When the parasite keeps sucking blood

26 Apr

ParasiteWaking up to a most rude tweet happens quite frequently and sometimes they happen to be sent by yours truly (which is even worse).

Coming across this:

by someone who should know better, did infuriate me.

Let’s face it music critics and -ahem- bloggers are parasites to the body of opera singers and directors. As such, too much unnecessarily blood-letting is ill advised, like the old leech based treatments it may endanger the patient. Ben Heppner was valiant in his retirement announcement to make such reductive, nearly offensive, throwaway remarks seems petty and uncouth. Rupert makes his living on the back of the hard work of others and affording them a modicum of respect is the least he can do. Sure, music criticism has to be harsh at times but it can be practiced with more panache and humour. I wonder if RC gave up reviewing today how many rude tweets he would get from all the artists he has offended over the years? I’m guessing none at all.

If you follow me on Twitter you know how downhearted I get every time I spot Christiansen in the audience with his gruff, miserable face looking on, waiting for something he can suck blood out of. Unfortunately he fails to engage in any discourse on social media, maybe he doesn’t have notifications turned on, on his phone…or he simply doesn’t give a shit what the little people think.

I do avoid reading his reviews as they usually are more about him than the production he is meant to critique. His air of earned authority is not quite my idea of what a critic should be about. The lack of humour and sheer pettiness is probably good for the Telegraph’s dwindling online audience and to keeping him employed for a few more years. But does he really inspire anyone to go and see a production? A critic has a life of privileged access to the art form with complimentary tickets showered on them from all directions, the least they can do is encourage an audience to the shows they attend, not become a pantomime dame full of preening self-regard and scaring people off.

Ben Heppner has left already a great legacy and his very upfront and elegant retirement announcement

is a great example of how to make such decisions known. Good luck for his retirement and whatever he will apply himself to, including his fun live tweeting during the Met Opera broadcasts for Canadian Radio. He has always been a class act, unlike many of the parasites that feasted on his off-form nights and claimed prizes for unkind reviews just to contribute to the nasty blood sport that opera reviewing can be. 

4 Responses to “When the parasite keeps sucking blood”

  1. Mirto Picchi (@Mirto_P) 26 April 2014 at 6:33 pm #

    A lengthy, published consideration of Ben Heppner’s career would have to (and, I think, should) include the problematic times as well as the triumphant ones, but a tweet is, by nature, basically a quick quip – and this one (an attempt to be ‘clever’?) is way inappropriate. Back in the day of the ‘little black dress’ flap, Deborah Voigt once said in an interview that nobody had to tell her she was fat (the exact word she used): Did people think she was stupid? Or delusional? So nobody has to tell Heppner – or us – in an ill-timed, offhand remark, that he went through more than one period of vocal trouble. He knows it, we know it. Just happens we’re grateful for the many glory years and the great performances of his we’ve enjoyed all throughout his long and distinguished career.
    PS I’d love to be a fly on the wall if/when Voigt and Heppner get together for a catch-up chat over dinner on the state of – well, everything. Would make a brilliant nothing-held-back joint public interview, too, but I have a hunch they’d be too classy to do it!

    • George aka OperaCreep 26 April 2014 at 6:43 pm #

      You are so very right. And yes the fly on that wall would get some interesting snippets of hard earned wisdom.

  2. Genevieve Castle Room 26 April 2014 at 7:20 pm #


    Yes…. And I also remember his comment about Rameau’s operas:

    “I really have tried hard with the operas of Rameau: I have sat open-mindedly in front of Simon Rattle conducting Les Boréades, Mark Morris’s production of Platée and Mark Padmore singing Zoroastre. I am reliably informed of his genius and have given it my best shot, but I still don’t get it. The orchestral timbres seem monochrome, I find the dramatic rhythm flat and don’t understand why the vocal idiom makes everyone – hero, heroine, or villain – sound the same. Call me a Philistine, tell me I’m cloth-eared, but that’s how it is”



    One doesn’t expect to read a negative appraisal of a composer’s entire operatic output printed in a major daily newspaper by its chief opera critic who also happens to be on the editorial board of Opera magazine.

    More lazy journalism…



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