To the editors:
Well, it took me a while, but I finally dug it up: proof positive of Polkow’s perfidious prevarication in the public prints.
When we last saw our hero, he was accusing one Susan Johnson of N. Sheridan of not having read his review of bass Dimitri Kavrakos [Letters, November 17],. but only a letter referring to his having allegedly called Mr. Kavrakos a “‘light’ baritone,” an accusation he denied. “I wrote that he had a ‘medium-sized’ voice,” Mr. Polkow avers.
Indeed he did [Music, September 30, 1988]. But he did call Mr. Kavrakos a baritone, not once but twice, which I read as Ms. Johnson’s point. I enclose a copy of Mr. Polkow’s review, appropriately highlighted, as evidence. Since Mr. Kavrakos in fact has one of the most profundo of basso voices currently heard in opera (I’d dispute the “medium-sized” voice bit, too, but not enough to write a letter about it), it would appear that Mr. Polkow has, once again, erred in voice labelling. Now, we all know that Mr. Polkow regards concerns about just what sort of voice any given singer has as “pharisaic and nit-picking,” but this is a fairly major mistake for anyone supposedly knowledgeable about singing to make. Did he perhaps (once again) misread his notes?
Breathlessly awaiting Mr. Polkow’s wrigglings and evasions on this one, I am
Just another anonymous guardian of culture and the public trust
Dennis Polkow replies:
I never denied having called Kavrakos a baritone, and I certainly do not at all agree that he has “one of the most profundo of basso voices currently heard in opera.” The man displayed a weak bottom range and simply was not projecting well the last time he was here. Once again, to each his own. But to repeat a very important point for the slower opera lovers out there, for those who may not have heard it before, or for those who choose to ignore it: I label voices according to what they are capable of singing, not necessarily according to the roles that they are attempting to sing. I should add that the review sent along with this letter (of Bellini’s La sonnambula) dates from 1988, and Kavrakos has not been back since (I’m always happy to keep an open ear). I find it a bit strange and sadistic to save a review that one disagrees with for so long a time, but perhaps pharisaical and nit-picking opera lovers lead dull lives.