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Soprano's senator dad buries arts stimulus funding

February 10, 2009 |  5:00 am

Sarah CoburnCome November, Sarah Coburn, a rising soprano, is scheduled to sing her first L.A. Opera role in Handel's "Tamerlano," playing opposite Placido Domingo as the beleaguered daughter of a conquered Turkish potentate.

Culture Monster wonders whether any semblance of that tale's turbulence is stirring within Coburn's own family these days considering that her dad, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), has led the charge to keep federal economic stimulus money from landing in the pockets of artists such as, well, his daughter.

On Friday, the Senate voted 73-24 in favor of Coburn's amendment "to ensure that taxpayer money is not lost on wasteful and non-stimulative projects," such as funding museums, theaters and arts centers.

"It's been ... Sarah's longtime policy not to comment on her father's career," said Stuart Wolferman, a spokesman for her New York management company.

Tomcoburn_2If arts partisans are tempted to cast Coburn père as a stereotypical Okie-from-Muskogee (indeed, that is his hometown) who hammers the arts out of ignorance, there's a bit of a complication: "The senator comes to the opera a lot," reports Mark Weinstein, executive director of Washington National Opera, which is sending its production of "Tamerlano" our way. 

Reviewing "Tamerlano" in Washington last year, the Washington Post said that a lovers' duet Coburn sang with Patricia Bardon, a woman playing a male role, "was so lovely it stopped time."

Writing in the New Yorker about Sarah Coburn's performance last summer in Bellini's "I Capuleti e i Montecchi" at Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, N.Y., Alex Ross described her as "a voice of particular radiance.... To the requisite loveliness of tone Coburn added ample breath control, pinpoint accuracy in coloratura passages, and innately musical phrasing."

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Sarah Coburn. Credit: Stacy Boge.

Photo: Sen.Tom Coburn. Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

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