Felsenmusick - The Weblog of Daniel Felsenfeld
The Web Log of a Certain Daniel Felsenfeld: Composer, critic, avid reader, aspiring
bon vivant, capricorn, shadowy figure, advice for the lovelorn

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Son of An American Tragedy

In a decidedly flip-floppy review ("it works, it doesn't, it works, it doesn't") of Tobais' opera, Anthony Tomassinni writes this very confusing graph:

"An American Tragedy" is an effective piece; it works as an opera, you could say. But an opera is also a musical score, and on that level this score does not grab me like those of many operas that work much less effectively."

One can only blink.

Is effectiveness a bad thing for an opera or a good thing? He seems to damn with faint praise, stating that the piece works as an opera, but not on its own terms--even though its own terms were to be an opera. So the music is separate from the opera (this explains many reviews of Doctor Atomic that said the score was great but the piece doesn't work). I know this is a matter of opinion, but help me out there in blogland: is this not like saying that the text of the novel was great but the text was not so good? Or is AT simply implying that this is not the sort of music he likes (as if that really matters) but if you like this stuff then this piece works?

Honestly, not trying to deride The Times, just looking for a little explanation. I've always believed that a critic ought to confront a new work on it's own terms rather than their own terms, otherwise its just opinion-mongering, and then what does a critic really do?

I am actually more impressed--even if I disagree--with this review on Cafe Aman because it cites chapter and verse and does not get mealy-mouthed about its point of view. I would rather read this sort of writing and disagree than read the "professional" review and wonder what he meant.

Any help?

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anastasia said...

So then I'm not a professional? (What am I, chopped liver?)

9:17 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Oh lord, I meant the one who was PAID to write it, hence professional being in quotes.

Everyone's a critic...

11:40 PM  
Anonymous bgn said...

As I interpreted Tommasini's review, he seemed to be making a distinction between An American Tragedy as a theatrical experience which works, and An American Tragedy as a score which to his ears seems not to stand out enough to make much difference to the theatrical experience. If you want a novelistic analogy, it might be like saying a novel works as a story but the writing style isn't much to write home about--which IIRC is a big problem people have with Dreiser's writing.

10:12 AM  
Blogger La Cieca said...

But what if you think (as I do) that AT is both musically dull and dramatically clumsy? (Not to mention at least 40 minutes too long.)

9:12 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

You are certainly entitled to think what you like. My point was that AT was reviewing not the opera he saw but the heavily modernist idea of what he believed opera ought to do. Think what you like, thats what you are entitled to.

10:25 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

You are certainly entitled to think what you like. My point was that AT was reviewing not the opera he saw but the heavily modernist idea of what he believed opera ought to do. Think what you like, thats what you are entitled to.

10:26 AM  

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