Ann Patchett on opera and veggies

June 24, 2008
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"Sometimes I worry that culture is like vegetables and that I'd be better off eating that which is locally grown," writes novelists Ann Patchett in today's Wall Street Journal.

The piece isn't a celebration of local arts. Rather, it's a tribute to the technology that now allows the Metropolitan Opera to broadcast performances in her local multiplex (something I've written about here in the past).

"Implicit in my love for Tennessee has always been the understanding that certain needs were going to have to be met out of town. These days I find there are fewer and fewer reasons to fly."

There's no question that technology has made it easier to access the arts from outside our borders. But it's telling that Patchett doesn't mention anything about her town's own Nashville Opera.

 I can't speak to the quality of the company, but no less than Opera News called its production of "Elmer Gantry," " of the most enjoyable of premieres heard in many a season, richly deserves wider currency."

Perhaps the best diet for Patchett--and the rest of us--is a mix of quality local goods and the best of the rest.
  • Opera is one of those things where the dropoff in quality from the top handful of cities is considerable in the quantity of operas produced and in the singing talent employed. The Metropolitan Opera produces something like 25 operas a year. Opera is one of those things that is passionate loved by its aficionados such as yours truly (who sees about 15 a year across various cities). Anything other than an absolute top tier city is unlikely to satisfy the craving, and even then maybe not all the way.
  • Dropoff in quality... Hm. I invite anyone reading this to hear the broadcast and webcast premiere of ELMER GANTRY on WPLN, 90.3 FM Nashville Public Radio. Saturday, October 4, 2008 at 12:30 PM Central or 1:30 PM Eastern. The streaming webcast can be heard at:

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