A reader writes, apropos of various recent postings about the possibility of New York City Opera’s moving to a new house at or near Ground Zero:
About the opera house on Ground Zero–I admire the idea, and would certainly think it moving. But really, how long would it be before some sort of play or production was put on commiserating with the plight of the poor oppressed hijackers? Or possibly a reading by some famous Jihadist poet? I’d love to see great art at Ground Zero, but the other possibilities make me fear the idea just as much as I love it.
Point taken. I myself have written testily on more than one occasion about what one might euphemistically call the wide-ranging responses of quarter-witted artists here and abroad to 9/11, and I’ve no doubt that somebody, somewhere, would dearly love to do just what my pessimistic correspondent fears most.
On the other hand, Paul Kellogg, who runs City Opera, is a man of taste, and I’ve also no doubt that anything he presented in a Ground Zero Memorial Opera House would be worth seeing–which doesn’t necessarily mean that I’d like it, of course. But if I required artists to make only works of art with whose underlying premises I agreed, I’d be an unhappy soul indeed. Kellogg, for example, is a fan of Jake Heggie’s operatic version of Dead Man Walking, which City Opera performed last season. I disagree, to put it mildly, but I also recognize that it’s a serious piece of work (as opposed to, say, the bisected pigs of Damien Hirst), and so I respected his intentions in producing it. If I didn’t–if I thought City Opera were in the hands of a cultural politician who didn’t give a damn about beauty–I wouldn’t be backing the company’s plan to move to Ground Zero.
So I guess the smart-ass answer to this perfectly reasonable question would be something like Opera houses don’t kill opera, opera directors do. Which is also a perfectly reasonable answer, when you think about it.