And I quote from yesterday’s review of Satygraha:
Certain structures ensnare the brain by dint of repetition. There is, for instance, doodledy-doodledy-doodledy-doodledy, which, reduced to its essence, becomes doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle. Precious? Profound? Psychedelic? Who knows?
Ultimately, this sort of thing is great if you like this sort of thing. Did I like it? Minimally.
Srsly? Srsly, Martin Bernheimer? Doodledy-doodledy-doodledy? Was I not paying attention when people decided that really terrible onomatopoeias were, like, OK now in serious music criticism? (Last night, the Emerson String Quartet performed Schubert’s renowned ‘Death and the Maiden’ Quartet. It begins rather loudly: DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH dah dah dah DAH!)
And then we have: “Precious? Profound? Psychedelic? Who knows?” Who knows? You. You are supposed to know. You are the critic, and you are supposed to know if something is precious, profound or psychedelic. And why is Philip Glass really so hard to “get”? He has been around for a while. As you mention earlier in your review, this opera was written in 1980. That was 28 years ago. Was 28 years not enough time to process this newfangled “Minimalism”?
And then this gem: “Ultimately, this sort of thing is great if you like this sort of thing.” Please compare to one of my favorite nuggets from Mr. Holland: “Anyone familiar with the reputations of these three singers can imagine the quality of the performances.” Here we have 2 examples of what I like to call magic sentences, because they can be used in any review of anything and still be right.
Of course he seals it all off with a real zinger! “Did I like it? Minimally.” Actually, I think we already knew that from reading the rest of the review.
Everybody who is anybody came on Friday to experience what Peter Gelb, unblushing head of the Met, labelled “a modern masterpiece”. The hopefully delirious celebrants out front included Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, four Tibetan Buddhist monks, Chuck Close, Richard Gere, Suzanne Vega, Paul Shrader, and, oh yes, the composer, Philip Glass. The official press release told us so.
(Some celebrities came. Ergo, this is intellectually bankrupt.)
Quite a few in the less glamorous part of audience gave up before the sweet-sweet-sweet end of this gift-to-be-simple endurance contest. It lasted nearly four hours. Some natives got restless. For the initiated, however, and for the instantly converted, this had to be an important night, an uplifting orgy of communal navel-gazing. Satyagraha, anno 1980, had arrived at last at the Met.
(It was long and boring. And so the real operagoers left, while the fatuous celebs sat around fatuously for the whole thing.)
In case you haven’t done your homework, this is an intellectual opera predicated on the Sanskrit musings of the young Gandhi. It quotes the Bhagavad Gita as it explores the philosophies of Tolstoy, Tagore and Martin Luther King while the protagonist contemplates the virtue of passive resistance.
(It is based on a lot of lefty bullshit, which you must have read like a good lefty before you come to the opera house.)
The “new” production, a clever abstraction introduced a year ago at the English National Opera, is dazzling in its dauntlessly pensive way.
(Tried too hard. Is boring.)
Bee tee dubs. Einstein has not seen it yet. Will give own report next week, methinks.
7 responses to “Shut up, Martin Bernheimer, Shut up”
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So Bernheimer didn’t like the opera at all, not even a little bit. What are you complaining about? Mr. Bernheimer was being as nice as he could be given how much he disliked the music. Is that bad? Would you have preferred a straight-out pan, something more insulting?
Seven years later reading Bernheimer suggests he is a nasty sob who has fun with language but not with life. Hardly a constructive critic.
Reference to la times reviews thus seven years…
During Bernheimer’s tenure at the LA Times he was well known for hating nearly everything and using his reviews to show off how cleverly disdainful he was. It was so predictable it became a joke and few took him seriously as a critic. LA’s good riddance is now New York’s burden. May he never come back.
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Back in 1974 or 1975, while my Mom and I were living in Corona del Mar, CA, we read one of Bernheimer’s reviews in the Los Angeles Times about a recent performance in Los Angeles by the New York City Opera of Richard Strauss’s Salome. He panned it. We looked at each other and said, “If Bernheimer hates it, it’s GOT to be good!” We ordered tickets to a performance, attended it, and sure enough, were bowled over by the sonic and visual spectacle. And this was 40 or 41 years ago! Apparently, unlike fine wines, he hasn’t improved with age. Pity.