Cher Public

O Caftan! My Caftan!

Unconcealed by the voluminous folds of this Jessyesqe muumuu is queen-sized talent Jeffery Roberson (also known as Varla Jean Merman), who will make his New York opera debut later this week, in, modestly enough, The Medium, everyone’s favorite supernatural Menotti Broadway slasher opera. Details for this event— which might have been genetically engineered to appeal to the mind of the average parterrian—follow the jump.  

The Medium plays a three-week run October 25 through November 11 at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater, 10 West 64th Street, and, yes, that is right across the street from the Met. Roberson is a gifted falsettist whose eclectic résumé includes stints in Chicago on Broadway, All My Children and Ugly Betty on television, and the feature film Varla Jean and the Mushroomheads. It should also be mentioned that, quite unlike Joyce Castle, he was featured on Bravo’s Project Runway Season 5 as the winning model for the show’s drag challenge.

Photo: Michael Von Redlich

  • MontyNostry

    But why not a proper turban to go with it?

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Merman off Broadway? At the YMCA??? Methinks that even the late Gian Carlo would find this casting strange. Yes, Stravinsky approved and enjoyed John Ferrante as Baba (the Turk), but Ferrante had real technique.

    I wonder if Cortale will bring his Buff Boys with Finely Tuned Instruments to play in the Medium.

    Good luck to Varla Jean for the revival of this production. See:

    To keep an eye on Tommy, Gian Carlo had him immured in Spoletto. At least he waited until he was dead.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      Merman wore caftans too!

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

      • PushedUpMezzo

        Merman’s lungs and windmill-ish arm movements would be enough to power a small turbine. Marvellous.

        • DonCarloFanatic

          Yeah, she worked that caftan. Could have been running a revival choir.

      • Agnese di Cervia

        This is one of my favorite Ethel Merman moments

    • redbear! It’s already in my Bookmarks bar. Thanks!

  • phoenix

    Is she this week’s intermission feature?

    • Camille

      The intermission feature is hiding beneath Varla Jean’s caftan.

      Jessye’s under there as well.

      • Camille
      • operalover9001

        Camille, was it you who was considering going to Montreal to see Manon with Marianne Fiset? I just saw her as Mimi, and she’s definitely worth seeing. She’s definitely a full lyric, but she has excellent control of her voice and does some great stuff with dynamics and the text.

        • Camille

          Oui! Je fus coupable!

          Thank you so much for another good word on Mme. Fiset. I am now definitely going and look forward so much to bumping tiaras with both Manon, and perhaps Rufus, as well!

          Manon and Maytime are the perfect antidote to ennui and old age!

          Merci beaucoup!!!

  • genetically engineered to appeal to the mind of the average parterrian


    • manou

      …and how clever of them to get the caftans modelled by two of Henry VIII’s wives.

      • Camille

        *camille cackling with glee*

        YES, madame! The Anne Bouleyn vies with the Catherine Howard model!

        “Annulled, beheaded, died—
        Annulled, beheaded, survived!”

  • Camille

    For the best caftans, I always shop here:

    Having trouble with your turban shopping? Worry your pretty head not!
    Just go here:

    • manou

      Comment above

      …and how clever of them to get the caftans modelled by two of Henry VIII’s wives.

      should of course be here.

  • Ilka Saro

    This production will give fabulous poignancy to Baba’s line: How many times I’ve toooold you, NOT TO TOUCH MY THINGS!

    • The_Kid

      I bet. BTW, are there a lot of examples of this kind of gender-neutral casting in musical theater and opera? the only other one that i know of is a london revival of “hello, dolly” that kinda bombed, with a dude playing dolly with the bass of Shaliyapin, the warmth of Fort Ticonderoga, and enough wigs for a generation of drag queens. (I think Ethan Mordden said that….credit where it is due!)

      • MontyNostry

        Are you sure it wasn’t Carol Channing?

        • The_Kid

          Nah, but I can see why you would say that :)

          “January 3, 1984 -- April 27, 1984 -- Starring female impersonator Danny La Rue as Dolly at the Prince of Wales Theatre”

          • PushedUpMezzo

            It was compromised by Danny being twice as tall and twice as beautiful as Lionel Jeffries playing Vandergelder as a Captain Mainwaring (Dad’s Army clone) and both lacking any semblance of a New York accent. I remember the decor was rather lovely, many sepia-tinted projections and costumes mainly in black and white (a bit like the Cotrubas Traviata at the Garden). Danny was actually considered by David Merrick as a takeover Dolly in the original production. Think he lost out to either Phyllis Diller or Martha Raye. He was always very hurt at not being given the London Cage aux Folles. He was actually way superior to both the inaudible Mary Martin at Drury Lane and the regretfully unladylike Dora Bryan, who spent hours dropping peas down her cleavge at the Harmonia Gardens and waiting in vain for a laugh.

          • The_Kid

            “…who spent hours dropping peas down her cleavge at the Harmonia Gardens and waiting in vain for a laugh…”

            wow, that seems something to look out for!

            actually, i rather liked pearl bailey as dolly, and merman, of course, was merman, which worked for “hello, dolly”, since the role for kinda cut out for her. didn’t ginger rogers play dolly, too?

            here’s a very special carol channing revival of “hello, dolly”!

  • manou

    If this is indeed the Intermission Feature (concealed beneath the caftan), you might like to know that you can hear this live


    in 15 minutes

    • manou

      OK -- I am a prize idiot. Wrong information, wrong concert, wrong day. My most humble apologies.

      Listen to Siegfried instead, live from the Royal Opera House (booming from the study as I type)

      • phoenix

        Ah, la Bullock -- an old manou favorite!

  • Camille

    WQXR has just announced the Sir Georg Solti’s centennial concert World Orchestra for Peace concert will be transmitted at 2:00 pm EST.

    Go to for details, etc.

    It was a big night for Romania in Carnegie Hall, this past Friday. Camille was in Weill Hall, however, listening to a U. S. premiere of some music of the very great pianist, Dinu Lipatti, featuring three seriously gifted young Romanian and/or Romanian/American artists: the gifted Met coach Vlad Iftinca accompanying the very fine artist Ms. Laura T?tulescu, and the promulgator of Lipatti’s piano compositions, the award winning Mr. Matei Varga. Mr. Varga put his heart and soul into his playing. He has recently released a disc on the Naxos label of Georges Enescu’s music.

    Aside from the United States premieres of the two Lipatti piano works (Nocturne in F sharp minor and Fantasy opus 8 for piano) the very intensely expressive Ms. T?tulescu also sang two Lipatti songs, texts were from Cinq chansons de Verlaine.

    The program also consisted of various items from Enescu, a very evocative and interesting trio of songs by Mihail Jora (Lipatti’s teacher), Constantin Silvestri / Bartok, and a delightful arrangement à quatre mains of Ravel’s beloved Ma Mère l’Oye.

    A big round of applause to all three of these artists. Serious, dedicated and truly talented young professionals that deserve to be known for their respective merits.

    • Camille

      Pardon me, Ms. TAtulescu!
      The proper diacritical mark for the Romanian “a” with a squiggle overhead refuses to appear on the device. I shall go looking for it. Doubtless, I shall not succeed in finding it.

    • manou

      I am listening to the WQXR concert and am shocked, shocked, I tell you that the announcer keeps referring to “Lady Valerie Solti”, when he should call her Lady Solti. She would only be Lady Valerie if she were the daughter of a nobleman, but she is only a Lady because she was married to Sir George (and never Sir Solti, naturellement).

      Have those people never watched Downton Abbey….oops, on in twenty minutes, must be off…

      • The_Kid

        How about “Valerie, Lady Solti”? :)

        • manou

          That would only be right if it were a hereditary title and would be used to distinguish her from the new Lady Solti.

      • Arianna a Nasso

        Or why not just Valerie Solti? Chicago isn’t in England. Right Nerva?

  • brooklynpunk

    IS anyone able to get the stream from Vienna of the live videocast of “La cambiale di matrimonio” on NOW, without it breaking up, EVERY 3 seconds??

  • The_Kid

    Now, here’s a charming little aria, untainted by any suggestion, of, erm, happiness, ya know!
    I like this better than Marie Powers…
    This is dedicated to dear Camille, BTW :)

    • Camille

      Just now awakening from a Kundry-like koma, and to THIS!!!!
      How COULD you put that hideous picture of me online without first consulting with me?? Horrified, disgraced, seduced, abandoned by The_Kid!!!!!

      Thanks for the dedication, anyway, Kid. I am thinking about going to this medium to see if she can predict a good hospice for me to cough up in.

      ROTFLMAO, dearie!!!
      Madame Camille Flora

      • The_Kid

        Dear Camille,

        I *DID NOT* envision what must be your prime years to be even remotely similar to this. On the other hand, this seems more your style as the Peacemaker of (no pacemaker jokes, bitte) of Parterre!

        • Camille

          PRIME YEARS? I am DEAD, DUDE!!! Just back from the live *PRIMA* of THE TEMPEST!!! I know why he wrote all those damn high D’s E’s, and F’s — to wake everyone UP!

          Buona notte, as Desdemona sez.

        • Camille

          ACTUALLY, DEAR,

          This is my version:

          Unfortunately, I am allergic to hops!!!!!!!!!

          Thank you for saving my boring evening!!! ROTFLMAO!!!!!

          • The_Kid

            OMG, Camille, dear, I am allergic to hops, too!!!!! Which is why I spent my two years in Saxony muttering curses sotto voce while all the world and their wives sloshed beer all over themselves, but that is another story.
            How was the oath duet? Did you enjoy it?
            Hope you have a nice day, and as always, a little video for your viewing pleasure. This is a trailer of a Hindi movie called “Omkara”, which transfers the action of “Othello” to the poverty-struck state of Bihar, where gang-warfare and gang-mediated political chiseling are the order of the day. Omkara (Othello) is the leader of a crime gang, Tyagi (Iago) his sidekick, and Dolly (Desdemona) his intended. Yes, there are songs, but hey, look where we are posting :P

          • Camille

            Otello? Oath duet?
            No, I was listening to the new opera THE TEMPEST.

            How did you know I loved Indian movies? Even if the movie you have listed is very well done, I love these ever so much more:

            At 2:20 you may see wherefrom Thaddeus Strassberger got his idea for Minka the Slave Girl’s aria in Le Roi Malgré Lui!

            Sadly, very little pink in this clip!


            P.S. — try Belgian white bier instead.
            Just one at a time, and see how you do.

          • manou

            Camille -- he is only a Kid and should not even be thinking of biers. Even one at a time.

        • I always wondered how Veda Pierce earned a living after Mildred threw her out.

          • manou

            I thought she married Mario Lanza (against her father’s wishes).

          • Camille

            That was Kathryn Grayson, instead of Ann Blyth!!!

            Mario, Mario, Mario!!!

          • manou

            Ann Blyth married Mario Lanza as Caruso in The Great Caruso.

            But of course Mario was never the faithful kind.

          • Camille

            Here is what happened to Veda Pierce, Ciecabella:

            She became Sumi Jo.

          • Camille

            Perhaps Mario was a Mormon?

            Because of this, and to my grande GIOIA, I have discovered The Great Caruso, which I have never had the chance of seeing in theatre, is now on UTube!!!

            I had completely forgot about Veda becoming Mrs. Caruso!!

  • PushedUpMezzo

    Dame Joan’s contribution in the caftan stakes