Spreading Joy from Heaven Above--The Lower the Better

Seriously, how low can you go?

Hmmm. How low CAN you go? Well, how’s this? Click here.

*Edit [Empiricus]: It's best to open the Youtube link in another window and let it play while you read on.

That’s pretty low. But I was thinking a little lower.

Then, how about this? The Detritus Review will, for the first time, criticize a criticism of a criticism. “Come again,” you say? Today, the Detritus Review insults an opinion sent to the Washington Post that takes issue with an Anne Midgette review. “Now that’s low!” I assure you, dear reader, it is, generally.

“That’s totally unfair. The poor, undefended opinion holder doesn’t deserve to be ridiculed by your snarky little meta-blog,” you say.

Well (said in a smug manner)! Even lower—which technically, or so I thought, couldn’t be done—the Washington Post actually published this opinion. “But publishing the public’s responses is a sign of humility, and ethical rigor,” you say. “There’s nothing wrong with that!” Again, my dear reader, this is a new kind of low for the Detritus, I assure you.

“Honestly, what could be so bad that you nobodies have such a ravenous disregard for someone else’s entitled opinion?”

Read on.


Anne Midgette recently reviewed a production of Verdi’s Rigoletto by the Washington National Opera, directed by noted soprano Catherine Malfitano. All in all, it was a lukewarm review, saying that

[...] what Malfitano did not manage to do -- in part because of the cast she had to work with -- was give the characters, particularly Rigoletto and the Duke, a sense of inner motivation. The whole thing came across as a kind of detailed pantomime, in which many of the singers went very well through all the requisite "Rigoletto" motions (not to say shtick) while pumping out great quantities of loud operatic sound. Not everybody will see this as a bad thing; in fact, it might be exactly what many opera-goers want.

She goes on.

You're left with glorious music, a cast able to sing the notes, and all the trappings of Mantua. What more do you want, and what more can interpretation do? Well, conceivably, it can elevate opera from pantomime to a kind of drama that can move us.

Of course opera is mainly about the music, and about the voice. But that music, those voices, are ideally about the expression of human feeling -- not just about getting through the score's hurdles, making an impact and collecting applause.

What I take from her review, is that Anne wasn’t terribly impressed with the production—it wasn’t the best Rigoletto, but it wasn’t the worst. I think that’s a fair assessment. I also think that it’s a fine review, nothing worth getting hot and bothered about.


In comes Selwa Roosevelt, a dissenting opinion holder.

I usually think it counterproductive to complain to a newspaper about a particular review.

You're talking to the wrong blog. But. BUT, I still understand your apprehensiveness.

And being on the board of trustees of the Washington National Opera makes me even more hesitant.

It should.

But I cannot let Anne Midgette's outrageous March 31 review of "Rigoletto" pass without comment [...].

Outrageous? Even we at the Detritus have to take critics’ opinions with a grain of salt. Why was it outrageous? I don’t understand.

I have seen dozens of performances of "Rigoletto" around the world, and I can honestly say that the WNO's production is the best I have ever seen.

Holy Hitler on a unicycle, juggling frozen fish! Among other problems, by qualifying your remark with “honestly,” I have to assume that your other statements were disingenuous. Or, if I were crafty, I could interpret “honestly” as subterfuge. But to what end?

All the principals were superb, and, contrary to your reviewer's assessment, everyone I have talked with was thrilled with the performance of Carlos Alvarez as Rigoletto.

People with whom Roosevelt talked: Harry Truman, Josie Packard, Maddy Ferguson, Leland Palmer, Cathrine Martell, Bobby Briggs, Benjamin Horne, Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, the Giant and the Venus de Milo in the Red Room.

By referencing others, this opinion seems to be on behalf of others. Sneaky.

He has a sensational, big voice that was far more nuanced than what Midgette reported.

You heard it here, from the expert’s mouth. Still, it’s only a contrary opinion. Go on.

But my opinions are beside the point.

They are? Isn’t this a place designed specifically for opinions? What, then, is the point?

The sad part is that Washingtonians, who get to see precious little opera as it is, would certainly be put off by her review and would miss the final two wonderful performances tonight and tomorrow.

A FUCKING ADVERTISEMENT, written by a member of the board of trustees of the Washington National Opera! PUBLISHED AS AN OPINION!


My dear reader,

Who reached the lowest depths, today? The Detritus? The Washington National Opera? Or the Washington Post for not realizing that it was a cheap PR stunt?

Yours truly,




Aaron said...

That's a tough call. I have to give Detritus bonsu points for the "Twin Peaks" references, though, so I'd say the Washington Post is lowest.

"Leland Palmer." Heh.

Anonymous said...

Nice find.

Weird precedent to set, though. If it were the director or maybe a singer, then maybe-- there's a personal ego situation that would make it more understandable, and public pissing matches between critics and artists could be fun (imagine an elderly but still vibrant Mr. Carter and Mr. Wooden Shoes squaring off in the NYT Arts section)... but a Board Member?

It'd be like Al Gore writing to a consumer electronics magazine that dissed the iPhone.

Empiricus said...

I smell a scandal here. Today there was an article in the Post about layoffs.

The article.

Sator Arepo said...

What do I have to do to get more bonsu points from Aaron?

Empiricus said...

Aaron has already given you "bonsu" points.

Remember this?

Unknown said...

Sing Your Style Studio ,founded by Stephanie Swann, is the place for you! We will assist you to expand your range, smooth out all your breaks, free your voice from strain…and much much more! Learn to sing easily with flexibility and strength and discover and empower whats unique to you!
voice music
vocal coach
voice lessons
singing lessons
vocal lessons
voice coach
Sing Your Style Studio
online voice instruction
online voice lessons
online singing lesson
voice lessons online
private voice lessons online
Global voice coach