A critic, asleep at the opera

A critic, asleep at the opera


norman lebrecht

June 25, 2014

We’ve received two reports that a well-known newspaper critic was seen asleep in the Grange Park production of La Traviata. We won’t name him, or link to his review, but the well-fed man must have been having sweet dreams because his review referred to Claire Rutter’s Violetta with a demeaning and altogether inappropriate porn-industry term.

That, in our view, was more objectionable than a little snooze.



photo: Robert Workman/GP


  • Alexandra Ivanoff says:

    Why do editors of assumedly respectable publications put up with this? I’m ready to jump up north to replace one of these buffoons, er, “critics.”

  • Halldor says:

    Worse things happen at sea.

  • Anne says:

    “We won’t name him”

    Why not? Transgressions by musicians seem to be fair game.

  • The art of the music critic…. is to criticize, to demean, to attack reputations, to be bored to death by performances, to be bothered by incapable musicians and especially conductors (whom the critic could easily surpass); so, given the hughe responsibilities resting upon his tired shoulders – of which the most important is the survival of classical music – it’s quite understandable that sometimes his superhuman faculties sink into an innocent slumber when the platform fails to hold his ever astute interest.

    If the critic’s immense task and responsibility were properly understood, especially in these lean times, there would be biographies, film documentaries and statues dedicated to his cultural explorations and achievements. Let us not forget that, in the end, performers’ and composers’ raison d’être has always been to meet the artistic standards set-out for us all by the music critic.

  • Charlie Edwards says:

    Bless them, the critics are so heavily overloaded with gigs they need to cover for their readership, whose mindsets they are obliged to telepathically channel. The awful problem with this time of year is that there have been important new productions at WNO, ON, ROH, ENO, Glyndebourne (with gigantic mezzo-sopranos impertinently attempting to impersonate young men), Garsington, Opera Holland Park and Grange Park…. the poor old (mainly) gents are KNACKERED! How can they maintain quality of judgement about what they see under those trying circumstances? If I was one of them I’d snore through the whole lot, especially after a one and a half hour interval with a tad too much Bollinger on tap.

  • Hank Drake says:

    At a Toscanini concert, the conductor’s daughter Wanda spotted the critic Virgil Thomson dozing during the performance. Knowing that Thomson frequently gave her father negative reviews, she approached him and announced, “I am Wanda Toscanini Horowitz, and I saw you sleep from the first note to the last. I hope you enjoyed the performance.” Uncharacteristically, Thomson gave that concert a positive review.

    • ruben greenberg says:

      At least Virgil Thomson was a musician and a fine writer. Most music critics are not, and have never been, musicians. As they can neither sing, play a musical instrument, compose or conduct, maybe they should settle for just being music lovers. Let them sleep on my proposition.

  • Jonas says:

    Well: “James Agate, the famous Sunday Times critic, often nodded off during performances, unapologetically telling a dramatist who craved an opinion of his play: “Young man, sleep is an opinion.”

  • Composer and conservatory director in St Petersburg, Alexander Glazunov, had to sit through the weekly students’ concerts, and demonstratively plugged his ears with big wads of cotton wool before taking his seat, and made sure he was well visible, in the corridor. Maybe this would be an example to be followed by music critics?