I offer two contrarian reader comments today, one about Good Company’s “Peter and the Starcatcher,” the other on my coverage on the closure of Fresno Grand Opera.
Mike Kubar called to say:
I’ve been going to Roger Rocka’s and 2nd Space probably at least 25 years, maybe even more, and I’ve seen almost every performance they’ve had. I do have to take issue with you. You gave a great review for ‘Peter and the Starcatcher.’ I saw it last Sunday (March 19). I have to admit I enjoyed the performers. I thought they did a good job. But the play, I’m sorry, it left a lot to be desired.
After a while I said, you know, this is really vexing my mind. I got the gist of it. But I wasn’t going in there for that kind of challenge.
To be honest with you, many, many other people felt the same way. I could not give this one a very high grade. I’m surprised you liked it so much. But I suppose, to each his own.
The second contrarian view is in reference to two paragraphs near the top of my news story about Fresno Grand Opera. After writing that the company was planning to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, I offered a roundup of developments in a March 7 story:
On Monday, the board was struggling with a cash-flow crisis. The company still owes 22 union-represented musicians $17,000 for the Jan. 27 and 28 performances of “Our Town.” The union is filing charges with the state labor commissioner.
Also on Monday, the board severed its contract with Ryan Murray, Fresno Grand Opera’s music director and “Our Town” conductor. “Obviously I was very frustrated to learn that the musicians have not been compensated for their work on ‘Our Town,’ ” Murray said. “I have also not been compensated for the production.” He did not know if any of the principal singers had been paid.
James Odom, president of the national American Guild of Musical Artists (the labor union that represents singers, dancers, and staging staff in the fields of opera, dance and choral concerts wrote this response in a Facebook comment:
Just for your future reference, Singers are musicians, too. It is demeaning and insulting to refer to instrumentalists who make up the orchestra as musicians and then tag on singers as incidental participants. While I do not know Mr. Murray, I would suggest that it is particularly tone deaf of a conductor of opera and the music director of an opera company to refer to the instrumentalists as musicians, show distress over their not having been paid, express his distress at not having been paid himself, and then, apparently as an afterthought, mention that he doesn’t know whether the Principal Singers have been paid. Since he didn’t mention them, one can assume that either he isn’t aware of the chorus – which may or may not have been volunteer – or stage managers who, in opera, must also be trained musicians.
This is particularly appalling from an opera company. With all due respect to instrumentalists and the vital role they play in creating the multi-discipline art form that is opera, it must be pointed out that without the musicians who are singers, opera is more popularly referred to as symphony concerts.
Perhaps this short-sightedness also helped lead to the demise of this company.
He then went on to follow-up in another comment:
As for Mr. Munro, it is fairly clear that when he uses the word “musicians” he is referring to instrumentalists. Except for the allusion to the Principal singers attributed to Mr. Murray, he does not mention singers at all. As I said before, opera without singers... On the off chance that Mr. Munro was not aware that singers are musicians, he needed to be made aware if it is his intention to cover the arts. If he was aware, he needed to be called to task for being sloppy in his writing.
I understand that you may think my response is over-reaction. But I am not just the president of my union (a position for which I am not compensated), I am also a full-time singer, who has, for the last thirty-five years, fought to educate both employers and the public that professionally singers are not just the same as your neighbor who decides “what the hell” and gets up on Karaoke night. And I have worked for more than one opera company where instrumentalists were invariable paid first and singers’ checks bounced. So the shoe fits on both feet. Although, maybe it pinches a little more when you know that the general public tends to be surprised and amazed that a chorister with advanced degrees and years of individual practice and study might be paid for his or her work. I have yet to meet the opera patron who is surprised that the last stand third violinist is paid.
To which I respond:
Maestro Murray was responding directly to my question about the union-covered instrumentalists not having been paid. Because those instrumentalists were referred to in the preceding paragraph, I didn’t feel that Murray’s comment needed additional context. As for the principal singers, they were not covered by Local 12 of the American Federation of Musicians, which is why I introduced the subject in a different sentence. I like to think that was clear in the story, but obviously the wording struck a chord. As for the singer/musician issue, yes, I will take the stand and declare under oath: Singers are most definitely musicians.