“When the Metropolitan Opera decided to scrap a planned new work by Osvaldo Golijov, the news seemed both stunning and obvious,” writes Justin Davidson on Wednesday (11/30) at New York magazine. “The project’s collapse should alert both composers and impresarios that they are yoked together in a profoundly dysfunctional system…. Writing an opera is always a big deal, but so is writing a novel or making a movie—enterprises that, despite the cost, risk, and years of often-fruitless labor they require, somehow yield a steady stream of fresh work.… For opera composers, receiving the dream assignment can turn into one of those nightmares when suddenly you’re in charge of landing a 747 even though you’ve never been in a cockpit. In the past, writing operas was a profession, and composers churned out plenty of duds along with the occasional masterpiece.… A system always short on money and glory is spectacularly risk-averse…. Scarcity of opportunity keeps the pool of composers small and homogeneous.… Art demands openness, persistence, and a willingness to tolerate failure. You can’t expect an opera composer to write a great opera if she’s never had the chance to write a mediocre one—or five.”

Posted December 1, 2016