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I generally agree with TSR, though I think you maybe need an extra step or two to get there.

Commanday, in a fit of misanthropic grouchiness, has seen fit to revive the hoary old Teutonic distinction between art and entertainment. Not that he actually defines either of them. Instead, he proceeds, like Adam in Eden, to declare one thing "art", another "entertainment."

One symptom of this: he's apparently incapable of finding art in what it is Julie Taymor does. I have to wonder whether he regards Donizetti as art or entertainment. If the former, how does he counter the arguments of many in the 19th and 20th centuries that would place Donizetti in the latter?

The thought that these two categories, even as ways of approaching a particular work, might not be mutually exclusive never occurs to him. He seems to assume, for example, that properly artistic appreciation of art requires the sobriety and concentration of one listening to a Victorian sermon. This, it seems to me, is an impoverished view of art.

The only person it does enrich, as TSR points out, is the music critic, who is granted license to declare what the "musical intent" of the composer is, to draw the line between "characterization" and "caricature." It pretty much fixes the critic as the arbiter of taste: be with me, or be with the hoi polloi.

This is a mode of criticism designed to make himself and those who agree with him feel cozy in snug superiority. I don't think this is productive.

(By the way, I think San Francisco Classical Voice would be better off if it gave up the preening editorials. The form forces critics to give in to their worst traits - to offer up opinions in lieu of careful analysis. Commanday's comments on the Met production of Zauberflote, a production he hasn't seen, are not an isolated instance. I know of a SFCV editorial writer who wrote about Adams' Nixon in China without ever having heard the work before, even on CD.)

Dale Masterson

Robert Commanday has been a local pain in the arse from Day One.
He always wanted to be a composer and could never manage that. He wanted to conduct choruses and failed at that even at the University of Calif, in Berkeley.
When is this fool just going to stop altogether?

Rob Jackson

I want to bring to your attention the fact that Robert Commanday was totally responsible for the hiring of Hewell Tirquit (or as Giorgio Tozzi called him, "Hewell Turkey") over everyone else's head at the SF Chronicle including A. Frankenstein. There was no question that Commanday hired Tirquit to do his dirty work, so his hands wouldn't be soiled. We all know what happened with THE TURKEY when, after years of vicious and ugly attacks on just about everyone in the Bay Area creating anything, he was caught with his panties down, writing a horrible review about an SF Ballet performance.... but not bothering to attend and realize that at the last moment, due to dancer injuries, the program was changed. THE TURKEY had reviewed a non-existent dance program.... and was fired from the newspaper. OK, he's a nitwit.... but it was Commanday who is responsible for this ugliness to happen in the first place.

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