COUNTERPUNCH LETTERS : What Really Counts in Opera? Depends Whom You Ask

Regarding Pamela Waterman’s Counterpunch, “A Reminder: It’s the Music, Singing That Really Count” (June 14): All one has to do is peruse the review (“A Not-So-Fine Madness,” June 1) to the section dealing with one’s interest: music and singing or setting and history. (But remember that one may not hear or see the same performance as the one reviewed opening night.)

If the music and singing were most important, then one could attend only concert performances or stay at home, listening to recordings. If acting and settings were most important, one could go to the prose theater. More difficult is the fusion of song, action and orchestra in a visual setting.

When one intrudes onto the other a nauseating sham, as the setting did in “Lucia di Lammermoor,” it mars the aesthetic high of an integrated performance.


Then there is the question of style and taste. Taste is acquired through comparisons of style and performances. What is “the most memorable night at the opera of my life” for one is a travesty for another.

Granted June Anderson’s tour de force and the excellent singing of the principals, but has one seen “Lucia” conducted by the Donizetti expert Gavazzeni at Milan’s La Scala? Seen and heard Wagner’s epochs at Bayreuth? Seen and heard Mozart during the festival at his hometown Salzburg? Met Opera? Covent Garden?

But we must be patient. Los Angeles is growing operatically--slowly but surely. For this we are proud and grateful. But, while it can be educational for some, it can be awfully painful for others.


Los Angeles

* Pamela Waterman--right on! The Counterpunch contains many things I have wanted to say, but I am not articulate enough to do so. Keep up the good fight! And thank you.


Los Angeles

* Bernheimer is an outstanding opera critic; there is none better.

Because she loves opera, Waterman is dear to me. But she does not understand the function of the opera reviewer. His integrity demands that Bernheimer not be the huckster sought by Waterman.


Los Angeles

* Bernheimer was right about “Lucia di Lammermoor.” So right! I didn’t believe him at first.

I attended the performance on June 5 and couldn’t believe the goings-on with the sets: mooring glitches, noises, bumps, thumps, grinds, delays. What kind of opera is it that has an audience fearing stage accidents and listening to out-of-tune machinery obbligatos instead of letting us get involved in the “life” on stage?


La Habra Heights

Speaking Up, Unpopularly

I was saddened to see Daniel A. Jenkins’ letter (“Ratings Freedom,” June 14) defending censorship. He uses the same argument censors always do--to wit, that since the First Amendment is not absolute, ultimately nothing (that’s unpopular, anyway) is protected.

He then notes that some speech--the kind he doesn’t like, of course--negatively affects people. Exactly! Speech affects people. That’s not why we censor it; that’s why we protect it.


Los Angeles

Don’t Blame Japan

As a former student of graduate economics at the University of California, San Diego, I took particular interest in Mike Backes’ June 7 Counterpunch, “ ‘Sun’ Doesn’t Perpetuate Stereotypes.” Backes described “Rising Sun” as a “paranoid thriller,” and, although I have yet to see the film, I must agree with his description, the key word being, of course, paranoid .

Backes has surmised that certain Japanese corporations are advantaging themselves during “economic and social decline” in America. But no Japanese lobbyists force Americans to buy Japanese products. If a Japanese product (let’s say cars) is cheaper and of better quality, more will be bought.

Never does Backes mention quality and price. These two words are critical. So what, ultimately, has happened with the auto industry? Competition has forced companies to make better and better products for the lowest price possible. Who benefits from this? All Americans.

Backes correctly stated that many of our best technologies were sold to and developed by Japanese companies. But who is to blame for that? Japanese managers opt for slow, long-term growth with heavy emphasis on planning and product research. Backes seems to decry these techniques as unfair. Most business owners would call it smart.

Even if Backes’ movie doesn’t perpetuate stereotypes of Asian people, his article perpetuates the false ideology that the decline of the U.S. economy is due to Japan.



* I would like to voice my support for the consciousness-raising activities of Guy Aoki and Philip W. Chung, as articulated in their own Counterpunch piece on May 3. Although I’m certain that Backes’ work as a screenwriter for “Rising Sun” is not undertaken with the purpose of vilifying Asians or Asian-Americans, I’m still apprehensive that this could very well be the film’s unintended effect.

Except for the anomalous careers of Sessue Hayakawa in the ‘20s and Anna May Wong in the ‘30s, the U.S. entertainment industry has provided extremely few opportunities for Asian-Americans to play leading roles. In fact, most mainstream acting “opportunities” for Asians have relegated them to an exotic backdrop for either a white main character or white actors in lead Asian roles.

If Broadway and Hollywood continue to keep Asians and Asian-Americans in the background, Americans of all colors will continue to misunderstand these cultures and fail to respond to Asian people as well-rounded human beings. In the case of Asian-Americans themselves, this can sometimes result in self-loathing.

For better or worse, intentionally or unintentionally, the entertainment industry will always reflect and influence this country’s difficult journey toward a place of equity for all its citizens. If handled with eloquence and diplomacy, the efforts of Aoki and Chung can help light the path.


Studio City

Who Was Talking at KFI?

How ironic that the person responding to Claudia Puig’s article about the “right turn” evidenced at KFI (“KFI: Turn On, Tune In, Turn Right,” May 20) was not the station manager or owner but John Kobylt, an employee of the station and one of the beneficiaries of the station’s “new ideology” (“Forget the Ideology--Radio’s a Business,” May 31).

May I remind Kobylt that he and his partner, Ken Chiampou, replaced one of the most liberal talk show hosts on the air (at least at KFI), and so his letter seems nothing more than an example of the hireling protecting the boss.

It is also ironic that on the one hand he states that radio is a “hard, cold, numbers-driven business,” yet, while Tom Leykis increased his audience and was fired, Daryl Gates loses audience and remains.

It is interesting to note that Chiampou and Kobylt feel it necessary to make derogatory comments about Leykis on the air and claim that his ratings were not that good. This doesn’t seem to represent the views of the two “funny, controversial and intelligent” personalities but rather the mouthings of a station management eager to downplay a popular host whom they fired.