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Monday, March 8, 2004

Several of our readers have sent us links to the story about this bit of odd editing at the Los Angeles Times last week.

Die Frau ohne Schatten is an opera currently in production at the Los Angeles Opera. Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed wrote in his review that the Richard Strauss opera is "pro-life". By this, he says that he meant that the opera is a "celebration of life". However, the phrase "pro-life" was changed by a Los Angeles Times copy editor to "anti-abortion", following standard editing protocol at that paper.

This story has run in a number of venues, and what everyone (including music critic Mark Swed) is saying is that when he wrote "pro-life", he didn't intend the phrase to have its popular political meaning. The point of the story seems to be that the copy editor at the LA Times was a goof, and applied the Los Angeles Times policy--of always using the phrase "anti-abortion" when we're talking about people who are politically pro-life--in an inappropriate context, when that's not at all what was meant by the phrase.

And maybe that's all that happened. However, this interpretation of the story requires us to believe that it never occurred to Mark Swed when he wrote "pro-life" that someone might interpret that in what is now its standard political meaning. How plausible is that?

And if you read a synopsis of the opera, it seems even less likely.

The opera is rife with unborn babies begging to be born. The adults who want them to be born are the good guys. Lots of people who are pro-life--in the accepted political meaning of that term--would look at this opera and say, "This is a pro-life opera."

Update: See kindred but better-expressed thoughts on this here.

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