Re Dan Rottenberg’s piece on three generations at the Pennsylvania Ballet’s Nutcracker—
If there’s a really new Nut to be cracked, we can count on our polymathic editor to oblige. (Jock of all arts and master of many.) At hand is his beguiling double date with granddaughter Thelma (age three) and her mother Julie. Issue: When is it too early to take a tot to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker?
Given the DNAs involved, Thelma would have probably soared and scored silently in utero. As it turned out, she babbled brilliantly on her way back to New York on both Amtrak and the dreary subways.
Which brings me to a coincidence. Shortly after reading about her trip, I Googled the story about the 80-member Chorus Niagara doing a flash mob concert of Handel’s Messiah on the astonished patrons of a very ordinary watering hole— part of the Knight Foundation’s national scheme of willy-nilly upgrading the art experiences of the very unenlightened.
Now, my aesthetic upbringing was as uncultivated as a Detroit Catholic was unlike the obsessive Nutcracking of our Manhattan-bred editor. Yet as much as I enjoyed my first flash-mob Handel, this is putting the hearse before the free carts. Most Americans are culture-poor because their daily lives and surroundings are Handel-less.
The benighted Knights must see that the empty lives of too many Americans are still locked into an official boredom. A flash-mob thrill is better than none, but it just doesn’t add up to cultivated mass citizens. That stems from tutelage that begins with kindergarten and literally never ends. Not enough liberated editors for that task.
Patrick D. Hazard
December 28, 2010