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More Jerry Hadley Post Mortems

My Thursday post on the sometimes venomous effect of cultural criticism, occasioned by the shocking suicide of tenor Jerry Hadley, has elicited thoughtful and sensitive responses in the blogosphere.
Composer Daniel Felsenfeld in his blog, Felsenmusick, titled his post about my post, A Little Bit of an Overreaction, but he agreed that “critics should savage with caution and not relish….She [CultureGrrl] is also right at being dismayed at the disproportionate in-print backlash against John Harbison‘s “The Great Gatsby” and Mr. Hadley in the title role–it did seem extra (and undeservingly) vehement.” A paradox vexing many artists, he said, is that “you have to be sensitive enough to be tuned in and therefore excellent, and yet thick skinned enough to suffer the slings and arrows.”
I particularly appreciated The Power of Words, a reaction to my post by Li Robbins for CBC Radio 2‘s blog:
I like that Rosenbaum emphasizes that it is the spirit in which the criticism is offered that matters. This is a delicate notion, but I know what she means. It’s easy to be cruel, much harder to critique thoughtfully — and perhaps even in such a way that someone might actually benefit from hearing the criticism.
Perhaps this sad final curtain can be a wake-up call (or a tone-down call) for performing and visual arts critics who delight in the arch put-down and the clever insult. Art is hard; cheap shots, easy.
My longtime friend and passionate operaphile, Bill Schwartz, who introduced me to that art form in my teenage years, still has vivid recollections of Hadley in the title role of Massenet‘s “Werther” at the New York City Opera in the 1980s. The finale, he said, moved him to tears.
Here’s what Hadley told Allan Kozinn of the NY Times, at that time, about that role:
“What I’m hoping we can manifest, in this production, is that decline from youthful exuberance to the real loathing of life of ends in Werther’s suicide.”
This excerpt from Donal Henahan‘s NY Times review of that performance is, in retrospect, chilling:
In this production, Werther actually shoots himself onstage during the instrumental prelude to the last scene instead of being discovered already dying by his beloved Charlotte….Luckily, Werther shoots himself in the stomach rather than in the head, and evidently with a small-caliber bullet, so that he is able to carry on vocally for quite a long time after doing the deed.
This time, Hadley shot himself in the head.

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