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Madame XY

Versatile diva Violeta Urmana takes on the demanding verismo role of Giordano’s Fedora for the first time at… Oh, sorry, that’s René Pape as Méphistophélès in Faust at Covent Garden! (Photo by Catherine Ashmore)


  • 1
  • 2
    perfidia says:

    That is one ugly boy in a dress. The queens in Ru Paul’s DragU would throw out their hair curlers in the most abyect defeat.

  • 3
    IdiaLegray says:

    He’s far more fetching in that getup than Bryn Terfel was. BTW that gown does look like the one Urmana wore when she sang Isolde in London last fall.

  • 4
    La Cieca says:

    Interesting that Pape insisted on having sleeves added to his Mephisto frock.

  • 5
    tannengrin says:

    Not enough cleavage.

  • 6
    MontyNostry says:

  • 7
    iltenoredigrazia says:

    My god! You mean this is truly what Mefistofele wears in a production of Faust somewhere? I sure hope this is one of those composites where faces are superimposed on someone’s picture.

    • 7.1
      armerjacquino says:

      If they’ve superimposed a Boito character into a Gounod opera then we’re really in trouble.

    • 7.2
      Arianna a Nasso says:

      The drag costume is worn only in the Walpurgisnacht scene. I never figured out why, other than as a sign of “debauchery” of some sort in Mephisto’s realm, though the idea of cross dressing being a negative quality seems odd coming from McVicar.

      • 7.2.1
        Harry says:

        Arianna a Nasso: Could it be a tribute to the old cross dressing ‘Dames’ trsditions of English pantomime?

      • 7.2.2
        Harry says:

        Arianna d Nasso: “The drag costume is worn only in the Walpurgisnacht scene”.
        Surely that is the ‘Weightwatcherspurging’ scene?
        Any comment on Mefistophele if happening to sing sharp could be easily explained : that he sat on a misplaced whale bone from his reduction corset garment.

    • 7.3
      manou says:

      There are lots more photos on Intermezzo

      and you can see some of the various guises Pape appears in.

  • 8
    operaassport says:

    You are responsible for my needing a new keyboard after I spit out my espresso all overt it. Where do I send the bill?

    Rotflol. Poor Urmana. I actually thought it was her. I’ve seen manhole covers that were more attractive than she is. That’s one bulldozer of a face.

    • 8.1
      willym says:

      Not really sure that comment was necessary operaassport.

      • 8.1.1
        operaassport says:

        It’s a blog on the Internet. Exactly when is any comment “necessary.”

        I’m sorry but Urmana is as butt fruglee as it gets. The East German Women’s shot put team fielded lovelier ladies.

        Sorry if you don’t agree.

    • 8.2
      Gualtier M says:

      I actually find Urmana a very handsome large woman with beautiful symmetrical features and wide spaced eyes and high cheekbones. I also wouldn’t push René out of my bed (in or out of drag) but I would demand he stop smoking (which means that that the affair is off…not that it would ever be on since he likes girls and is already married…but still…)

      • 8.2.1
        operaassport says:

        A “very handsome large woman?” What a compliment! Sort of a Marie Dressler type without the comic sensibility.

        Good thing she’s dropped Eboli from her rep. The libretto is hysterical when she was singing “O Don Fatale ..”

          Maury D says:

          Right, because everyone who sings Eboli is eminently fuckable. Sheesh. Isn’t this the blog where everyone complains that nobody can sing anymore because Gelb just likes swimsuit models who can hum a few bars of the Seguidilla?

          • OpinionatedNeophyte says:

            Based on conversations I’ve had with a few of the vets around here, queens made snarky comments about singers’ physical appearances even when they “had voices.” I hate to single out the Callas widows, but weren’t they particularly adept at calling out Caballe’s Cowbells or something like that?

          • MontyNostry says:

            Urmana is, I would also say, a handsome woman. In the Covent Garden Macbeth a few years ago, her wig gave her a general look of middle-period Kathleen Turner and there’s a very nice photo on the cover of her Berg/Strauss song CD.

            At least Grace and Shirl could curse their beltà with confidence.

          • Camille says:

            Good that Angela Merkel does not attempt the role of Eboli as that expert of feminine pulchritude, Silvio Berlusconi, has deemed her “una culona inchiavabile”.

            What’s with the Tosca Tiara? Did Rene wrest it from l’Ange?

      • 8.2.2
        Clita del Toro says:

        Gualtier: I bet you would try to push Urmana (the Amana fridge) out of bed, but would fail because you are not strong enough to move that handsome, LARGE woman.”

          brooklynpunk says:

          The original comment was snarky enough… the follow-ups, ( except for Gualtier’s) just were..even snarkier…..nothin like “sophisticated” queens insulting a woman’s appearence, no?….(eeech…!)

          • operaassport says:

            Sophisticated opera queen? Never made that claim. I’m just a mean old queen that doesn’t much care for large, fruglee pachyderms who think they can sing soprano roles and who are worse actors than Rosie O’Donnell.

            So stone me.

          • Maury D says:

            There’s a nasty hint of 70s haute-camp misogyny around here now and then. Everything but prissily referring to women as “fish.” Sometimes it gets up around my chin.

          • armerjacquino says:

            Beat me to it, Maury.

            I was also about to observe that one of the immutable laws of the internet is that people only ever say ‘this is just a blog’ when they’re attempting to justify being a prick.

      • 8.2.3
        Harry says:

        Gualtier M: Good grief, you would not be really be Claude Perkins, that character from the film ‘The Ritz’ by any chance, would you? So what you are really saying is ‘Pape could land and stay your bed…expect, oh dear, he smokes’. Some people DO have appalling tastes in men.

    • 8.3
      bobsnsane says:


  • 9
    ianw2 says:

    Its a shame we just had a competition. This seems to be screaming out for a photoshop extravaganza of ‘Rene Pape Does Opera’s Greatest Dames’.

  • 10
    bobsnsane says:

    Ian, quit it!

    Or at least wait a couple of weeks --
    until the culture has recovered
    from the demise of ‘don’t ask,…

  • 11
    Lalala says:

    Is Covent Garden recycling once again the “little black dress”?

  • 12
    DonCarloFanatic says:

    Worth noting this will be broadcast in the US live on Sept. 28, by Opera in Cinema, with repeats on various dates.

    Also, they’ve added some new venues.

    • 12.1
      UnaMacchia says:

      Perhaps this has been discussed before, but I have seen one production in the Opera in Cinema series and it was one of the more unpleasant musical experiences of my life. Nabucco (Teatro Antico, Taormina). Without going into too much detail: mediocre to horrible singing, C- production (even for a festival), non-existent stage directing, camera work was virtually random (e.g., long closeups on random choristers during the climax of Salgo già del trono aurato, sound cut in and out with crackling throughout the entire thing).

      Is it always that bad?

  • 13
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    I guess Pape finally found a reason to be in drag other than his usual habits.

  • 14
    chicagokok says:

    I believe there is a DVD of this production with Angie and Roberto--it’s a great production. Keenlyside’s death scene was oscar worthy i thought.

    • 14.1
    • 14.2
      Batty Masetto says:

      Sexy Simon also looks just delectable throughout on that DVD. (Not that I would ever let such mundane factors cloud my judgment, you understand.) (Oh, right, he sings good too.)

      Roberto and Terfel are also just fine. Ange, on the other hand, doesn’t work so well for me. I see where she’s aiming to go, but to me it feels calculated too much of the time.

      I respect that McVicar really seems to be aware of what a huge problem the work’s facile piety represents -- which is what I believe that big organ (-ahem-) is doing onstage. I have mixed feelings about whether he succeeds but at least he tries.

      • 14.2.1
        louannd says:

        I respect that McVicar really seems to be aware of what a huge problem the work’s facile piety represents – which is what I believe that big organ (-ahem-) is doing onstage. I have mixed feelings about whether he succeeds but at least he tries.

        In SFEO’s production this summer the “organ” grew from normal size to fill the entire back of the stage by the end of the opera, a la a Christmas tree in the Nutcracker ballet. The pipes become Marguerite’s stairway to heaven.

  • 15
    Maury D says:

    And this posting makes me think that Pape and Fleming should go on tour with a “Rene and Renee!” program, culminating in an arranged-for-two version of “The Story of Lucy and Jesse” with Pape in a dress. I leave it to others to decide who is Lucy and who Jesse.

    • 15.1
      perfidia says:

      Well, let’s see: “Lucy is jucicy but totally drab. Jessie is dressy but cold as a slab.” I think we all know which is which. Especially given that photograph.

    • 15.2
      kashania says:

      Maury: Really, it’s astonishing that Renee and Rene have not released a duets album yet. I can imagine a Papageno/Papagena duet to rival Cecelia and Bryn!

    • 15.3
      Camille says:

      Mr. Maury D’
      This is just the gentlest possible cattle prodder to remind you to please, please post your thought’s on Anna’ “Anna” for us--either here or on your blog, please.
      Thanks a heap if you do!

  • 16
    RDaggle says:

    I’ll say one thing for him — he is working that fan.

  • 17
    oedipe says:

    Paris is far away, I know, and they speak in tongues over there, but still, let me tell you: Parterrians are missing out on the very operatic conflict involving Alagna and the conductor Alain Lombard, a conflict that burst out into the open only a few days before tomorrow’s Faust prima, and has led to the last minute replacement of Lombard with Alain Altinoglu.
    The parties have been exchanging heated public arguments in the press and the French opera blogosphere is abuzz with rumors and virtual pie fights among the partisans of each side.
    To boot, there is talk of a stagehand strike tomorrow at the Bastille…

  • 18
    willym says:

    For some reason I couldn’t reply to operaassport’s last comment but brooklynpunk do you want to pass me a stone please?