Yesterday, Sheila and I had the privilege of attending the Metropolitan Opera Audition that featured 9 very talented young opera singers on the fringes of stardom. Each of the 9 finalists performed 2 arias with the accompanying Met orchestra and an enraptured packed house.
Held annually, the Audition is a MUST SEE for anyone who loves opera and for those with an open mind and heart who wish to see and hear some extraordinary artists.
This year was special, since it marks the 10th Anniversary of the 2007 Audition that was “aired” by the Met Opera in 2009. I remember seeing this compelling documentary at one of the Met HD live performances and have been hooked ever since.
As the judges tallied up their votes, 3 of the contestants from that historical 2007 Audition sang arias, including Michael Fabiano who is currently performing in La Traviata.
I have been thinking about “Art” quite a bit after learning that funding for the National Endowment of the Arts (“NEA”) will be cut to zero in the new Budget. Frankly, $148 million to the NEA is not much, considering that a single new F-35 jet costs more than twice as much.
I will be very much saddened if funding for the NEA is cut, but I also understand the argument that the NEA has outlived its usefulness if its primary role was to “bring culture to rural areas” in the United States. If our laws or institutions are clearly outdated, replace them with something that makes sense rather than graft on a series of well-meaning programs that do not truly fulfill the intent of the writers of the Law.
Personally, I would prefer that we build theaters for ballet, music and the performing arts at High Schools rather than invest in football stadiums and new sports facilities, but I seem to be in a minority.
After watching Cosimo de’ Medici single-handedly risk his family’s fortune and reputation to engage a bankrupt architect (Brunelleschi) to complete the Dome on the Duomo and commission Donatello’s risque David, it is gratifying to see the creation of transforming Art that defied popular constraints.
If left to their own devices, the “elected” government of Florence would be fighting wars with neighboring Lucca rather than build the foundations of the Renaissance culture. Thank God for people with the vision of Cosimo de’ Medici. The same might be said of Louis XIV and the Palace of Versailles.
While I treasure the grandeur of the Opera and classical music, I am not sure that a credible majority in this country share my opinion.
In a recent New York Times article that focused on the demise of intellectuals, Norman Podhoretz summarizes the bleak cultural landscape quite nicely, “All Americans really care about is sports,” he said. “They pretend to care about other things, but what they care about is sports.”
Therefore, as we move into an era of “popular” culture, I remain hopeful that true visionaries like Cosimo de’ Medici will emerge to create a cultural and artistic landscape worth celebrating. My granddaughter and future generations certainly hope so!