A new freelance critic attended last week’s staff meeting of the classical department of the New York Times. Her name is Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim and her task is to cover some of the concerts that Allan Kozinn used to review before he was hustled off to inferior tasks. Nothing extraordinary about that. Happens all the time at newspapers.
However, to welcome her, the head of the classical section, James Oestreich brought in and broke open a bottle of champagne (disclaimer: it may not have been champagne, some suspect it was cheap méthode champenoise). This went down very badly with several Times hand who are unhappy at the manner of Kozinn’s demotion and unhappier still to see it celebrated in this way. The gesture, like the bubbles, fell flat.
Others detected a whiff of sexism in the ceremony: why weren’t male critics greeted with bubbly at their first meeting?
No matter. There was another reason for red faces, and red noses, at the meeting.
A few days earlier, Oestreich reviewed Carmen at the Met. His review was later adjusted on the paper’s website with the following, embarrassing correction: A music review on Monday about “Carmen,” at the Metropolitan Opera, misidentified the song in which Anita Rachvelishvili, who performed the title role, shaded flat a couple of times. It was the Habanera — not the Flower Song, which is sung by Don José.
It appeared that the head of the classical music department at the New York Times could not tell who was meant to be singing one of the most famous moments in the opera – the mezzo-soprano or the tenor. These are sad times indeed at the New York Times.