Posted at 11:26 AM on July 15, 2008
by Gillian Martin
This story caught my attention on-line today. A British composer sued the London Evening Standard for libel when it printed a negative review of his opera. The composer claims that by casting aspersions on his artistic choices (the opera had a political theme, apparently) the reviewer had curbed his rights to free speech. The court disagreed.
As a one-time actor, I've felt the sting of bad reviews of productions I've been in. I remember one that was downright cruel. But to sue? That seems extreme. Bad reviews are just part of the game.
This is hilarious. 1) How can you first try to Épater la bourgeoisie, and then be upset when they are, in fact, shocked?
2) How can you bring a law suit, and then not expect to have to pay attorney fees if you lose?
On the other hand, there's little discussion about the musical merits of the opera.
I can kind of understand why he might be upset about this more than say a bad review of a performance. For something to be successful, a lot depends on the reviews to attract people, especially with new works. La Boheme or The Magic Flute will attract crowds no matter what, but a new opera is more difficult. A bad review can signal the failure of a show to make any money at all.
However, to sue a newspaper or critic for a bad review saying it infringes upon your right to free speech is also infringing upon their rights to free speech. I can't see any way this could have won.
Besides, there are plenty of famous works that have had bad reviews on their first outings. He should feel pleased that he might be able to join that esteemed group.