inane directions.rnLooking for a confirmation of my impressions,rnI turned to the New YorkrnTimes, which I long considered the lastrnbastion of sane musical criticism. Unfortunately,rnthat dictum no longerrnstands. As if to emphasize the Times’rnchange of attitude, John O’Connor’s reviewrnof this atrocity claimed that youngrnpeople enjoy Sellars’ approach and thatrnSellars has a deep respect for Mozart’s intentions!rnUpon reading that, I decidedrnthat someone should define “respect”rnand “enjoyment” for Mr. O’Connor.rnFirst and foremost, I do not consider arnchange of venue to be respect for a workrnof art. Such changes are a sad surrogaternfor the lack of great operas in our day. IfrnPeter Sellars had such a burning desire tornset an opera in New York’s Trump Tower,rnhe should have written a new one himself;rnhe had no right to transport hernNozze di Figaro to that locale. GivingrnSellars the benefit of every doubt, onernmight say in his defense that he was tryingrnto make modern audiences understandrnwhat was so shocking about Beaumarchais’rnplay and Da Ponte’s librettornwhen they first appeared. It is true that,rnsince the social situation has changedrndrastically in 200 years, we have come tornaccept the plot of Nozze as comfortablernfun when in fact it was taken from a playrnbanned in p]urope; but to bring the stagernaction to the point of vulgar farcernnegates the marvelous transformationrnthat Mozart and Da Ponte wrought inrnbringing its message up a notch, fromrnthe level of the gutter to the level of truernart. Sellars seems to forget that, thoughrnBeaumarchais’ play was banned at court,rnMozart’s opera was not, and the distinctionrnlies not so much in softening thernimplied class struggle as in moving therndrama and its motivations from the external,rnphysical plane to an internal, spiritualrnone. The most moving passage inrnthe entire opera is the count’s begging ofrnforgiveness, Contessa, perdono; indeed,rnits simplicity and nobility make it one ofrnthe most moving passages in all of opera.rnIn the space of perhaps 20 seconds, arnlively comedy has become deadly serious,rnand in the count’s utterance is thernfull measure of Mozart’s belief in the essentiallyrnpatrician state of the humanrnspirit. Set against Sellars’ trashy, glitzyrnbackdrop, and with the vulgarities thatrnhe reintroduced into the plot, this scenernis not merely meaningless but bizarre.rnAt that moment, anyone with a soulrnwatching tin’s performance would knowrnthat Sellars had not respected but betrayedrnMozart.rnAs for what young people enjoy, bearrnin mind that this is a generation thatrnequates lust with love, a generation thatrnadmires men who get the most sex andrnwomen who wear their underwear onrnthe outside. This is not exactly the typernof audience one would expect at anrnopera, and those who saw and “enjoyed”rnSellars’ Nozze did so on a purely externalrnlevel. Like the director himself, theyrnwere titillated by the presentation of arnfarce comedy in the most obnoxious settingrnimaginable; they enjoyed not thernmusic per se, but the physical contortionsrnthat accompanied it, the slangrnmodernization of the translations, therndepiction of characters not unlike themselves.rnWere you to send this same audiencernto a conventional production ofrnNozze, they would probably walk out orrnfall asleep from boredom. The musicrnwas not what grabbed them, and inrnopera the music is the message. Anythingrnless is not opera, but some bastardizedrnform of “art” that does not fit any definitionrnI can recognize.rnThe financial support and implied encouragementrnfor Sellars’ visual perversionsrnfrom PBS speaks volumes for itsrnrespect of humanity as a whole and itsrnviewers in particular. If I were head ofrnPBS, the mere appearance of this Nozzernde Figaro would frighten me into pullingrnthe plug on Sellars’ Don Giovanni (whichrnis set in the South Bronx, with the Donrndressed like Andrew Dice Clay) and CosirnFan Tutte (set in an upstate New Yorkrndiner, whatever that has to do with anything).rnBut the powers that be obviouslyrnbuy into Sellars’ claim that his productionsrnbring “a new audience ” tornopera, and as a result they are more thanrnwilling to offend the old guard. Well,rnwe will see what happens when their annualrnfund drive comes around. I canrnjust imagine the spoiled brats of thernMTV generation turning in a portion ofrntheir allowance to PBS because they enjoyedrnthe antics of Cherubino.rnStephen M. StroffrnO B I T E R DICTA: ChOton Williamson,rnJr., our senior editor for books, willrnhave his own column at the back of thernmagazine beginning this month. Startingrnon page 49, the new column willrntreat issues centered on the AmericanrnWest but with national reverberations,rnand vice versa. Mr. Williamson titlesrnhis department “The Hundredth Meridian.”rnWe had intended to include in thisrnmonth’s issue an article by Mark Pollottrnon some of the more notorious cases ofrneminent domain, incidents whererngovernment has run roughshod over thernrights of property owners. But Mr. Pollott,rnalthough a lawyer and a libertarian,rndoes not see fit to honor his promises.rnWe will continue in this column to reportrn(like we did last month) on storesrnaround the country that carry Chronicles.rnThis time we would like to note thatrnChronicles is sold at the following storesrnin the Chicago area: Barnes & Noble Superstore,rn351 Town Square in Wheaton;rnMayuba Bookstore, 1100 Lake Street inrnOak Park; Borders Book Shop at thernOaks, 1600 16th Street, in Oakbrook;rnKroch’s & Brentano’s, 29 S. Wabash Avenuernin Chicago; and Kroch’s &rnBrentano’s, 1530 E. 53rd Street in Chicago.rnFinally, we are delighted to report thatrnThe Hard to Catch Mercy (Algonquin),rnthe novel by Chronicles contributorrnWilliam Baldwin that Fred Chappell reviewedrnin our October 1993 issue, hasrnwon a Lillian Smith Book Award. Givenrnby the Southern Regional Council inrnhonor of the Georgia writer (who wasrnoutspoken on issues of social and racialrninjustice), the award was presented tornMr. Baldwin in Atlanta last November.rnLET USrnKNOWrnBEFORErnYOU GO!rnTo assure uninterrupted deliveryrnof CHRONICLES please notifyrnus in advance. Send change ofrnaddress on this form with thernmaiUng label from your latestrnissue of CHRONICLES to:rnSubscription DepartmentrnCHRONICLES R O. Box 800rnMount Morris, Illinois 61054rnornGrnJANUARY 1994/9rnrnrn