A music critic says: ‘I’m sorry’

A music critic says: ‘I’m sorry’


norman lebrecht

May 22, 2014

Richard Morrison of The Times, alone among his colleagues, has offered a public apology to the mezzo-soprano he described as ‘unbelievable, unsightly and unappealing.’ Tara Erraught was singing Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier at Glyndebourne.

The apology comes with a qualification: ‘Although the blogosphere has been torn asunder with “industry” reaction to the Rosenkavalier reviews,The Times has yet to receive a single letter, email or online comment objecting to what I wrote. Which suggests that the general public accepts that when people perform in front of a paying audience, the total image they present — looks, voice, acting ability and suitability for the role — is fair game for critical comment.’

On the contrary, it suggests that Times readers are too few, or too supine, to comment on the lynching of a promising young talent. And, no, the general public and the tenor of our times do not necessarily agree that every performer is ‘fair game’ for the frustrations of music critics.

Nevertheless, Richard – a decent man – has done the decent thing. Respect.

tara erraught3


  • Since the Times requires paid membership in order to access articles, it’s possible the number of Times’ online readers is far fewer than what’s free to read on the internet – thus, the lack of comments appearing on their website.

  • Christy says:

    What did he say?

  • Sasha Valeri Millwood says:

    I am not sure Mr Morrison’s argument is valid. I know that I do not write indignant letters/electronic messages for every article or review that I found in some way objectionable, ill informed, or flawed — if I did, I would not have time to do anything else! Whilst there is a minority of people who make a hobby/vocation/profession of frequently writing indignant letters, most of us, most of the time, have arrived at a state of “outrage fatigue”, and are thus content to register our outrage privately or indirectly.

    Mr Morrison, and his colleagues, are entitled to print reviews that utilise absurd criteria (such as weight and physical appearance) and are irrelevant, rude, and unfair. We are entitled to refuse them complimentary tickets, special access, and the other perks typically accorded to journalists.

    I would urge opera houses, concert halls, orchestras, artist managers, and other promoters to get together and create a blacklist of critics (or, if a paper refuses to disclose whom they intend to send, whole papers), whose track record of previous reviews has demonstrated that they are unable or unwilling to write intelligent, informed, and pertinent material (whether positive or negative). If the music profession could only muster a modicum of solidarity (instead of cut-throat competition), the power of these men to arbitrarily destroy careers would be considerably diminished. If you agree with me, post your proposed names for the blacklist as a reply to this comment.

  • Andrys says:

    Oh, I thought Christy was asking what the critic said about the singer.

    If the question was about what he said in apology, the title of the article quotes an “I’m sorry” and then we have the qualifier quoted.

    The question may still be, “What [if anything] did he say he was sorry about?” (One would think he should have expanded a bit on that, yes, but his instincts seem to be a bit crass.)

  • Francis Wood says:

    I’m puzzled. Did he apologise or didn’t he? Perhaps it was only in The Times to which I have no instant access. Either he’s apologising or he’s telling us that everyone tacitly agrees with him. But he can’t have it both ways.

    I’ve read some pretty sophisticated defences here of his earlier attitude which was in itself a expression of pretty unsophisticated rudeness.

    My thanks, anyway, to Norman for giving all this some deserved scrutiny.

  • Kai says:

    Any statements from the editors who allowed the articles to go to print at all, complete with the offensive remarks? They have to apologize as well.

    I have an impression, and the statement quoted here just seems to strongly support it, that some critics and editors do not realize how offensive their writings are, that it are personal insults what they publish. A friend of mine, completely new to the world of classical music, once asked me about a newspaper piece he saw: “Where does this hatred come from?”

    Which was a question I could not answer either. But it makes clear why no editorial office should expect much direct feedback on such articles: They destroy any dialogue themselves. And exactly this happened in this case as well. A look at production photos suggests a possibility that perhaps indeed something could be said about this staging. But after these reviews nothing else than strongly defending the rudely attacked singer is possible anymore. Culture journalism has defeated itself.