Thse posts have sparked a lot of interesting thoughts. I think, on the whole, that kfw's makes the most sense as to Macaulay's use of these three exemplars.
That's the sense I get from it, that he's not ranking Shakespeare, Mozart and Balanchine but referring to how they're ranked by the general populace.
What's important to me is to see Balanchine -- someone not hugely understood outside ballet circles -- placed on a pinnacle along with much more generally familiar Great Names. I thank Macaulay for that -- and for explaining rather persuasively why Balanchine should be in such select company.
I also hope that more thoughtful and intelligent writers will start to think in terms like these. It's about time that "ballet" rejoined the company of the higher arts, where it was -- briefly and perhaps only locally -- when Balanchine was creating in New York City in the 40s-70s.
Well, it has sparked some interesting thoughts, but I still disagree with much of it. The only rationale is that it is only a newspaper article, half-polished, not an essay of the sort a real writer would publish (as opposed to someone who writes excellent dance criticism, which he does), because even though I think kfw and dirac are probably right to some degree (but not nearly all) that Macaulay is referring to rankings by the general populace, that is not a subtext one should be expected to realize. You should not have to read beyond a literal statement of what Macaulay proclaims Shakespeare to be, unless you have the right to disagree with it (and he is neither clear about this, nor is he correct, for the reasons I've given.) It should be clear on its surface, otherwise it is really not written for 'general interest readers', but rather for those intellectual and probing enough to be looking for subtexts in newspaper articles (which is not where they should be; journalism is not literature.) Macaulay does not need to convince me that Balanchine should be in such select company, as I already see him there--and 'Mozart' is only the buzzword of the 'general populace' because of the boon created by the movie 'Amadeus', notable for having nothing to do with Mozart and/or Salieri, cf., Peter Gay's Mozart bio. It would only be interesting to me if he explained why he chose those particular Titans with whom to 'place Balanchine'--what the kinship is (in any case, he, like all of us here, makes only a ripple by making such judgments, there's then the March of Time). The 'other trinities' I was talking about could be as when people make a trinity of greatest 20th century artistic revolutionaries--although I'm not going to be limiited to trinities, if there are 4, I think we can accommodate it: Here we often hear Picasso, Graham, Stravinsky and Joyce as having come up with the most original new languages and artistic expressions. There is not one of these great artists and many others who does not have a cult, and cults are irrational, you do not argue with them. And those who make a point of claiming not to be cults nearly always are the most exclusive and elite cults. This is just a fact of life, like religions you don't share.
As for ballet 'rejoining the company of the higher arts', I am surprised to hear you say that, as it has never left them. Balanchine's work did not 'briefly and locally' place it back 'up there.' His work is important and it is among the greatest of all artistic work, but the Kirov and POB were operating well before 'Balanchine in New York' as 'high art' (as was Balanchine himself before New York, by the way. There was also major work at ABT). Dance at its greatest is obviously one of the High Arts, and has been for the entire 20th century, not to mention the 19th, where we get the Petipa. There's been a dance department at Juilliard longer than there has a drama dept. You wouldn't have had Stravinsky writing for Balanchine and Barber, Menotti, Schuman and Copland writing for Graham. Even great performances of the Romantic Petipa repertory are 'high art'. What I would say about the periods in which Balanchine was most prolific and profound is that that is the only period in which Balanchine himself will ever be quite that profound, whether or not the 'growth industry'. In the 'global Balanchine onslaught', in miliosr's term (I don't sympathize with that either, but I do see it as a reaction to a concept of cult), there is a popularization of his work that is exactly like the gradual popularization of Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, but that will never be comparable to the exciting period of creative fruition when he was still alive and coming up with new works. Martha Graham Dance Company is somewhat different, in that the directors are not trying to do a new company for Ms. Mycene and Ms. Dakin, but to hold the works of Graham sacred as Suzanne Farrell does Balanchine's; Martins is doing this combination of Martins and Martinized Balanchine, maybe. Even so, live performances of Graham are not quite what you see on film with Martha herself, Bertram Ross, Matt Turney, et alia. In short, this is a dispersion and popularization which is just fine with me, but it has to do with different kinds of sensibilities than that of the cutting edge, which all things lose. So we do need 'growth industries' of great artists like Balanchine, but not nearly so much as we need much more cutting edge. I think there will be new cultural changes due to unmentionable events which may allow the cutting edge to get sharp and ruthless again, instead of having to work in hiding.
Other examples are of the romantic concert pianist, whose pinnacle was surely Franz Liszt in that he was treated and adored like a rock star. In the 20th century, Horowitz may have come closest, but he was anything but glamorous, so it took on another dimension with his magnificent playing. Maria Callas excited opera lovers more than anyone else does now. There are all sorts of examples, but while all these geniuses 'live on' to some degree, they do not make up for the need for new art of an equivalent genius, and thus are all to some degree museum pieces. This is incomplete, and I don't have time to polish it either, but it's too long anyway and just a forum comment post
Oh, and as regards Ba'al, I still worship him and many other pagan gods. I agree with Isaac Asimov that Jezebel got a bad rap, and had a lot of things going for her. Polytheism in general has a lot going for it, too. Idolatry can be defined in many ways--money and fame are often referred to as 'gods', etc.