Names and Nonsense

by Jay Nordlinger

In today’s column, I have my usual shtickage — or some of it: the awfulness of Bill Clinton, the greatness of Lincoln, the glory of music, the amusements of language — blah, blah, blah. But there is nothing on names. And I thought I’d throw something at you here. Two things, actually.

1) I was reading an article — find it here — about those Russian spies, deported from the United States. They are now back in the Motherland, being toasted as heroes and heroines. The author of the article (an Associated Press report)? Simon Shuster. Granted, he’s missing a “c.” But still.

2) So, I’m in the Metropolitan Opera House last night, covering Boris Godunov. At intermission, glanced at the program, and saw the name of the man who prepared the children’s chorus — the children’s chorus, mind you: Anthony Piccolo. (“Small,” in Italian.)

Am I the only one who thinks that’s a riot? Maybe.

Okay, this is not so funny: A few weeks ago, a reader sent me an excerpt from Opera News, in which Stephen Wadsworth, the director of the Met’s Boris, holds forth. He says, in his wisdom,

“In the beginning, the people are skeptical and irritable, because their new ruler gained the throne through wrongdoing. In the end, they recklessly celebrate another new ruler who’s done the same. And they don’t even rationalize it. They’re just so happy to kick out the old, they surrender rational thought and go on a rampage. Can you say ‘Tea Party’?”

Can you say “typical arts-world blowhard who obviously knows little of contemporary politics and should stick to his knitting” — and knit better than he has in this Boris, at that?

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