There are plenty of reasons for an arts critic to leave town—say, vacation. OK, OK, all critics should see what’s animating the national conversation from time to time—it can broaden and inform their perspective. But sometimes it feels likeThe Washington Post‘s reviewers are spending a bit too much time consuming art in other cities, especially New York—this despite the Post‘s 2009 reorientation as a paper focused on politics and local news. With editorial budgets tight and plenty of in-town art that escapes the Post’s eye, we offer this regular series, in which we determine how much of the Post‘s travel budget ought to have gone to an individual review. At one end of the budget spectrum: Acela. At the other: Hitchhiking.
Reviewer on the Road: WaPo classical music critic Anne Midgette, making her second appearance in this feature since it launched nine days ago. She reviews the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Verdi‘s Don Carlo.
Invoice Argument: It’s a great, sorta rare work and an important production, the Met’s first Don Carlo in 30 years. Plus! The opera will be broadcast on Dec. 11, and you should be able to hear it on WETA or see it in a movie theater. Plus! As a reporter and critic, Midgette does great work covering local opera (see this article, also in today’s Post), of which there isn’t so much, so a trip to New York isn’t a distraction.
Budget Hawk: All of the above makes for a great pitch, but the review itself feels pretty inside baseball—-lots of nit-picks for opera nerds (“This may seem like a lot of caveats to be piling on a purportedly good evening,” Midgette concedes at the end) and not so much in the way of the big picture. Also, I’m confident I’ll have completely forgotten the review by the time of the broadcast—-but I’m sure Midgette will remind readers on her Classical Beat blog.
The Verdict: Chinatown bus, because I read the review twice and still couldn’t find it in me to care about a production Midgette, in the end, enjoyed. But Midgette—-I think inadvertently?—-does offer one reason to make the trek for Don Carlo: We just don’t have more than a handful of opportunities each season to see world-class opera in D.C. She concludes: “The reason we keep doing masterpieces of the past is not just that they’re great, but that they can, in the right hands, provide moments of insight or truth. They may be few and far between, but we’ll take them where we can.”