Theatre Critic by Night, Opera Librettist by Day

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16 Jun 2014

David Cote
David Cote
Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Time Out New York theatre critic David Cote chats with Playbill.com about his recent foray into writing lyrics for the opera.

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It’s a cliché dearly cherished by theatre professionals that every theatre critic is nothing more than a frustrated playwright, with a dozen unproduced scripts moldering away in his or her desk drawer.

There is, of course, some truth to this. Longtime New Yorker theatre critic John Lahr has had his occasional forays into playwriting. The late critic Stanley Kauffmann wrote dozens of plays, none produced, before taking up the critical pen. Recently, Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal’s man on the aisle, saw his one-man Louis Armstrong play Satchmo at the Waldorf open at the Westside Theatre.

It’s a rarer case when you find a theatre critic moonlighting in another artistic field — say, opera. But that is where David Cote, the longtime drama critic at Time Out New York, has been spending his off-hours over the past several years.

When not posting reviews of the latest Broadway musical or Off-Broadway play, Cote collaborates on original operas with composers Stefan Weisman and Robert Paterson. It’s not an area of endeavor in which Cote ever expected to end up; in fact, not too long ago, opera was an art form that inspired within him a certain impatience.

“My impression of it was: great music, bad theatre,” said Cote. “It was always lush sonically, and fascinating to see the stories over the centuries that had been adapted into operas and see some of the great roles play out. But I often felt there were missed opportunities to tell compelling stories.”

His attitude toward opera began to shift after seeing Baz Luhrmann’s lavish and unorthodox 2002 Broadway production of La Bohème.



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