BY ANY standard, 1980 was a tumultuous year for the arts. Expectations rose as fast as ticket prices, often followed by dazzling disappointments. But national polls show an increase in public interest and support for all art forms. Many costly projects flopped, strikes idled huge institutions and innovation was rare. But sleepers woke up audiences, and new ideas arose which may change the complexion of entertainment. At home, it was a year of controversy and competition among many of our principal arts groups. But the Washington culture-boom continued unabated. In their annual ritual, The Post's critics recently assembled to pass judgment on the year. What follows is the final word from Gary Arnold, Richard Harrington, Paul Hume, James Lardner, Alan M. Kriegsman, Joseph McLellan, Paul Richard and Tom Shales.
Q.what was the high point of the year -- or its most interesting DEVELOMENT?
Arnold: The most gratifying pop entertainment of the year was certainly "The Empire Strikes Back," the only authentic blockbuster of 1980 and perhaps the only reassuring Big Movie. At least George Lucas and his associates still seem to know what they're doing.
The unexpected national success of Carroll Ballard's "The Black Stallion," which opened here last Christmas and was still going strong nine months later, is perhaps the best hopeful sign for the future of American movies. Also heartening was the local support for "My Brilliant Career" (nine months at the Key), "Angi Vera," "Eboli," "Kagemusha," "Wise Blood," "Roadie," "The Stunt Man," "The Long Riders," "Coal Miner's Daughter," "Dressed to Kill," "Hero at Large," "My Bodyguard" and several others.
The revival of "Whoopie!" in a two-color Technicolor process on Home Box Office was a delight and revelation. Why couldn't such pleasant rediscoveries be sustained in a revival series? I'm sure the HBO or some other cable system will make itself indispensable to movie-loving families by taking the initiative with systematic, high-quality revival programming.
The emergence of cable may also be useful to filmmakers shortchanged in the present hit-or-miss theatrical market, with its often-wasteful advertising budgets and high ticket prices. "The Great Santini" actually went from HBO to theatrical success. More and more undeserving flops in the medium-budget range -- "Hie in Plain Sight" or "Best Boy" or "The Idolmaker" or "The Changeling" or "The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith," for example -- may have to build audiences slowly through cable showings after initial theatrical setbacks.
Also encouraging: The continued expansion of Circle Theaters and the renovation of K-B Cinema to accommodate "Empire" in 70mm and six-track Dolby -- a boon to presentation which may soon be the only competitive advantage available to first-run theaters.
A final high point: the publication of Ronald Haver's splendidly illustrated movie book, "David O. Selznick's Hollywood," a genuine treasure of a coffee-table volume. Don't be scared off by the $75 retail price. Since it cost $1 million to print and was five years in the making, there may not be a second edition. If you have to, build a pedestal to hold this book, a richly gratifying luxury item for movie nuts.
Shales: Hopes springs eternal from cable TV, and some developments this year suggest a liberation at hand. The FCC struck down some rules that were unnecessarily restrictive to cable growth, and unless this decision gets reversed from broadcaster pressure, cable should have an easier time of branching out.
One would think that of all people, the networks should be the last ones allowed into the cable arena. But ABC and CBS both announced plans to get involved in national satellite distribution of programming to cable systems (they're still forbidden from owning cable systems themselves, but that may change). And what are they going to offer? Culture! With a capital cult!
CBS will start offering high-toned cable shows next year. ABC is making similar plans. Another system, called Bravo, is already operational with cultural events and a cultural news magazine, a Saturday Review of the air.
Skeptics would ask why those who have tirelessly purveyed pap, pabulum and puerility to the American people for three decades would have interest in the culture biz. It's the beauty of cable; it doesn't depend on Nielsen ratings, advertiser support or the other common denominating factors. It can play to smaller audiences and still make money. As America gets more and more wired further and further into the '80s, there may at last come a day when at any given hour there is something available on most TV sets that isn't just a doodle, a time-killer or a mover of deodorants and designer jeans.
Of course, anyone who holds his breath waiting for this milennium may soon find himself very, very blue.
Richard: The Shoe of the Year award goes to the Museum of Modern Art's Picasso retrospective. John Wilmerding's American Luminist exhibition at the National Gallery, Jane Livingston's Georges Vantongerloo retrospective at the Corcoran and the Hirshhorn's smashing Russian show all were revelations. Three cheers, too, for the Nigerian sculpture at the Corcoran, for the Post-Impressionists at the National Gallery, and for the National Portrait Gallery's American portrait drawings. Two cheers for the International Sculpture Conference and for the WPA.
Lardner: "Sweeney Todd" had been an event in New York, but at the Kennedy Center it was a much more spectacular and effective piece of theater. It was a brand new show in the guise of a post-Broadway touring production. George Hearn made the mad barber a genuinely interesting character ("sympathetic" might be too strong a word), and Angela Lansbury was much funnier and more delicate with Hearn to play off and without the horrendous amplification of New York.
Arena Stage contributed several of the nights in the theater I enjoyed the most this year -- "Galileo," "Emigres" and both Kaufman and Hart productions. And as for "interesting developments," the standout was the National Theatre's alliance with the Shubert Organization, which is not only notable in itself but already having a domino effect. Every other theatrical institution in town is under pressure to establish a new identity and to find new sources of material. Theatergoers can't lose.
Harrington: Dancing -- it's coming back. At almost every medium-sized concert hall and in every club, the mood was celebratory, as bands in a variety of idioms joined soul and disco in putting the beat back into music Audiences reacted by putting their feet back onto the floor. Even tediously intelligent New-Wavers, like Talking Heads, and grating jazz avant-gardists, like Lester Bowie and Julius Hemphill, picked up the message. The end result is a new rapport, narrowing the gap between performer and audience -- which, in turn, will demystify popular music and bring it back to its senses.
Another step in that direction: the return of small labels and regional ambitions. The lawyer-accountant conglomerates that pass for record companies these days have decided they don't want to take any more losses -- which is to everyone's gain. Musicians of all stripes will join jazz and New-Wave compatriots who realize that New York, Los Angeles and Nashville are business, not creative centers. They'll start to set manageable goals and control their own careers; when they imitate, it will be the result of artistic inertia, not corporate pressure. The energy, enthusiasm and sense of experimentation prevalant in the '50s will be revived.
Hume: The best, if it is possible to label any one performance "best" out of a year of concerts, and also the sleeper in the 1980 concert year, was the Choral Arts Society performance of the Rachmaninov Vespers under the direction of Mstislav Rostropovich. The great cellist-conductor showed himself a master of the glories of unaccompanied Russian liturgical music. So successful was the unusual venture, that it was immediately decided to make it part of the upcoming Rostropovich anniversary series in February in New York's Carnegie Hall.
One of the happiest developments in 1980 was the expansion of the Washington Opera, and the marked improvement of the orchestra heard in its splendid opening "Ballo in Maschera," one of the high points of the artistic year. The subsequent drop in orchestral quality in the first two productions in the Terrace Theater was all the more unexpected and lamentable.
McLellan: Among several high points was the National Symphony Orchestra's celebration of its 50th anniversary and its tour of Japan. The Terrace Theater began to reach its full potential with activities that ranged from a colloquium on black classical musicians to the Washington Opera and the Theatre Chamber Players and the presentation of Wole Soyinka's tragedy, "Death and the King's Horseman."
And the installation of a satellite transmission system by National Public Radio spectacularly escalated the amount of live music heard in Washington. It made possible a broadcast of Havergal Brian's almost unknown and fascinating "Gothic" symphony live from London, a greatly increased variety of opera from other American cities and a landslide of orchestral and chamber concerts. This increase in live activity comes with fine timing, allowing "good music" stations to reduce their traditional dependence on the recording industry just as that industry is cutting back on its classical output.
Kriegsman: The year's most memorable moments in dance came to us courtesy of a few acknowledged masters and their still copiously flowing creative juices. At the head of the list, I'd put George Balanchine's "Robert Schumann's 'Davidsbundlertanze,'" showing us a surprising turn toward autumnal romanticism by this apostle of classicism; Paul Taylor's brilliant, witty and iconoclastic version of "Le Sacre du Printemps"; and Erick Hawkins' "Plains Daybreak," a creation-myth of wonderful visual graces. The excerpts from Kei Takei's "Light," shown here twice this year, weren't new except to this area, but they were profoundly impressive all the same. As for the magic of dancing per se, nothing equalled the return of Mikhail Baryshnikov with ABT this month.
On the Washington scene, three events stand out: the jubilant, al-fresco City Dance kickoff on the Mall devised by Liz Lerman; the Metropolitan Dance Association's honoring of Washington dance pioneers; and Cathy Paine's recent program, confirming her earlier promise as a choreographer of special imagination and wit.
Q. WHAT WAS THE LOW POINT OF THE YEAR -- OR THE WORST NEW TREND?
Lardner: The first candidate that comes to mind is Michael Moriarty's "Richard III." There have been few productions in this or any year so thoroughly bollixed, so utterly incomprehensible to anyone who wasn't in on the joke. Still, there was a kind of integrity to it. Whatever the idea behind setting the play in the Napoleonic era and then recruiting Viveca Lindfors and her Swedish accent and her strangely 20th-century-looking cigarettes, no one can accuse Moriarty of compromising the concept -- or "selling out," if you will.
So on second thought, I'll pick the Ford's Theatre production of "A Christmas Carol" as 1980's arbitrary low point. Here they took a story that has been tugging heartstrings for better than a century -- a Christmas confection as reliable as plum pudding and hard sauce -- and cut it into mystifying, condescending, insufferably cute shreds. Then they brought in a star, John Cullum, who behaved as if he were "slumming" and wanted his friends in the audience to know it.
My guess is that parents who took their children to the Ford's "A Christmas Carol" will have a hard time selling them on Dickens or the theater for a long time to come. If that's children's theater, give me kidporn.
Shales: There was no encouraging trends in television programming, really; the trends ranged from malodorous to unsavory for the most part, and they included such nuisances as the tabloids of the tube -- sensationalist, entertainment "magazine" shows like "That's Incredible!," the canceled "Speak Up, America" and the just-canceled "Games People Play." Obviously the encouraging thing about this trend is that it's waning, and the market for psychics and suicidal motorcyclists is nearly kaput.
The '80s began with the mainstay of TV programming, situation comedy, in arguably the worst state of its history. Most of the new programs and many of the surviving ones are snugly smutty bores, filled with verbal as well as visual jiggles and lots of jokes about doing it, losing it, not being able to live without it, and so on. It was the It year.
But as the year was ending, the NBC peacock blushed purple and laid an egg called "Number 96," a bedroom Olympics so poorly received (and probably so quickly canceled) as to give notice, one might well hope, that the public appetite for single-minded sexcoms is now at a state of satiation.
Arnold: The official low point was probably the disastrous preview of Michael Cimino's "Heaven's Gate" in New York on Nov. 19, forcing unprecedented humiliation on a big-time director and distributor. Curiously, Cimino seems to have made so many enemies since winning an Oscar for "The Deer Hunter" and the utter collapse of someone's overblown prestige production was so clearly In The Cards that the "Heaven's Gate" debacle might qualify as the high point for a majority of people in the movie business. m
Other notable lows: Renata Adler's assault on Pauline Kael in The New York Review of Books; Dustin Hoffman's acceptance speeches for the fistful of awards he won for "Kramer vs. Kramer," which grew progressively smarmier right up to Oscar night; the Oscar-induced breakup of Sally Field and Burt Reynolds, which forced him to shy away from the Oscar show and take refuge on "Saturday Night Live"; the success of Bob Guccione's "Caligula" in Washington and other sadly fleeceable American cities; the national ads for "The Blue Lagoon" quoting "educators" who endorsed its swoony view of teen-age sexuality in a State of Nature.
Worst trends: Disingenuous pandering in a series of films ("Little Darlings," "Foxes," "The Blue Lagoon" and "Times Square") preoccupied with the precocious sex lives of teenboopers; coy adultery in a series of dreary bedroom farces from "The Last Married Couple in America" to "A Change of Seasons"; screenplays by Neil Simon ("Chapter Two" and "Seems Like Old Times"); coyly triumphant neo-feminist heroines, like Jill Clayburgh in "It's My Turn" and Goldie Hawn in "Private Benjamin"; comedies with "God" in the title ("In God We Trust" and "Oh, God! Book II"); comedies matching codgers with cute juveniles ("Little Miss Marker" and "Oh, God! Book II"); Robert De Niro adding 60 pounds to play the obese Jake La Motta in "Raging Bull."
Worst ongoing trends: Martin Scorsese's metaphysical wrestling match with ethnic-religious-macho obsessions, as dimly perceived through the murky, alienating exertions of "Raging Bull"; the character of The Unloving Mother whom male filmmakers decide to be Generous About Anyway after exploiting her as the source of domestic unhappiness (Mary Tyler Moore in "Ordinary People" gets the handoff from Meryl Streep in "Kramer vs. Kramer").
Harrington: The shooting of John Lennon was the single lowest point of the year. Enough said.
Two trends that have always been somewhere in pop culture surfaced full force in 1980. The first is double-edged: singers trooping from vinyl to celluloid, and actors returning the favor. How about a category at the Academy Awards: best performance by an egomaniacal singing star in an unwieldy vehicle designed mostly to sell soundtrack albums. The nominees this year: Neil Diamond in "The Jazz Singer"; Paul Simon on "One Trick Pont"; Willie Nelson in "Honeysuckle Rose"; Bette Midler in "The Rose"; Olivia Newton-John in "Xanadu." A special Presley/Streisand Award to "The Blues Brothers" for spending more money on their film than was collectively earned by the musicians they allegedly celebrated. (On the plus side, David Bowie and Linda Ronstadt proved on Broadway that they could sublimate their egos and work not only outside their established strengths, but with a team ethic. And few film stars have trooped into the studio, so count your blessings.)
The other trend is "sue me-sue you" for ridiculous sums. The Bee Gees-Robert Stigwood and Donna Summer-Neil Bogart suits alone surpassed the annual defense budgets of many nonaligned nations. There were dozens of less publicized royalty suits and Steely Dan's battles with MCA paved the way for the $9.98 superstar list price; the record company has admitted that it passes on the price of their lawsuit to the consumer.
Richard: When the judges claimed that a sculpture by Ed Love would make juries misbehave, that was a low point. Rockne Krebs' couldn't get his lasers working on the Mall last summer, the Hermitage exhibit was canceled, and the Alexander exhibition wasn't half the show we thought it'd be -- but these were merely disappointments. Art doesn't have much downside. Bad pictures aren't as bad as bad movies or bad concerts, bad meals or bad books. Art shows are free and quick and quiet.If you don't like that painting, just shut your eyes: It's gone.
Hume: The worst, and there is alas, little danger of contradiction over this choice, was the National Lyric Opera production, or rather massacre, of Verdi's "La Forza del Destino."
McLellan: The horror film reached a new low this year in what we might call the "Kill-the-Teenagers" cycle."Friday the 13th," probably the most technically accomplished and thematically impoverished of these films, gave me the worst two hours I have ever spent in a theater seat.
The price of tickets continued to rise, for almost everything except the Phillips Collection, the National Gallery, the Library of Congress and other free or almost-free concert series with which Washington is singularly blessed. Yet it became harder than ever to find a parking space. On one recent memorable evening, I spent a half-hour trying to drive the few hundred yards from Virginia Avenue to the Kennedy Center, where the parking lot was already filled.
Kriegsman: The bottom of the barrel was so crowded this year, it's not easy to pick the chief loser. The distinction will have to be shared among the Yemeni Folk Troupe, which showed up amidst considerable fanfare at the Washingtn Hilton ballroom last May; the Connecticut Ballet's "Dracula"-in-drag, given its local exposure at the Carter Barron this past summer; and the so-called "Italian Ballet Festival" at Constitution Hall in September, which gave the big boot to any notions about a balletic renaissance in that part of the world. Runners-up include the Houston Ballet's flotsam-filled "Papillons," seen at Wolf Trap, and the misbegotten "Vendetta," which wreaked terrible vengeance on the audience for Natalia Makarova's newly formed ballet troupe at New York's Uris Theatre in October. Saddest event of the year: ABT's firing of Gelsey Kirkland and Patrick Bissell, a disaster for the company, the two dancers and the public.
Q. What was the most over-hyped or over-anticipated event of the YEAR . . . AND WHY?
Shales: It's a toss-up between "Who Shot J.R." and the arrival of Roger Mudd on NBC. Neither event came close to justifying the hysterical advance interest the networks were able to drum up, though it might be noted that J.R. is a more likeable character on the air than Roger Mudd is.
Perhaps no one really expected the revised version of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" to live up to the sassy luster and inventiveness of the original, but neither were we quite prepared for such a snarly, sophomoric fiasco as got hatched. NBC has now called in everybody but Henry Kissinger to try to patch up the leaky vessel; it could just be that the moment has passes. After all, satire isn't the only thing that can work in late-night, and alternative forms should be investigated before throwing it back to reruns or those movies that aren't quite old enough.
Richard: No contest -- The Search for Alexander exhibition at the National Gallery of Art.
Harrington: New records after long wait -- Paul Simon, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Rockpile (actually, it's their fifth record), Neil Diamond, the Eagles live (studio-perfect rehashes of previous efforts), Bruce Springsteen (one great album, but he released it as a two-record set), Steely Dan. Some-things-are-better-left-alone-department -- The Doors and the Jim Morrison cult were fully exploited this year. Better remembered and less hyped -- Credence Clearwater Rivival's "Royal Albert Hall Concert." Dubious revival and self-induced culture shock -- The Chipmunks recorded an album of "punk" favorites.
Lardner: This carries back into 1979, but I'd nominate the partnership-that-never-was between the Kennedy Center and the New York Shakespeare Festival -- which was billed, on one point, as a repertory company featuring Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffmann, Robert De Niro (and, in all likelihood, Edwin Booth, John Barrymore and Sarah Bernhardt). The hyping, it should be said, was entirely at the New York -- or Joseph Papp -- end; Roger Stevens took the very sensible position that it was just a plan and might or might not reach fruition. Of course, they were an unlikely pair, and in the end they co-produced a single play, "The Art of Dining," and dropped the whole project. With the unfortunate result that the Eisenhower Theater still needs a continuing identity, and someone to guide it artistically.
McLellan: Almost everything except Beverly Sills in the "Barbar of Seville" that was thrown together for her farewell performance at Wolf Trap. For a while, it seemed that farewell performances by Sills might become a trend -- but unfortunately, it couldn't last.
Kriegsman: Twyla Tharp's newest confections, including "Brahm's Paganini Variations" seen at Lisner this year -- widely hailed as peaks, they looked like the same old frenetic, snide, affectless pits to me. Also, in their dance aspects, two films -- Fosse's repulsive ego massage, "All That Jazz," which carries dance sleaze to a point -- one hopes -- of no return; and Herbert Ross' "Nijinsky," despite the likable acting debut of George de la Pena.
Arnold: The "special performances" of Hans-Jurgen Syberberg's didactic epic "Our Hitler," the cinematic culture trap of the year, laid by importer Francis Ford Coppola and embroidered in the pages of The New York Review of Books by Susan Sontag. A 7 1/2-hour meditation on Hitler's mythic significance to contemporary political history, this maddening and often inert spectacle was revealed to be a foolish celebration of the filmmaker's own German cultural chauvinism. Coppola's success with this virtually intolerable attraction may have encouraged him to back the far more sensible and worthwhile revival of Abel Gance's great silent epic, "Napoleon," next month at Radio City Music Hall.
Q. WHAT WAS THE SURPRISE OR "SLEEPER" OF THE YEAR . . . AND WHY?
Arnold: If "Caligula" is overlooked, which seems the decent thing to do, the deserving choices would seem to be "Airplane!," "My Bodyguard" and "My Brilliant Career." Less obvious but perhaps more satisfying: the cheerful kungfu action comedy "The Big Brawl," in which Jackie Chan emerges as the first plausible, distinctive successor to the late Bruce Lee.
Richard: The Vantongerloo retrospective at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. It introduced us to a most amazing fellow, a master of a sort, whose name, work and prophecies were almost totally unknown.
Lardner: It isn't every day we have the world premiere of a new play by one of the country's preeminent playwrights at a county-supported, non-union theater in Silver Spring. That was William Gibson's "Goodly Creatures." The play was about the heresy trial of Anne Hutchinson in 16th-century Massachusetts, and about one of the earliest struggles in this hemisphere between the desire for freedom and the need for order. It had more thought -- and more plain old dramatic meat -- in it than about 10 typical Broadway plays put together.
"The Flying Karamazov Brothers" was another sleeper -- a marvelous joining of '60s counterculture and timeless craft. They've been gone only a few weeks now, and I wish they were back.
McLellan: Amen on the Karamazovs. Otherwise, my happiest surprises of the year included an unexpectedly fine "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Warner, a series called "Quartessence" from National Public Radio, which showed in depth the remarkably high quality of string quartet playing across the United States, and a film called "The Stunt Man," which indicated that there may be intelligent life in Hollywood.
Shales: "Shogun" surprised even the people who thought it would do well; and in doing better than expected, it became one of those TV events that is a credit to its audience. Naysayers, even within NBC, thought viewers might be turned off by the large amount of Japanese dialogue, or the unfamiliar settings, or the relative austerity, in terms of TV's usual sex-violence quotient, of the story. But it was probably the novelty of it that struck millions of viewers as refreshing and kept them hooked through the week.
It's asking a lot of the audience to commit a week's worth of prime-time viewing to a single program. The fact that so many people were willing to do that ought to serve notice on producers and network executives whose most persistent phobia is a Fear of the Different. One could have many quarrels with the pacing of the narrative and the state of trance maintained by Richard Chamberlain in the lead role and still be cheered and encouraged by the fact that such relatively difficult viewing as "Shogun" wowed 'em from coast to coast.
Kriegsman: The year was fairly bountiful in pleasant surprises, among them -- the emergence of the Maryland Dance Theater's artistic director Larry Warren as a choreographer of notable orginality and flair; Pola Nireska's return to activity after a decade of retirement; La Verne Reed's sparkling program at DC Rep in June; and the stereotype-shattering performance of an excellent Hawaiian traditional hula troupe at the National Gallery's East Wing last January. From out of the blue, too, have come several new, prodigiously gifted young ballerinas this year, principally Darci Kistler at the New York City Ballet and Washington-bred Susan Jaffe at ABT. The Royal Danish Ballet's exquisite Lis Jeppesen is another name to watch. And if she continues to grow, the Washington Ballet's Amanda McKerrow may soon join this group of youthful elite.
Harrington: The Police's "Zenyatta Mondatta," for returning melody and simplicity to high energy, rhythmically compelling trio rock. The Clash's "London Calling" and "Black Market Clash" for their shattering social and cultural awareness. Michael Jackson, for proving that one part is better than the whole. Talking Heads' "Remain in Light" for bringing a bit of African primitivism to the angst-ridden East Village. Pat Metheny's "American Garage" for its fusion of jazz intelligence and rock technology. "The Pretenders" for uncovering a major new songwriter and singer in Chrissie Hynde, whose pyscho-sexual insights are refreshing and less than comfortable. Literal sleeper of the year: the advent of "ambient" music, which is simply another name for overreaching Muzak.
Q. What didn't happen this year that clearly should have? is it likely TO HAPPEN NEXT YEAR?
Harrington: Consumers didn't rise up in arms against the triple insults of higher prices, lower quality and decreased choices. They bought fewer records, taped more off the radio and from their friends, and as the year ended, watched as a few stores around the country started renting out records with the acknowledgment that renters would also be tapers.
Lardner: Except for William Gibson's play, hardly anything of note truly originated here. Everything was old or borrowed or booked in. At the Kennedy Center, the best productions were post-Broadway touring shows like "The Elephant Man." Arena Stage's original ventures -- a new dramatization of "An American Tragedy" and the American premiere of David Hare's "Plenty" -- were badly executed. The Folger Theatre Group, at least, was in an original mood with the musical "Charlie and Algernon," but the creators seemed much too content too soon with what they had put together, and they left a great deal of foolishness intact that should have been rewritten -- a shame, because the story had so much appeal as a science-fiction fable with a moral. The result was instant failure on Broadway for what, I think, were both good and bad reasons (although the "chamber musical" idea remains an appealing one).
Hume: Things devoutly to be hoped for in Concert Year 1981 would be:
First: the removal of the purple carpetry from the Kennedy Center's lovely Terrace Theater so that music, which is occupying an increasingly large part of that theater's time, will sound vibrant and alive.
Second: that the unique lighting effect planned for and installed in front of the large pipes in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall organ will be restored. Joseph Whiteford, the designer of the Aeolian-Skinner organ given by Mrs. Jouett Shouse, devised a very special lighting effect by means of which the large organ pipes, whose copper was flamed to produce a particular coloration, would take on an elegant, rich hue. Alas, the lighting system was damaged almost before it could be put into use.
Third: that, for the general health and welfare of music in general, a moratorium be declared on the music of Ludwig von Beethoven until his next birthday comes around. Exceptions might be made in favor of certain generally neglected works such as the early piano sonatas.
Fourth: that the National Lyric Opera Company conscientiously examine the reasons why opera companies choose to perform the operas they select. If the Metropolitan Opera feels that it cannot today do justice to "Aida," why should the National Lyric put it on?
Fifth: that the Metropolitan Opera should find a way of bringing its spectacular new production of Alban Berg's masterpiece, "Lulu," to Washington this spring, perhaps in place of its high debatable "Mahagonny," Washington should not have to wait a moment longer than necessary to hear and see the great Berg work in its completed form and in the Met's superb production.
McLellan: Unions nearly wiped out network television, but stopped before the job was finished. "Charlie and Algernon" should have survived; perhaps it should have been tried off-Broadway. The New York City Opera should have brought "Silverlake" to Wolf Trap. At least one of the "Traviatas" of the year should have been a "Wozzeck." "Digital" recordings distributed in analog formats should have been labeled "semi-digital," if only as a reminder that consumers do not yet have digital playback equipment. And public-health laws should have been passed to limit the volume-levels of amplified music.
Shales: The FCC and Congress -- slugabeds all failed to abolish or even temporarily suspend the equal time provision of Section 315 of the Communications Act, so that when the presidential debate finally was held, it was a sloppy-boppy production that almost didn't come off at all. If precedent be any guide, the issue will slip between the cracks again and won't come up until 1984, when we'll have more frantic antics in order to make another debate possible.
There are lots of other things the FCC could have done and didn't do, and some of them have been suggested as front-burner matters by FCC Chairman Charles E. Ferris -- things like the repeal of that clownish miscalculation, the prime-time access rule, which turned 7:30 p.m. into Game Show City. But Ferris is likely to be replaced as chairman by the incoming Republican administration, and the tentatively activist tone he set could prove to be have been a mere peep in the dark, if the broadcast industry is allowed to take over regulation of itself again. Whoa boy.
Kriegsman: The important Lansburgh project, which is to serve as a performance, training and educational center for a number of key Washington dance institutions, has yet to get itself off the ground -- if it does, it will transform the downtown dance scene in crucial ways. The Capitol Ballet still needs to get its act together; with an ample new grant from the Acts Endowment, this invaluable company may finally find a path toward stability. Two fervent wishes for the coming year: let there be a moratorium on "galas," and may Gelsey Kirkland return to the place she belongs, i.e., the dancing stage.
Arnold: The summer releases, realistically expected to set new box-office records, proved disappointing on the whole, and the sag in summer trade began a slump that's probably getting worse. "The Empire Strikes Back" set a pace that far outdistanced the runnerup hits like "Airplane!," "The Blue Lagoon," "Cheech & Chong's Next Movie" and "Dressed to Kill." At the same time, several promising attractions failed to live up to reasonable expectations: "The Shining," "Urban Cowboy," "The Blues Brothers" "Bronco Billy," "Rough Cut," "Smokey and the Bandit II."
It's conceivable that next summer's releases could repair the damage. "Superman II" is in the wings, along with the new Steven Spielberg-George Lucas adventure spectacle "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and many other promising films. Somehow, hope springs eternal while the business keeps threatening to self-destruct on greed, ignorance or apathy.
Richard: In 1980, not a single picture sold for more than $6.4 million. There is no explanation for this surprising fact, none at all, none. We're talking funny money here, folks. Why not $10 million. Why not $20 million. Just wait til '81.