Sometimes after you’ve been to a cultural performance you read the review in the newspaper and nod in agreement with the writer. Other times you look at the review and shake your head. Was the critic at the same event you attended?
December 4th was the Winnipeg Singers Christmas concert and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It got my holiday season off to a great start. The Winnipeg Brass Quintet were special guests and together with the choir, and organist Diedrich Bartel they produced some thrilling sounds.
I liked the variety in the concert- music from different time periods and in different styles and the opportunity the audience had to sing-a-long with familiar carols. So I was surprised when Winnipeg Free Press reviewer Gwenda Nemerofsky criticized the concert for being too serious and high-brow. She used the words ‘plodding’ and ‘staid’ to describe the performance. I couldn’t have disagreed more. I was throughly entertained. I loved the very modern and almost haunting Lo How A Rose and when the choir sang Of The Father’s Love Begotten it was so beautiful I just closed my eyes and let the lovely sound wash over me.
Of course I have to admit I might not be totally objective in my evaluation of the concert because my future daughter-in-law Alisa is a member of the Winnipeg Singers. I don’t want to be too hard on reviewer Gwenda Nemerofsky because in my computer desktop folder labeled ‘Proud Mama’ I have a review she wrote in March of 2009 in which she mentioned Alisa favorably for a solo she did at a concert. Also in a column on December 15th Nemerofsky gave high praise to the Winnipeg Singers’ Christmas CD Swingle Bells. I have the CD and have already been enjoying it this holiday season.
On the other hand I totally agreed with CBC reviewer Jeff Schmidt’s critique of the Manitoba Theatre Centre’s production of Romeo and Juliet which I saw last night. The production is set in the modern-day Middle East and Romeo is from a Jewish family and Juliet from an Arab family. Schmidt says in his review the Middle East setting was not nearly evident enough in the play and I agree totally. Aside from the pictures of Jerusalem on the screen at the back of the stage and one character wearing a yamaka, it would be hard to know the play is set in 2011 or the Middle East.
The play’s Shakespearean language has not been altered for something more modern. Characters send letters by messenger instead of by text or e-mail. They even refer to the city of Verona in the play instead of Jerusalem or another middle eastern city and when Romeo and Juliet need counsel they turn to a priest, when obviously an imam or Jewish rabbi would have been much more believable given the religious background of the two main characters. When I was in the Middle East in 2009 it wasn’t easy to go from Israel to Palestine. It might have been realistic for the thwarted messenger, for example, to have been detained at an Israeli check stop as he attempted to deliver his letter about Juliet’s fake death to Romeo. There are many things that could have been done fairly easily to highlight the Middle East setting of the play.
The job of a reviewer is ‘have an opinion’ and both Nemerofsky and Schmidt certainly did so that makes their reviews good quality whether I agreed with them or not.
What next? Since I’m trying to explore different kinds of writing this year perhaps I need to try writing a review myself.