Atlanta Opera News

The Maestro is leaving.

Fred Scott, one of the founders of the Atlanta Opera Company and it’s artistic director and primary conductor for the last 20 years, is resigning, effective after the AOC’s production of Beethoven’s Fidelio in April of 2005. New General Director Dennis Hanthorne has invited Maestro Scott back to conduct at least two productions next season, but there is no confirmation as of yet that he actually will.

I, as a vocalist who worked under his baton, feel a sense of loss. I was a singer who considered himself retired until I began working with Fred and the AOC’s chorusmaster, Walter Huff. (no relation.)

Both from the experience gained in stagecraft and musicianship under Fred’s baton and encouragement I felt from what he and Walter trusted me with, I realized not too long ago that I wasn’t done with singing. Seeing Fred’s passionate commitment and involvement in each opera I was a part of was a continuing inspiration, as well as the work I did with Walter in private vocal coachings and as part of the chorus.

I’m sure whatever Fred is going on to will be bigger and better, but I still believe someone,or some place else’s gain is Atlanta’s loss, too. It’s tempting to comment on what part continual negativity and criticism from the AJC’s music critic played in Maestro Scott’s decision – I have read plenty of other music criticism, like Jens Laurson’s take on the Washington DC classical music scene, Nectar and Ambrosia – and I’ve not yet encountered another critic for a major or minor publication whose attacks seem as relentless and directed toward one person – Fred Scott – as Pierre Ruhe’s seem to be. I’m not really sure why this is, but critics like Mr. Laurson prove that music criticism can be written from a fairly objective – and well-informed point-of-view where performers are concerned. Pierre Ruhe’s articles and reviews of AOC productions for the last few years have been almost universally bad, or at least neutral, and many of them single out Fred, always with the explanation that he’s the Captain of the ship, so Ruhe’s problems are with the Captain when he thinks the production stinks. I see the logic in that, but after a while it’s begun to look more like enmity than differing ideas of what well-done opera is about.

I’m sure many who read this won’t even know what I’m talking about – support for an art like opera in Atlanta is nothing like it is in New York – but those who do know perhaps understand that even if this is the best possible thing for the Maestro right now, it is a blow to the arts community. If the dogged criticism from the AJC’s main, maybe only, classical music critic played any part in this, then the critic is no longer doing a service to the community, but furthering what might be a personal agenda at the expense of the cultural life of the city.

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