Please Stand By


Please Stand By

What’s Opera, Doc?

GOOD MORNING! TWO themes running through Indignity and its housekeeping notes lately have been that your editor has been scuffling to stay on top of the medium-term effects of catching Covid and the long-term effects of journalism's feeble job market and erratic gigwork situation.

To deal with this, Indignity will be mostly taking this week off to rest and/or meet some outstanding freelance obligations. The MR. WRONG column, in accord with its Always Be Columning™ motto, will arrive on Thursday as usual, but the Indignity Morning Podcast, Weather Reviews, and your other Indignity content will resume next week, after Indigenous People's Day.

Champion. Photo:

Meanwhile, here is a fascinating NPR story about a non-NPR public radio station in North Carolina whose general manager, Deborah Proctor, told its listeners it is refusing to broadcast a swath of this season's Metropolitan Opera programming from New York because the Met is featuring new works that she finds thematically or aesthetically upsetting, or in one case, "non-biblical." Purely incidentally, many of these operas are by nonwhite artists on nonwhite subjects, including Terence Blanchard's Champion and Anthony Davis' and Thulani Davis' X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X.

X: The Life and Times of Malcom X. Photo:

Among Proctor's complaints, NPR reported, is that Kevin Puts' opera of The Hours is "'not suitable for a general audience' because the plot features suicide" (among the Met productions her station will be broadcasting: Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Gounod's Romeo et Juliet).

Don't miss Proctor's actual letter about her decision, in which she explicitly spelled out a longstanding implicit attitude in the classical-music industry: Her station, she told its supporters, plays works with "widespread popularity," for a "relaxing, satisfying, and musically enjoyable experience"; she quoted a listener in Idaho praising the station for providing "background music for my children." One of its guiding principles, she wrote in italics, is "[n]ot airing modern, discordant, and difficult music."

Also here is a "News Analysis" article by Peter Baker from today's New York Times, in which he declares that the public was disengaged from the near-shutdown of the government because "[j]udging by Google search trends, at least, Americans in the days leading up to the shutdown-that-wasn’t were more curious about who shot Tupac Shakur, who might win 'The Golden Bachelor' and who would claim the giant Powerball jackpot." How frivolous Americans are, to care about the fact that an arrest was made in an incredibly visible murder case that had been sitting unresolved for more than a quarter-century!

Baker also managed to combine the completely Republican-driven shutdown drama with the landslide of prosecutions landing on Republican former president Donald Trump with the Republican-launched effort to impeach President Joe Biden on unspecified grounds to make an account of how both parties are breeding dysfunction:

America, it seems, has come to expect crisis. In an era of disruption and polarization and insurrection, with a former president facing 91 felony counts in four criminal indictments and a sitting president facing an impeachment inquiry and a House speaker facing a possible move to oust him, the country has grown accustomed to chaos in the capital. Dysfunction is the new normal.

Polarization! A terrible thing, in Peter Baker's analysis of the news.

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