If you leave an ear open idly in Cambridge today, somebody is going to sell you a piece of a musical venture. The air hums with propaganda about symphony orchestras, string quartets, singers, wire-recording devices, and the like. It therefore came as a surprise to learn the other day, quite by chance and without the usual hoopla, of a new opera company in Boston, to be headed by the redoubtable Boris Goldovsky.
Opera in this city has suffered a severe decline while its prestige as an artistic form has risen all over the nation. And when the Met, which is not entirely blameless, takes its company on the Boston tour, it calls forth last dollars of Back Bay operagoers.
In this center of culture, the musically inclined student is soon reduced to his phonograph and the record stores. As a Freshman, he goes to hear Koussevitzky on Mozart, perhaps he is inveigled into a meeting of the Handel and Haydn Society, he listens to a mediocre glee, club, and he goes home unnourished.
The difficulty of remedying this situation is less apparent than the need that something be done. Artistic endeavours led by aesthetes generally turn out to be failures from which audiences turn politely. Businessmen produce Songs of Norway. It takes tact and talent to produce artistically valuable theatre and keep it going. In this the New England Opera Theatre is singularly fortunate in its leadership.
Goldovsky has had considerable experience in operatic production, having done work in Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Tanglewood. His casts will come primarily from those ventures, although local talent has been auditioned and will be used. The performances are guaranteed professional, and any slovenly work will be noticed and corrected by authorities.
"The Marriage of Figure," which will be produced by the group in the Edward Dent translation, opens the season and will introduce to Boston a new, or Goldovsky, method of direction. The theory is that opera is primarily theatrical. Corollary one states that you cannot give convincing performances of an opera in a language which the east does not understand. Corollary two demonstrates that singers must be able to do more than get their notes right--though this is considered important. As a result, less attention is paid to the conductor and more to the score.
Money is being collected to finance two seasons at low prices and failure is not contemplated. Few things in music are more worth hearing than a performance by a well-directed, intelligent opera theatre; and if Goldovsky has his way, November 22 should be an important turning point in Boston's none-too-brilliant musical history.