Sour note: The opera makes an ill-timed bow to the governor

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The Pittsburgh Opera last weekend finished its production of Mozart's "The Abduction from the Seraglio," which involves the adventures of a young Spanish nobleman, his lover and their servants, who are kidnapped and placed into the service of a pasha (a person of high rank in Turkey).

Now it seems that those who run the opera also have been kidnapped and placed into the service of a pasha. You know him as Gov. Tom Corbett, whose service to arts education in Pennsylvania -- by way of school funding cuts -- has been unkind these last two years. Call it "The Abduction by Harrisburg."

It's a stretch, of course, but so is the idea that the opera should honor Mr. Corbett and his wife Susan with a Lifetime Achievement Award at its annual gala on Saturday. What's next? A posthumous prize for engineering excellence to the designers of the Titanic?

The governor and first lady deserve respect by virtue of the office, but an honor like this has confounded opera donors, ticket buyers and the public.

Groups routinely recognize prominent figures -- some deserving, some not -- because it's in their interest to keep friendly relations. But it's hard to ignore Mr. Corbett's education cuts, which have jeopardized school arts programs. Jessie Ramey, a blogger critical of the opera's honor, said it best: "This is not something that is anti-opera. This is about what's happening to funding in our public schools."

Mr. Corbett believes he is being fiscally responsible during a dour economy and insists he has actually increased funding for K-12 education the last two years.

We don't buy it. A visit to school districts around the state will reveal the impact of cuts made or threatened at the state level. When facing a squeeze from Harrisburg, many districts drop the ax on arts and other programs that are considered outside the basics.

If the Corbetts see protesters wearing Viking helmets at the gala, so be it. While the opera is free to confer an award on whomever it likes, people will react how ever they wish. Through it all maybe the governor will get the message. It's up to Mr. Corbett to determine how this libretto ends.


First Published May 11, 2012 12:00 AM


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