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Did Reviews Kill Jerry Hadley?

I remember going to “The Great Gatsby” at the Metropolitan Opera in 1999 with low expectations. The reviews were unfavorable to the opera, as well as to the singer in the title role.
And I remember saying to my husband after the performance that I was pleasantly surprised. The opera engaged me musically and, especially, literarily, since it closely adhered to Fitzgerald‘s language. Tenor Jerry Hadley, dismissed by the critics, gave, I thought, a musically satisfying and dramatically credible performance. It’s not a role that calls for a sumptuous sound; I thought he ably met its demands.
So it’s sad to think that what should have been a career triumph turned out to be the beginning of his end (which surely had other contributing factors, such as a depressive disposition).
Critics have to call it as they see it. But perhaps this singer’s suicide suggests that journalistic discussion of the shortcomings of artists needs to be done in a different spirit, with more sensitivity, than exposés of professional malfeasance. When we criticize how people perform their jobs, we’re attacking what they do. If they’re unethical, incompetent or merely wrongheaded, that’s fair game for a hard-hitting appraisal. But when we disparage an artist, we’re attacking who they are. Whenever they perform or create, they’re completely exposed and putting their entire beings on the line.
Maybe it’s appropriate, in this context, to quote the second sentence of Fitzgerald’s masterpiece—advice given to the narrator, Nick Carraway, by his father:
Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.
The advantages that we journalist-critics have are that we’re adept with words, which can sometimes be weapons, and we’re generally not in the public eye ourselves. We just cast a harsh spotlight on those who are.

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