Just because so little new creation of high musical art is currently visible, the efforts of performing institutions are increasingly turned toward the more or less distant past But while such efforts undeniably have the easy virtue of concentrating on the “greats,” they present a dilemma as well: How can a knowing and participant audience be found for the cultural products of another time and, as in the case of our country, another place?

This dilemma clearly affects no institution on the American artistic scene more poignantly than the Metropolitan Opera. Well on its way to a one-hundred-million-dollar annual budget, the Met has forsaken the cause not only of contemporary operatic composition but even of production. Instead the company has chosen to spend its talent and treasure on the presentation of hallowed works—or occasionally of lesser-known works by hallowed composers. These...


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