The criticism of art is just opinion, and a reviewer has a right to her or his own. Though I may disagree from time to time, my public responses have been due only to factual errors.
Earlier this May I read a review (English translation here) by Herr Felix Stephan of a concert I was part of in the Philharmonie Kammermusiksaal – my Philharmonie debut, in fact. I was called an assortment of interesting things and I have no problem with any of the nomers Mr. Stephan chose.
In the second paragraph, however, the final sentence says that I entered the stage “…mit unverkennbarem Babybauch.” (“…with an unmistakable baby bump.”)
After reverse-snorting some coffee, I read it again. It was insinuated in the article that “to date” I was some sort of Lolita-Hexen-Geigerin (‘Lolita-Witch-Female-Violinist’), but now in my forties and pregnant, I would likely calm down some.
There are binders full of wrong with Mr. Stephan’s presumption. That a performer whom he describes as “someone one can hardly turn eye nor ear away from” would somehow better suit his temperament by being knocked up is an insult to my gender. As though all that could possibly quell femme fatale-ism (his words) were childbearing and rearing; he decided for himself, his readers, and his apparently myopic editors, that I was soon to be bearing a bouncing bundle of baby bliss.
Let me now assure my readers that I am most assuredly not pregnant, and very happily so. I decided some time ago that I would much rather create than procreate, so I remain child-free.
Herr Stephan’s declaration of the opposite does not take into account other possibilities for what he evidently saw as a tall “..fascinating and troubling.. ” woman in a formal A-line black gown whose tummy, as she performed a concert of music by Schubert, Bruch, and Bach, was a little too large for his liking.
Just a few ideas here: hepatitis, thyroid problems, cysts, recent miscarriages, being a bonne vivante and/or getting knighted in Bourgogne a few days before the concert.
I’m not saying any of these things are true, but they could be.
It shows a mighty troubling double standard; if a man walked on stage with more weight than Mr. Stephan approved of, could anyone even fathom that he might assume it had to do with the man’s reproductive system? After all, gonad trouble often creates abdominal bloating, but one can’t really imagine this exceedingly personal issue occurring to him – instead, he would certainly not mention it at all.
Germany is less Neanderthal than many countries regarding gender equality, especially recently. I think, rather, it’s the field – of classical music, where it is still far too widely expected that girls obediently play pretty things on harp, flute, violin or piano, never straying from the pale, and that conductors, composers and innovators must be male to have any revolutionary ideas.
This view is changing, but ever so reluctantly. I’m glad this German fellow liked the concert, but it seems he decided I was pregnant because that made him feel relieved. That he wouldn’t have to deal with this giant wild Hexe anymore, because she’d be stuck at home with a baby.
~ Lara St. John
P.S. Kudos (of a sort) to the MoPo however, for printing my letter to the editor:
To Carsten Erdmann, Editor-in-Chief of the Berliner Morgenpost
Re: May 5, 2015, review of my Philharmonie debut
I am ever so pleased Herr Stephan enjoyed the concert. It may behoove you, however, to encourage your music critics to refrain from making assumptions about performers’ reproductive conditions. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “I am afraid that his report of my pregnancy was grossly exaggerated.”
Keep up the high standard of reportage!
Sincerely yours, Lara St. John