, a conductor of an orchestra, a performing musician in any orchestra, a choreographer, a lighting expert, a set designer, a composer, a practicing pyschoanalyst or even a stagehand.

Uh oh. I cover politics but have never held or even run for public office.

Then, after calling Craig arrogant and a bunch of other stuff, he turns on the UPPERCASE and notes that unqualified, arrogant Craig wrote all this

Hey pal, I don't know how they do it K.C., but around here just being labeled a "review" is enough to warn most folks that it's the writer's opinion.

The lady who called Craig the most jaded reporter went on to say,
"That he should be allowed to be so-o-o negative on the front page of the paper is scandalous. We are supposed to be promoting Santa Fe, not bringing it down. We want visitors to come and enjoy our city and an awful lot of them come for the Opera."
Oh for the love of Christ!

Here's the deal, lady. We're not a Chamber of Commerce rag and Craig isn't a tourism flack. His duty is not to "promote Santa Fe" but to give his honest opinion about the performance he's reviewing.

A Santa Fe man claimed that Smith's review had ruined the career of stage director and scenic designer Douglas Fitch.
"Craig Smith, for all his knowledge, does not have the right, with a flick of his pen, to kill the professional future of a young person."
Goodness Gussie!

For one thing, yes, he does have that right. And if they do repeal the First Amendment, it probably won't be over opera reviews.

Secondly, if someone's "professional future" is so delicate that one bad review can snuff it out, maybe that person should consider another career.

Maybe opera fans could learn something from us rockers and meditate on the zen-like mystery of this adaptation of a common rock 'n' roll wisdom:

Your favorite opera sucks.

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