This weekend I was sifting through the internet to look at some of the reviews of projects I have friends involved in. There were two operas in New York that I was interested in - L'Etoile at City Opera, and Dido and Acteon with Les Arts Florissant at BAM, as well as Elmer Gantry in Milwaukee and Carmen in Pittsburgh. I have dear friends involved in all of these projects and was curious to know what the press would be writing about the various opening night performances.
I was quite surprised to discover that upon googling each of these projects in the News tab of google, I was able to find three reviews of Gantry in Milwaukee, two of Carmen in Pittsburgh and just one each of the two projects in New York City. When I sang L'Etoile at City Opera last time, there were at least 8 reviews that came out in various print and online news sources, including all the major New York papers - the NY Times, the NY Sun, the Wall Street Journal, and the NY Post. Granted, it was considered a new production last time, having never been performed in NYC before, but I was shocked to find only one review of the production this time around, especially considering it's a rare opera, and City Opera is only performing 5 pieces this season. I was equally perplexed by the fact that a brand new production at BAM with such a distinguished group as Les Arts Florissant would also elicit only one review. The fact that there are more people reviewing opera in places like Milwaukee and Pittsburgh than in New York City speaks well of the latter locations, but is not so promising for New Yorkers! What does it mean that the cultural capital of our country isn't really covering opera in the same way as smaller towns, and should we be worried? The now defunct New York Sun gave me some of the most AWESOME reviews of my career - and now it's just a distant memory. As Tina Fey would say; What the what??
It's bad enough that while we have two major opera companies in this town, one of them seems to always be struggling financially, and was on the verge of closing down permanently at one point. Having spent a lot of time in Berlin this year, where there are three thriving opera companies and many other smaller companies, I honestly felt really jealous for all of us New Yorkers. And now the opera companies we have seem to be getting such dwindling coverage - what does it all mean for the future of opera?
Certainly blogs are a big future for opera - my constant addiction being the effervescent and eloquent opera chic. And it seems to me that in Europe musical events are covered to a very extreme degree in both the regular media and online compared with what we have over here. Somehow, we have to keep the interest alive over here in the public at large, so the media will want to cover the cultural events. But how?