Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Press roundup

I think Alex of the Wellsungs is entirely right to dissect Tommasini's reflexive and cliched dismissal of An American Tragedy. One further point I'd add: 1950 is just as much unrecoverable past today as is 1905 or 1850. A rearguard defense of modernism won't turn back the clock from its aesthetic successors.

Oh, but who has the space to do justice to the riotous melange of honest opinion, grinding axes, insight, generalization, quick conclusions, and bizarre hobbyhorses that makes up the rest of the press coverage? It almost takes one back to the delightful old days before hundreds of years of noisy fan appreciation forced critics to dress their hatreds in polite language.

Most amusing, I think, is the pair of Jay Nordlinger and Willa Conrad, who each attribute the rather more lugubrious political agenda of Dreiser's book to the opera, to opposite ends: Nordlinger deplores it, which seems to dim his view of the rest of the proceedings, while Conrad pretty much finds it the only element of the evening worth keeping.

Of the others, only the AP's Mike Silverman gives a mixed evaluation. The remainder trash it, with more or less style. Of these, I think Matthew Erikson of the Hartford Courant is the most interesting and grandees Martin Bernheimer and Clive Barnes the least. Mark Swed of the LA Times (who, incomprehensibly, liked the Harbison fiasco!) offers another ideological attack, while Newsday's Justin Davidson and Variety's Eric Myers just found the show dull. (Oddly, the latter give no report of the -- contrary -- audience reaction.)

Your milage, needless to say, may vary. This is definitely an instance where one should see for oneself.

UPDATE (12:20 PM): OK, maybe the Wellsungs are up to fisking the whole lot of 'em. Jonathan's funny take on Eric Myers here.

UPDATE 2 (12/7, 3:30 AM): More ink -- Chicago's John von Rhein, though quite fair-minded on the whole, wishes LOC's composer William Bolcom had written it (having seen A View from the Bridge, I don't), while Charles Ward of the Houston Chronicle does his own press roundup.

UPDATE 3 (12/8): A positive review from the Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns.

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Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.