Cher Public

La Cieca, like Nature, abhors a vacuum

“Upon my word,” exclaims La Cieca (pictured at right, in the background), “I could almost swear I see a few empty seats on the other side of theater for the Met’s opening night performance of L’elisir d’amore!”

Since those laggards back in the salon are too busy munching marrons glacés or whatever they do when decent people are listening to the opera, La Cieca will share this bit of news with you. A block of tickets in the orchestra section for the aforementioned gala performance have just gone on sale for as low as $145, and there are a few scattered seats elsewhere in the house as well.

  • OperaTeen

    It’s probably because this production doesn’t look like anything new or special… All it looks like they’ve done is put Netrebko in a top hat. Vocal talent should be fierce though.

    • louannd

      and Matthew Polenzani’s receding hairline with a pasty wig.

      • Batty Masetto

        A pastry wig?? Kewl!!!

        Oh. Sorry.

        • louannd
          • Batty Masetto

            Wow, Louannd! Who knew? Now I need our Brit friends to explain to me what “mixed spice” is.

          • louannd

            Pumpkin Pie spice? I’ll bet Chinese 5-spice would be good.

          • Batty Masetto

            That’s what I would guess too, Louannd. But who knows? Maybe it has some weird secret ingredient -- Bovril or anchovies or something.

          • grimoaldo

            “Mixed spice, also called pudding spice, is a British blend of sweet spices, similar to the pumpkin pie spice used in the United States. Cinnamon is the dominant flavour, with nutmeg and allspice. It is often used in baking, or to complement fruits or other sweet foods.”

          • manou

            It is actually MinxedSpice -- the sixth (jinxed) Spice girl.

          • armerjacquino

            Ha, manou, there was an article in the GUARDIAN recently with the headline ‘Our oldest, most neglected spice’. It turned out to be about pepper and not, as I had suspected, Geri Halliwell.

          • DonCarloFanatic

            All I know is that if you hang around with yahoos too much, you lose all sense that English even has a subjunctive. And I keep correcting “who” to “whom,” but a certain beloved younger family member laughs at me. My old-fashioned precision of language (what’s left of it) is antique and unwanted. Kind of like Grandma’s furniture on Craigslist.

            That of course is why I deeply cherish Parterre, where there are people who know the subjunctive and still care to see it used properly.

        • Adriana Levancouver

          Not pastry wig…pasty wig! As in Cornish pasty…(yum, yum, with a tip o’ the top hat to my Cornish grannie who made the best pasties in the world).

    • bluecabochon

      I won 2 tickets to tomorrow’s dress and will view it from the Family Circle, where my seats are located, unless I can move downstairs by stealth.

      • brooklynpunk


        I won, too..!!—for the first time..!!

        …in The Balcony, this morning….

        • bluecabochon

          Balcony!!! Good for you. Maybe we’ll cross paths? :)

          • brooklynpunk

            Hope so, Blue…

            ..if you happen to stubble across a slightly (more then slightly…) dis-sheveld gent , of “a certain age”, sheperding his poor old hobbling mother.. be show to say “HI”..!


          • Rory Williams

            If you stubble across BPunk, Blue, for god’s sake give him a shave! ;)

          • brooklynpunk



            ..well, I DO need a shave…..


          • bluecabochon

            I’m sorry that I didn’t see you, BP -- we moved downstairs after the intermission, where it was a very different show from the orchestra as compared to the Family Circle.

            Hope that you and Mom enjoyed it. :)

  • bluecabochon
    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      “She said the incident left her with physical injuries that made her unable to continue performing the job she had dreamed about since childhood.”

      Imagine that… a child, and in this case one from Arizona, dreaming of being a stage hand at the Metropolitan Opera! I think that’s a great story. Sorry that the guys made a mess of her dream.

    • Batty Masetto

      It must have been her I saw helping to change the set during an intermission in one of the HDs. And here I was giving the Met props for having women stagehands…

  • louannd

    Wow row H for $200 bucks? I’d buy it if the plane fare weren’t $400.

    • louannd

      plane fare wasn’t $400. Excuzer moi.

      • Barnabas

        No. You were perfectly right the first time, which is rare the days. The clause following if is subjunctive and “weren’t” is correct.

      • papopera

        aye aye the French !! read: EXCUSEZ-MOI

  • grimoaldo

    umm, weren’t you right the first time louannd? (as you were right about mixed spice)

    • louannd

      Yay mixed spice is PP spice, good to know. Fare is a plural? I’ll look it up. Thank you grim.

      • Batty Masetto

        Fare is singular but “weren’t” is subjunctive. Which is why you were right, Louannd.

        And I’m really happy mixed spice doesn’t include asafoetida or cantharides or some such thing.

        • louannd

          Thank you, I have forgotten all those things and I get paranoid about writing on Parterre, as it should be. :)

          • Rory Williams

            Louannd, I’m pretty sure the subjunctive “were” is for describing things contrary to fact (“If I were king of the forest”) but that “was” is correct for things as they are (“If I wasn’t such a little pedant, I wouldn’t be typing this”). At least according to Fowler and to Bernstein. Since the fare presumably is, indeed, $400, “wasn’t” is correct. If you had called it something hyperbolic like “a king’s ransom,” the subjunctive “weren’t” would be preferred.

          • manou

            Rory is not just a man of great taste, but also a top linguist (not a cunning one) as he is perfectly right to say that were applies to things or events unlikely to happen, and was to actual facts.

            So glad we are having yet another linguisto-grammarian debate in these hallowed halls.

          • Batty Masetto

            Sorry, dear Manou, but for once you’ve been caught out. “Were” is necessary here because it describes what Fowler calls “utopia” -- it’s a contrary-to-fact wish.

            Compare: If only the fare weren’t $400, I could go to New York. [But it is, so I can’t.]
            And: If the fare wasn’t $400, why did they charge you that much? [And it wasn’t, so you got cheated.]

          • manou

            If you were right, Batty, I would concede if I was being honest.

          • oedipe


            Your analysis is quite à-propos, but things here are more complicated because of the negative: thus, in your example, the negative flattens out the difference between “If I wasn’t such a pedant” and “If I weren’t such a pedant”.

          • Batty Masetto

            Oedipe, the negative doesn’t play a role. It’s the counterfactual aspect that counts:

            If the fare were just $200, I could still go.

            But as this discussion shows, this use of the subjunctive is dying, and one day it will probably be as dead as the hypothetical present subjunctive:

            If the baby be restive, give him some laudanum.

          • armerjacquino

            ‘ch’io gli parli’

          • manou

            Cf “if t weren’t for the fact that the fare was $400…”

            Maybe we should say, like Vauvenargues (?) “L’un ou l’autre se dit ou se disent”,

          • manou

            Vaugelas -- naturellement.

          • Rory Williams

            That’s interesting, Batty. I never quite understood Fowler’s Uptopia (his examples are always kinda convoluted to me). So Louannd’s statement is equivalent to “If the fare were something other than $400,” that is, something wished-for but not as things are. So the “if” is a hypothetical, not a clause of supposition. My brain hurts, but I think you got me to understand! ;)

          • Batty Masetto

            Yep, Rory, you got it.

            But the subjunctive “were” was already fading in Fowler’s day. Here’s a little piece of his discussion; the stinger is toward the end:

            Were in conditionals: The correct type … is “Were that true there were no more to say.” The first were, in the protasis, is right only in combination with the other were, in the apodosis, or with its modern equivalent, would be. [-ed. note: this is the same case as Louannd’s were, which is why she was correct.] Neither of them is applicable to past time any more than would be itself; their reference is to present or to undefined time, or more truly not to time at all (and especially not to a particular past time) but to utopia, the realm of non-fact. If it is a hard saying that were (singular) in conditionals does not refer to past time, consider some other verb of past form in like case. Such a verb may belong to past time, or it may belong to utopia: If he heard, he gave no sign (heard and gave, past time); If he heard, how angry he would be (heard and would be, not past time, but utopia, the realm of non-fact or the imaginary); the first heard is indicative, the second is subjunctive; though the form happens to be the same. In the verb be, conveniently enough, there happens to be still a distinguishable form for the subjunctive, and if that verb were used in sentences similar in form to the two sentences containing heard they would be If it was (never were) so it did not appear, If it were (or nowadays alternatively was) so how angry we should be!

          • Batty Masetto

            Drat, blew closing the boldface. Hope that doesn’t leave us all bolded from here on out.

          • manou

            Batty dear -- you have the heavy artillery so I should be gracious and concede. The fact of the matter remains that louann is not going to the Elisir opening night.

            But we had fun jousting and terrorizing louann in the process.

          • Rory Williams

            But, Batty, is “was” OK in some constructions? Wouldn’t it be correct to say, “If I was king of the forest, nobody told me”? And Manou is right, Louannd is STILL not going regardless of how we phrase it!

          • Batty Masetto

            Yes Rory, that would be right if you mean “If I was king of the forest all last week, nobody told me.” Because in Fowler’s terms, that’s past time (you’re talking about a situation in particular moment in history), not no-time (wishing about something that doesn’t exist). But Bert Lahr correctly sings, “If I were king of the forest (which I ain’t).”

            And after all the grief we’ve laid on poor louann, maybe we should all chip in and get her the blasted ticket after all.

          • oedipe

            If Louannd were going to l’Elisir, she would have told us beforehand.
            If Louannd weren’t going to l’Elisir, she would have told us beforehand.
            If Louannd was going to l’Elisir, why didn’t she tell us beforehand?
            If Louannd wasn’t going to l’Elisir, why didn’t she tell us beforehand?

          • louannd

            Consider me terrorized.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    In the new Wall Street Journal interview with the MET’s opening night Adina, Netrebko swears that she’s giving up the “ina” roles and that in addition to the new roles we already know about she will sing Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco (probably because there’s something good in that opera for Erwin).

    The big surprise is: “the part she seems most excited about is Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s treatment of Shakespeare’s Scottish play. ‘It is coming, but not that soon,’ she said. ‘As a soprano who sings Lucia di Lammermoor, I have the high notes and the trills. No problems there. But going into the low registers is lots of work.'”

    Anna, don’t waste your time on Lady M !

    • manou

      I am definitely commissioning Zina Saunders to paint my portrait.

      • oedipe

        Gee Manou, I thought that was your portrait! (It’s definitely not Anna’s.)

        • manou


          • Ilka Saro

            Magari tutto amor?

    • bluecabochon

      I am sad that I will never hear or see her sing Butterfly.

      • Me too. I was really hoping she’d eventually get to Butterfly. I imagine she’d be soaring and youthful in the first act and have the necessary pathos and desperation in the next two acts. Oh well, as long as we get her Manon Lescaut at some point!

      • Clita del Toro

        I am not.

      • I am actually surprised she said she has no interest in Butterfly and Suor Angelica. I thought that motherhood would have made her look at these 2 characters differently and would have allowed her to relate to them, and at least given her the curiosity to tackle them.

        And talking about Butterfly, Kansas residents, do not miss Butterfly. Word is that Elizabeth Caballero’s performance is not to be missed.

        • operacat

          They are roles about mothers losing their children which was the rationale that Renee Fleming gave for not singing either, i.e. she would not be able to refrain from becoming too emotional. SUOR ANGELICA is also the one time that Beverly Sills lost control and gave up SUOR ANGELICA after one performance. I wonder if Netrebko will reconsider when her child gets older?

          • manou

            The minute Tiago has his nose pierced she will sing them for sure.

    • grimoaldo

      “Ms. Netrebko has sung the role of Adina in “Elisir” at major houses for more than a decade, though never before at the Met. It is the sort of part—light and bright—that brought her to fame.”

      Is it? Wasn’t her breakthrough outside Russia as long ago as 1995 in San Francisco as Lyudmila? That is not really an “ina” part. The first time I saw her was with the Kirov in London in War and Peace as Natasha in 2000, definitely not an “ina” part and she was perfect, stunning.Then also at Covent Garden as Donna Anna, not an ingenue, great. I have been very disappointed with many of the roles she has chosen to do since. If she wanted to do comedy why not Alice Ford for instance?

      • SF Guy

        Having seen that SFO Lyudmila, I wouldn’t call it a star-making breakthrough. She made a positive impression as a talented ingenue, beautiful enough to not be totally upstaged by her elaborate costumes and the overall spectacle, but that was about it. She didn’t return to SFO until 1998, usually as a second-cast or mid-run replacement, in such roles as Susanna, Zerlina, Ilia, Musetta and Nannetta. She had an attractive, flexible, not particularly distinctive voice, but showed considerable acting talent when given the opportunity.

        I first sat up and took notice in a 2000 Zerlina that took the character well beyond the usual cliches, and became a serious fan when she made her professional role debuts as Adina and Marfa in Tsar’s Bride the following year. (I figured that anyone who could hold their own opposite Hvorostovsky and Borodina was no longer just an ingenue.) So, I’d call that initial remark a simplification, but not inaccurate--at SFO, Lyudmila cracked the door open, but it was mostly the “light and bright” roles that walked her through it.

    • armerjacquino

      I think she’d be wonderful as Lady M. In her recent Royal Albert Hall concert her Verdi was on a different level from the rest of the programme.

      • grimoaldo

        Yes, I was hoping she would concentrate on Verdi, her Gilda and Violetta were excellent, but instead she did all those entirely unsuitable bel canto roles and wasted her best years on “inas” so I gave up on that several years ago now.

        • Vergin Vezzosa

          Agreed. I would look forward very much to Trovatore. She would join the divas who have managed to do the hat trick trio of Gilda, Leonora and Violetta at the appropriate stages of their careers. Glad that Lady would be a ways down the road. In the interim, perhaps also Luisa Miller?

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    The wonderful illustration La Cieca chose for this page makes me think of a new event -- Talegating at the Opera ! Picture it, talegating on the parterre, talgating on the plaza before the telecasts… the possibilities are endless. Why should the football fans have all the fun?

    • RosinaLeckermaul

      You should go to the Santa Fe Opera where tailgating is part of the experience.

  • DonCarloFanatic

    But clearly, I have not mastered the “put your reply here” concept. Ah, well.

  • I don’t think this is a bad career move. Her voice has gotten darker after the birth of her son, so I think it is the natural progression. I think the roles she lists are within th possibilities, all except Lady Macbeth. I don’t think she has the voice or the chops for it and taking it would be a huge vocal risk that I would not recommend. That being said, it is her career and her vocal folds, to each his own.

  • la vociaccia

    I’m not sure about a Netrebko Lady M. I’m positive she could do a spine-tingling La Luce Langue and her Una Macchia I expect would be similarly effective, but I can’t really see her getting the slancio/thrust in Vieni t’affreta and the Brindisi, (Bolena was stunning, but her Coppia Iniqua was more than a little sluggish). For that reason, I’m glad she’s dropping the -ina roles.

    So, if she won’t do Butterfly or Angelica because of the subject matter, does that mean we won’t get a Netrebko Jenufa? :(

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Speaking of Tailgating at the opera. Today they announced major changes to one of Florida’s expensive performing arts center that does very little. Will the MET follow rennovate like this?

    “At concert halls and theaters across the country, the best and most expensive seats in the house typically are located in the balcony, orchestra section or near front and center.

    The Broward Center for the Performing Arts wants to add a new section to that exclusive list: Club Level, a VIP area with wider seats inside the hall, and private access to a soundproof lounge with flat screen TVs, a full bar and food service — reminiscent of the luxury boxes fans pay top dollar for at sports venues.

    Kelley Shanley, chief executive of the Broward Center, said patrons long have asked for amenities that would appeal to “drag alongs’’ — those sometimes-reluctant, often-disinterested patrons who go to the theater for reasons other than the art, such as to accompany a spouse or as part of a group.

    “They’re people who might not normally come to an arts event, but would go if it’s a premium experience,’’ Shanley said. “It’s really meant to attract a new audience, expand the audience and get people to come early and stay late.’’

    • Indiana Loiterer III

      Why, isn’t that just a version of the old-time side boxes, just with updated technology?

  • Nerva Nelli

    Jeez. Maybe they can start arranging private dances by album cover babes and strapping barihunks?

    • oedipe

      So, what sells well these days at the opera?

      I have done a little survey of some top opera houses and found few sold out performances for la rentrée (Sep/Oct. 2012). Moreover, what sells well varies a lot from place to place.

      At the Met l’Elisir, a new production with a starry cast, does well but no better than, say, Otello, an old production with a partially starry cast. Expensive tickets are a hard sell, and no performance is sold out, except the Turandot matinée which is practically sold out, not withstanding its clanky cast and ancient, Holiday-on-Ice look-alike production.

      At the ROH, the Ring has been sold out for months. On the other hand, Rings at other houses are not faring very well, at least so far: the Met, Berliner Staatsoper, Paris Opera, La Scala (who are running an extensive marketing campaign of their Ring as we speak).

      At the Wiener Staatsoper, the revival of a Don Carlo production which premiered last season (stark and ugly, but innocuous; also known as “the bunker”), had a completely sold out run because of a 5-star cast: Pape/Alagna/Keenlyside/Stoyanova/D’Intino. Never mind that it ended up being a Don Carlo without a Don Carlo (due to Alagna’s cancelling)!

      At Bayerische, only the Bondi Tosca is selling out so far: with Kaufmann and Serjan leading the cast.

      In Paris at Garnier, the little advertized revival of Carsen’s Capriccio, with a homogeneous, high quality, but far from starry cast, has sold out the whole run.

      At La Scala, while waiting for the new season to begin in December, a run of La Bohème in an old production, with a cast alternating Gheorghiu/Agresta/ Netrebko and Beczala/Grigolo, is completely sold out (though a bunch of tickets for the opening night have mysteriously showed up today).

      Not much else is selling out, as far as I can tell.

      In conclusion: Go figure!

      • Porgy Amor

        Thanks for this, oedipe. Very interesting.