Here’s John Rockwell, writing about New York City Opera in yesterday’s New York Times:
The City Opera has been aggressively lobbying to be named the flagship institution in the new cultural presence at ground zero. To its evident surprise, it has encountered resistance. As of this writing, no decision has been announced, but the downtown powers seem to want a greater diversity of artistic expression….
American culture has changed radically in the last 65 years. It is that change, rather than the virtues or failings of City Opera in its current condition, that is causing it problems downtown….
By now, for all the lip service still paid to high culture and for all the genuine passion and pleasure that millions still derive from it, the revolution is complete. The current issue of Vanity Fair, for instance, has a foldout cover of celebrity photographs by Annie Leibovitz trumpeting “American Music” without one classical musician in the group. American music in the minds of most Americans today is popular music. We’re a democracy, and the majority votes for what is most popular. Opera ain’t it.
To some extent, opera’s current marginality is its own fault, in failing to sustain the blend of creativity and popularity that distinguished the operatic past. And to some extent, one might wish for a little more responsibility on the part of our politicians.
But the fact remains that the new art that excites people these days is likely to come in the form of film or literature or popular music or visual installations, not from an art like opera, whose best days seem well behind it. If an artist today is to celebrate the common man or lament Sept. 11 effectively, it will most likely be