05 January 2005


The last major label complete opera studio recording (maybe)

The NYT Arts page article on the death of studio opera recordings fails to acknowledge their primary destroyer: the CD copier (paradoxically, the perfect recreator) and its intrepid enabler, the www. The recording industry has failed to protect its property from technology's indiscriminate onslaught, and one needs only to look at their personal CD collections for empirical proof. The causes are many: (1) Major labels have to compete with individual sellers on sites like amazon.com, often losing the contest (e.g., the Voigt/Moser DG Tristan is $45.99 new and from $32 "new"/used). (2) Auction sites like eBay generate the legal exchange of recordings (certainly abound with CD copying), profitting everyone but the artists and the record labels. (3 & 4) Friends who call to say "Hey, I just got the new X, and dat bitch Y sings the f* out of that high C, you wanna copy?" often got X from used CD stores like Academy Records or Princeton Record Exchange: licit and illicit commerce again sovereign from the record labels' bottom lines. We (the overconsuming public) share the blame for beating the system; but more crucially, the dying record labels are guilty of the lack of creativity to stop it, or better, the guts to rework the foundations before too late. And now it's too late.

(Meanwhile, the discussion of the Domingo/Stemme T&I fraud will come later.)

Edit: Alex Ross suspects that this "'final opera recording ever' is simply EMI's marketing plan for this particular release," while highlighting the burgeoning economy of smaller record labels like Harmonia Mundi, Astrée, and Virgin Classics to lessen the gloom-and-doom. But somehow I'm still not appeased.