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I do not make a habit of writing letters to the Editor of any publication I read, but I found a comment in an article in the Winter 2004 issue of Opera Quarterly so ridiculous and appalling I just had to let you know.
In "Opera and the Law: Dramma Giocosa" (OQ, vol. 20, no. 1), Daniel F. Tritter states: "In our era of seemingly pervasive religious fanaticism, where Islam has its Osama bin Ladins and Christianity has its Jerry Falwells, there is a certain resonance in opera, where the conflict of church and state is frequently underscored by unsympathetic religious leaders."
I don't know a lot about Jerry Falwell, other than that he has some strong religious convictions that as far as I know, do not call for the murder of anyone. I do, however, know a great deal about Osama bin Ladin and if Mr. Tritter believes they can both be categorized as unsympathetic religious leaders I suggest he pay more attention to the world around him. In case Mr. Tritter has not noticed, bin Ladin has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people and is still determined to kill more of us, including Mr. Tritter, who apparently sees him as some unsympathetic guy with no evil intentions. I suggest Mr. Tritter clear his mind of his "festering thoughts concerning the role of law in opera" and direct his thoughts to a possibly more mundane subject (at least to him): our very survival.
Richard A. Ferris
Daniel F. Tritter responds:
After having had an unobstructed view from my office of the World Trade Center tragedy on 9/11/01 and learning about Al Qaeda's other murderous attacks on the Western world, I hadn't thought I needed instruction about Mr. bin Laden's evil intentions. My omission of a rhetorical bludgeon apparently caused our correspondent to lose sight of the point being made in OQ.
Tellingly, he confesses a lacuna in his familiarity with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the Moral Majority, and Liberty College. Ironically, the juxtaposition of Falwell and those fatal words, "moral," "majority," and "liberty" is the reverend's ongoing demonstration that he believes in none of them. As with extremists throughout history, those proclaiming their exclusive possession of all the truth, whether Islamists, Ultra Orthodox Jews, the Christian Right, and not so long ago, Marxist-Leninists, none has ever tolerated dissent; all have imposed silence upon heretics by whatever means available, censorship, imprisonment, or death, by crusade, fatwa, or open warfare. Mr. Farris is distressed that I did not instantly identify bin Laden and his terrorists as MURDERERS in boldface caps. Sorry, [End Page 517] my readers, for using a scalpel instead of an axe.
My point, if it needs reiteration, was that in a journal devoted to opera (remember? opera?), I wrote about a persistent presence in that art form of aspects of the law, in plot lines, in dramatic situations, and delineations of characters. Had I chosen to write about the extremists of society who masquerade as religious leaders and are dedicated to extermination of their perceived enemies and their ideas, I might have done so, though Mr. Farris might have not read my thoughts in the pages of The Opera Quarterly. If he wants some detailing of those ideas, my number can be found in the Manhattan telephone directory.
Kindly communicate to your crusty, tradition-bound reviewer, Mr. Rishoi, that after reading the first paragraph of his Alcina review (OQ, vol. 20, no. 2), I found myself muttering "thank you ... thank you ... thank you." It is dear to hear sanity on at least one of the fronts where the insane are assaulting us. I thought Mr. Rishoi's explanation for the reinterpretation, and directorial goofiness, of Mr. Wieler and Mr. Morabito—"attempting to be daring, arty, and different"—was kind. I would have said their motivation stems from a self-righteousness: Flag-wavers whose lack of self compels them to appropriate the art to scream take a look at me—forget Alcina. Barely can...