Our Author’s Irritating Sloppiness/Falsehoods – For example, re Kathleen Battle

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johnkarls
Posts: 2069
Joined: Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:43 pm

Our Author’s Irritating Sloppiness/Falsehoods – For example, re Kathleen Battle

Post by johnkarls »

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Bona Fides

Having tossed more than 3,000 bouquets for opera sopranos (and some ballerinas), mostly in Europe but some in NYC where I was based for most of my career, most aficionados concede that I know what I’m talking about.

[I was written up in a 7/25/2004 NY Times article entitled “Have Bouquet, Will Travel” whose preparation was a surprise to me.]

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Heather Mac Donald’s Sloppiness/Falsehoods

Except re Katahleen Battle, I won’t waste a lot of space on our author’s sloppiness/falsehoods throughout Part II (Culture and Arts) which occupies 147 pages in the middle of her 277 pages.

However, Chapter 6 (“Can Opera Survive The Culture Wars?") –

(1) Spends most of its space on Scottish Opera – of which I had never even been aware, and

(2) Spends the rest of its space talking about a Broadway Musical (‘In The Heights”) which I saw/heard many times on Broadway – BUT IT’S NOT AN OPERA.

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Kathleen Battle

Heather Mac Donald’s treatment of Kathleen Battle is the raison d’être for why my dander was got up sufficiently to finally file this protest!!!

Talking about opera in Chapter 4 (“Scapegoats and The Rise of Mediocrity”), Mac Donald says (p. 90) –

“A rule banning blacks from playing (sic – s.b. “singing”) servant characters would put off-limits some of the most essential roles in the repertoire, including [reference to two male roles omitted] and Susannah in ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ (the latter role Kathleen Battle owned for years at the Met).”

Mac Donald has no footnote for where this assertion originated – she just shovels it in!!!

FIRST, Kathleen Battle did not “own” Susannah “for years” at the Met.

According to the Metropolitan Opera Archives (http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/frame.htm > Key Word Search > Kathleen Battle), she only sang it during a mere TWO successive seasons (1985-1986 and 1986-1987).

SECOND, Mac Donald’s unfortunate comment implies that Kathleen Battle was ONLY PERMITTED to sing at the Met because the Met needed a black to sing the role of servant!!! And if she had not been permitted to sing Susannah, she would never have sung at the Met!!!

SUCH A “RECKLESS DISREGARD FOR THE TRUTH” (A WELL-KNOWN LEGAL PHRASE) CONSTITUTES DEFAMATION!!!

For nearly two decades (1977-1994), Kathleen Battle was the world’s foremost coloratura soprano, singing more than 15 roles at the Met alone (23 total including other major venues) in addition to the Met’s featuring her with Placido Domingo in a Tokyo broadcast/telecast and in every Met Gala during her reign.

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Kathleen Battle and Met Racism

The Met had a notoriously-troubled history re racism before Kathleen Battle – e.g., William Warfield, Simon Estes, etc.

However, on 2/14/1994, Kathleen was scheduled to sing her 16th role at the Met – the title role in La Fille du Régiment.

But during rehearsals, the Met fired Kathleen for “acting like a Diva”!!!

Had white sopranos routinely “acted like a Diva”??? Of course!!!

Had Kathleen been warned that since she was black, she was not permitted to act like less-talented white sopranos??? Of course not!!!

BUT UNLIKE WILLIAM WARFIELD, THE MET “MADE AMENDS” WITH KATHLEEN AFTER THE DEPARTURE OF ITS RACIST LEADERSHIP. [William Warfield had passed away before their departure.]

After 22 years away from the Met, it scheduled a special recital by Kathleen entitled “Underground Railroad: A Spiritual Journey” featuring her singing 17 numbers and 6 encores.

And she received another bouquet toss from Yours Truly.

solutions
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William Warfield and Simon Estes

Post by solutions »

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---------------------------- Original Message -----------------------------
Subject: William Warfield and Simon Estes
From: Solutions
Date: Fri, August 4, 2023 4:37 pm PDT
To: ReadingLiberally-SaltLake@johnkarls.com
Attachment:
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Dear John,

Four hours ago, you posted “Our Author’s Irritating Sloppiness/Falsehoods – For example, Kathleen Battle” whose final section entitled “Kathleen Battle and Met Racism” begins with –

“The Met had a notoriously-troubled history re racism before Kathleen Battle – e.g., William Warfield, Simon Estes, etc.”

What did you mean re William Warfield and Simon Estes?

Your friend,

Solutions


---------------------------- Original Message -----------------------------
Subject: Re: William Warfield and Simon Estes
From: ReadingLiberally-SaltLake@johnkarls.com
Date: Sat, August 5, 2023 11:32 am MDT
To: Solutions
Attachment:
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Dear Solutions,

Thank you for your e-mail, though I feel you “put me on the spot” re the Metropolitan Opera’s racist history – though I’m sure you would claim that I put myself “on the spot” by mentioning William Warfield and Simon Estes.

CAVEAT – THE MET’S RACIST LEADERS HAVE LONG-SINCE DEPARTED AND THE MET’S RECORD HAS BEEN IMPECCABLE UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF MET GENERAL MANAGER PETER GELB (2006 – present).

[BTW, Peter is the son of Leslie Gelb who was, inter alia, the NY Times Columnist and OpEd Page Editor (1981-1993) and, after his retirement, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations (1993-2003).]

And before you ask, the Met’s allegedly-principal racist leader was the Met’s long-time General Manager Joseph Volpe (1990-2006) who started with the Met as a stagehand specializing in carpentry.

[He is currently the Executive Director of Sarasota Ballet.]

Joseph Volpe is the person who fired Kathleen Battle in 1994.

HOWEVER, I have never believed that Volpe was the person who actually made THE DECISION to fire Kathleen. Everyone involved swore that Met Music Director James Levine (1976-2016) had nothing to do with it – even Kathleen so swore.

BUT that simply doesn’t pass “the smell test”!!! A person (Volpe) who was only 4 years removed from being a stagehand, firing the world’s foremost coloratura soprano without consulting the Met’s Music Director???!!!

Obviously, Volpe was only Levine’s “hit man”/”fall guy” and nobody was willing to challenge Levine’s alleged lack of involvement because of his power to affect their careers – even media opera critics.

BUT I RE-ITERATE THAT VOLPE/LEVINE ARE GONE AND WE ARE IN THE “GOLDEN AGE” OF PETER GELB!!!


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SIMON ESTES

Simon Estes (an African-American born in Iowa 3/2/1938) was the world’s foremost Wagnerian bass/baritone from 1965 onwards.

Indeed, no self-respecting European opera house would dare mount a Wagnerian production without Simon Estes (if they could afford him).

But the Met did not engage him until 1982 and then treated him as “persona non grata” for many years.

The reason???

The Met’s color line was broken in 1955 by Marian Anderson.

But the Met’s MALE color line was not broken until 1982 when Simon Estes debuted in Tannhäuser.

I used to tape all of the Met’s Saturday-afternoon broadcasts on the same kind of Revox open-reel tape recorders that you see the CIA using in all the Hollywood movies, even currently -- and I still have the recording I am about to describe.

[My reason for using a tape recorder was because of analog’s superiority to digital recordings as explained below in the “PS” to this e-mail - and the Met's Saturday-matinee worldwide radio broadcasts at that time were "HI Fi" analog rather than "Low Fi" digital.]

During the Saturday afternoon broadcasts, the Met used to have a quiz featuring a panel of experts and, if there were two intermissions, the second would feature an interesting interview of someone on whatever.

One of the Saturday’s during the 1982 Tannhauser run when a different opera was being performed on Saturday afternoon, Simon Estes was interviewed.

And the idiotic Met interviewer had failed to give Simon the questions in advance.

One of which was how it felt to be the first African-American male to ever sing at the Met!!!

[If you want, I’m sure I can dig out my 1982 recording of that Met Saturday-afternoon broadcast.]

Poor Simon Estes was so dumbfounded that he blurted out the truth!!!

That it felt horrible!!!

Because it reflected American attitudes that it is permissible for African-American females to be importuned by white males, but not vice versa!!!

Which is why it had taken 27 years since the Met broke the female African-American color line with Marian Anderson in 1955 to permit an African-American male on stage. And then a bass (who NEVER gets the girl) rather than a tenor (who almost always does).

As a result, he was persona non grata at the Met for 20 years, even though no self-respecting opera house in Europe during that period would have even thought about presenting a Wagnerian opera that didn’t feature Simon Estes!!!

And the Met re-wrote its on-line archives to conceal the fact that he was persona non grata for 20 years.


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DIGRESSION ON RE-WRITING DIGITAL HISTORY

If you consult the Met’s archives for Simon Estes (http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/frame.htm > Key Word Search > Simon Estes) you will see that it claims that he performed often at the Met during the 20-year period that he was “persona non grata” there.

But today it is very easy to RE-WRITE HISTORY – at least the on-line version.

Indeed, discussed below in the section on William Warfield is more proof that the Met RE-WROTE its on-line archives to falsely claim that it broke the male color line shortly after it broke the female color line in 1955 – as if the Met’s 1982 world-wide-broadcast interview of Simon Estes is not already proof enough.

BTW, you may recall that many years ago our organization was recalling that M.I.T. students had designed a fully-functional atomic bomb from information on the internet, but none of us could recall the context – AND THERE WAS NO INFORMATION ABOUT IT ON THE INTERNET.

So I asked whether anyone could recall (e.g., perhaps it was when one of our members was giving birth to, say, her second child) when it happened and I could then go through the “hard copy” public-library records to dredge up the details if the date-range could be narrowed sufficiently to be practical.

MAYBE YOU CAN FOOL SOME OF THE PEOPLE BY RE-WRITING ON-LINE HISTORY, BUT YOU CAN’T RE-WRITE ALL THOSE HARD-COPY RECORDS IN ZILLIONS OF LIBRARIES AROUND THE COUNTRY!!!

The answer???

PBS’ Nova Science Series aired a documentary on 3/9/1975 about the results of an experiment initiated by the documentary’s producer who had been curious about how easy it would be for “any reasonably-bright student” to design and construct a nuclear weapon. So he had asked a friend on the M.I.T. faculty to put him in touch with a student. And the student was NOT even a physics major!!! [He was a chemistry major!!!] In just 5 weeks, the student had designed a nuclear weapon from public-source information which experts opined would be fully functional. The 3/9/1975 PBS Nova Program created such an uproar that very few viewers focused on the fact that the student had only designed a nuclear weapon, but had NOT constructed it. This was probably due to the fact that the construction (vs. the design) is child’s play. For example, a British Royal Commission reported in September 1976 in the wake of the 3/9/1975 Nova Program -- “The equipment required [to actually construct the nuclear weapon] would not be significantly more elaborate than that already used by criminal groups in the illicit manufacture of heroin.” [The British Royal Commission was concerned at that time that nuclear weapons could be so easily designed and constructed by the Irish Republican Army.]

And yes, it was good to erase nuclear info from the internet.

Though the same cannot be said about the Met re-writing its history re racism.

And just like the CIA can purge the internet of nuclear info but can’t purge all the “hard copy” records in zillions of libraries around the country, the Met can re-write its on-line archives but –

(1) it can’t re-write all the programs listing the cast members and distributed to the audience, many of which programs were kept as souvenirs, AND

(2) it can’t erase my zillions of Metropolitan Opera Saturday-afternoon-broadcast recordings during the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s.


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WILLIAM WARFIELD

The case of William Warfield is even sadder than those of Simon Estes and Kathleen Battle because he did not live long enough for the Met to make amends – only long enough for the Met to insult him one last time before his death.

I stumbled across the fact about 20 years ago, that The Met had re-written its history in typical Orwellian Big Brother fashion, by claiming that it had broken the MALE African-American color line back in the 1950’s with some non-entity who was a pop singer, but definitely not an opera singer!!!

I asked some of my Mega-Mega-Donor friends on the Met’s board why the Met had done that!!!

The answer???

The Met was courting a potential Mega-Mega-Donor who had historically donated zillions to racial-equity causes!!!

And the Mega-Mega-Donor had become concerned about the Met’s racism because of the story about how the Met had fired Kathleen Battle in 1994!!!

So the Met re-wrote its history to “prove” that firing Kathleen Battle was not racially motivated!!!

And was that all???

My Mega-Mega-Donor friends on the Met’s Board couldn’t contain themselves without telling the story of why the Met’s false claim involved a non-entity pop singer!!!

By way of background, the most famous opera singer of the last century was William Warfield.

Every conservatory around the world, including the Met’s own Julliard School, features to this day William Warfield as the most perfect performer for all voice students to study, including sopranos and mezzos!!!

In terms of tone, agility, breath control, etc., etc.

If I didn’t believe that Kathleen Battle singing “Let The Bright Seraphim” is the most beautiful thing you will ever hear this side of Heaven, it would be the 3-4 Bass arias on the old Columbia Records recording of The Messiah featuring Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in 1958.

Guaranteed that if you enter a store anywhere in the world to buy The Messiah and it only has one recording available, it will be that recording!!!

Why!!!

Because the bass is William Warfield!!!

Warfield also sang Old Man River in the 1951 TECHNICOLOR movie version of Showboat. Because, of course, Hollywood demanded the best!!!

[Paul Robeson sang Old Man River in the old 1936 black-and-white movie.]

Why so much info on Warfield???

Because Warfield had NEVER sung at the Met because of the Met’s male African-American color line!!!

But if the Met wanted to re-write its history to falsely claim that it had broken the male color line shortly after breaking the female color line in 1955, the most plausible person to have broken it (witness his 1951 movie performance of Old Man River and his 1958 recording of The Messiah and his being featured at all conservatories including the Met’s own Julliard School) would have been Warfield!!!

But William Warfield was still alive!!! [He didn’t pass away until 8/25/2002.]

And the Mega-Mega-Donor might check the Met’s claim with William Warfield himself!!!

So as part of its Orwellian History-Rewriting Project, the Met offered Warfield well up in six figures NOT to contradict their story!!!

And Warfield was so bitter that, according to my Mega-Mega-donor friends on the Met Board, he told the Met that there was no amount of money that could buy his silence!!!

So the Met had to go with Plan B!!!

Which, of course, is reflected in the Met’s re-writing its on-line archives.


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LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN

Since you “knocked off a scab” by asking me to recall the despicable treatment of Simon Estes and William Warfield, I feel forced to take aim one last time at our “When Race Trumps Merit” author.

Quite often during Part II of WRTM which occupies 147 pages in the middle of its 277 pages, HEATHER MAC DONALD IS WALLOWING IN IGNORANCE WITH THE “WOKE” PEOPLE SHE IS CRITICIZING.

She mentions frequently that Beethoven seems to be their favorite target.

But Heather Mac Donald appears ignorant of why Beethoven, in general, and his Fifth Symphony, in particular, are so popular in Western Culture.

And the explanation starts with Samuel Morse.

He was formulating his famous Morse Code shortly after Beethoven's death in 1827.

As a worshipper of Beethoven, Samuel Morse decided on a whim that since “V” is the Roman Numeral for “five,” he would make the Fifth Symphony’s famous and recurring theme (dit-dit-dit-dah) Morse Code for “V.”

Now fast-forward to World War II.

Beethoven, of course, was German.

And in Nazi-occupied Europe, there was not even one symphony concert that did not feature Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony!!!

The reason???

As Samuel Morse could tell you, “V” is not only the Roman Numeral for “five” but “V” also stands for VICTORY!!!

[I’m sure you can recall visually all of those pictures of Churchill holding up his fingers in a “V” configuration!!!]

AND SINCE BEETHOVEN WAS GERMAN, HITLER DID NOT TRY TO BAN HIS FIFTH SYMPHONY BUT JUST IGNORED THE PROVOCATION!!!

So, Heather Mac Donald and the “woke” Beethoven critics, a pox on both your houses!!!


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Sorry to “run off at the mouth” for so long.

But, as mentioned, you “knocked off a scab” and since that was reasonably foreseeable, you asked for it.

Hopefully, you won’t have any more questions!!!


Your friend,

John K.


PS – Analog’s infinite superiority to digital recordings – the explanation promised above in the “Simon Estes” section –

The reason for postponing the explanation is because the info about Morse Code and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony was needed.

When Sony was about to create the world’s first digital CD, Sony decided for marketing purposes to put Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony on the first commercial CD.

HOWEVER, its engineers reported to management that with then-existing technology, it was NOT possible to put Beethoven’s ENTIRE Fifth Symphony on a CD.

RESPONSE FROM THE TOP – DO IT!!!

At that time the “Gold Standard” for top-of-the-line audio equipment was 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz – which can be thought of as well off the left side of the standard piano keyboard to well off the right side of the standard piano keyboard.

THE “SOLUTION” OF THE SONY ENGINEERS???

They just lopped off roughly one octave from each end of the previous 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz “Gold Standard.”

AND NOBODY HAS GONE BACK TO CORRECT THE TRAVESTY!!!

After all, most people cannot actually hear the two octaves deleted from each end.

THOUGH classical-music lovers typically can do so – and they know there is something wrong with their digital recordings that do NOT sound like LIVE performances (though most don’t know why).

AND CLASSICAL PERFORMING-ARTS ORGANIZATIONS ARE C0-CONSPIRATORS!!!

If they permitted recordings to be 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, how would they sell any more tickets to the public for live performances???

My solution???

(1) As many live performances as possible, and

(2) When working on my laptop, COMPROMISING PRINCIPLES by listening as “white-noise background” to digital recordings from the Met’s streaming service of more than 800 historic recordings (many of which duplicate my historical open-reel off-the-air tape analog recordings from the last century), but

(3) When more time is available, breaking out my zillions of old Met open-reel analog tape recordings or my zillions of old vinyl records (yes, vinyl records are analog which is the reason for their continued popularity with classic-music lovers).


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Analog Superiority and HARMONICS

Before you dismiss classical-music lovers as snobs, please consider why –

(1) a violin and a trumpet playing the same note do NOT sound the same, and

(2) Leontyne Price and Kathleen Battle singing the same note do NOT sound the same.

The answer???

Every instrument (including the human voice) is simultaneously sounding a unique combination of a zillion harmonic pitches both above and below the primary pitch, all the way from 0 Hz to more than 20,000 Hz!!!

In effect, each pitch for each instrument including each human voice has a unique audio “finger print”!!!

That is why those “criminal” purveyors of digital sound should NEVER be forgiven for robbing us of critical portions of each and every “finger print” – roughly the octave at the bottom and the octave at the top of each “finger print” – so that we’re lucky if our digital recordings sound anything like the real thing!!!

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