Not #MeToo

I’m upset.

It’s not that I’m having a bad day. I just keep hearing news that’s upsetting.

Two very different women I knew, each an avatar of female strength, have passed away. I met each of them, knew them very superficially.

Christie Blatchford has died.

I only met her a couple of times, but she was one of this city’s key voices. While our politics were totally dissimilar –she wrote for the ultra-conservative Sun after all—she had this uncanny ability to make you think about positions you would never normally think about. For my money that’s the most impressive kind of writer, someone who can make me rethink my own beliefs, shake my own convictions, which she did from time to time.

I don’t claim that my sadness about her matches that of the people I’ve been reading today, who admired her tenacity & fearless outlook, especially her dear friends. I admired her, a woman who opened new directions & opportunities for women, doing things we’d never seen a woman writer do. I remember the way she handled herself at a party, totally in the moment, vulnerable.

Anne Kingston has died.

I heard this on As It Happens tonight while driving home. This one hurts a lot more, as our paths crossed a fair bit at one time when we were both at university. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I made much of an impression, indeed I’m sure that if she would remember me perhaps it’s for that wedding where I played so terribly at the reception, (a great learning experience).

I bought a copy of The Meaning of Wife, a wonderful book she wrote. I guess I grabbed it mostly because “I knew her when”,

…not expecting to discover the writer.
…not expecting to be blown away by the writing.

Each piece of hers I read in Macleans was vying to be the best thing I’d read on the subject, the best thing in that issue, an edgy thinker with wit & style. She was the most impressive writer of my generation, speaking as someone who has several books on my shelves by people I know. It’s cool to look at the books and think of the writers.

Not cool to realize that this young woman is gone, gone much too soon.

Christie B and Anne K were very different in style, in the sorts of things they wrote, polar opposites in their politics. That these two book-ends to women writing in Toronto and Canada should both pass away this week?

Unthinkable.

Upsetting.

I am inserting myself into this conversation as I usually do. I tweeted a question at Alexander Neef, perhaps not a polite question but something that’s bothering me all the same.


The question had come up elsewhere. Opera Canada asked the COC about it and received an answer (which I quote from Twitter), condensing a thread into one paragraph:

@OperaCanada

We also apologize for not giving readers the full coverage they deserve in the matter of
@CanadianOpera ‘s hiring of Stephen Lord. We will do better. We have added an update to our coverage of the COC’s hiring of Stephen Lord in our online article about their 20-21 season…
We reached out to @CanadianOpera to inquire about their hiring of Lord while still under the cloud of allegations of sexual harassment. Their response: “Upon learning of the allegations against Mr. Lord in June of 2019, the company immediately carried out a detailed review of his engagements with the COC, dating back to 1986; no complaints or records of misconduct were found in our files. The COC also reached out to external organizations, partner unions, and individuals who worked closely with Mr. Lord in order to learn if complaints of any kind named or anonymous, had been formally lodged or otherwise brought forward; our inquiries and follow-up yielded no results.

Having completed a fair and due process, one that included much careful and thorough review of the information available to us, Mr. Lord will conduct La Traviata in spring of 2021.”

Really Opera Canada?

Really COC?

Okay, here’s where my headline came from. In 1973 when I was still a teenager, I had one of the greatest theatre experiences of my life, watching Jon Vickers & Louis Quilico in Verdi’s Otello, conducted by James Levine (who was just beginning his great career). When we went backstage afterwards? I had heard some jokes about James Levine & young boys, and indeed when the Maestro shook my hand and smiled at me I wondered.

No I didn’t have to endure any sort of harassment.

Not #MeToo, in other words. I’m lucky for several reasons.

But please note, people were talking about Levine in 1973. Groundless rumours? Finally they bore fruit when Levine left the Met in 2018 though even now he denies the allegations. Perhaps they are lies? But those “lies” were being told 45 years earlier, when I was just a teen.

While I am sympathetic to Stephen Lord, whose career has been disrupted by the allegations (you can read the report from Opera News) yet I wonder about how the singers & musicians contracted for la traviata must feel.

Fake news? Or perhaps it’s simply that even after decades one can never really confirm such a thing. If you consider that any singers or musicians who step forward with an accusation will more or less end their own career?

No wonder Levine kept his post for decades.

Is it all lies?

Sorry but I tend to think that where there’s smoke there’s fire. It’s very risky for a woman to step forward accusing a powerful authority figure.

Sorry but I can’t help feeling downcast, the way all the bad news today seems to fit together.

A sorry day.

This entry was posted in Books & Literature, Opera, Personal ruminations & essays, Politics, University life and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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