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The blood of a poet

Death and its terrible aftermath hang like a pestilent fog over director Stefan Herheim’s fascinating and chilling production of Puccini’s La Bohème for Den Norske Opera, released here on DVD by Electric Pictures.  For even the most jaded sufferer from “Bohème fatigue,” this is a production not to be missed.

While it certainly counts as regietheatre from beginning to end, it is visually thrilling, every tiny detail clearly thought out, musically excellent, and uses the familiar young Bohemian characters to demand that the audience look at the ways that we deal with the death of a loved one.  

In Herheim’s vision, Mimi is dying of cancer, bald from chemotherapy and on life support.  The opera begins not with music, but with the relentless beeping of the heart monitor at her hospital bed.  The lights come up on Rodolfo at her bedside, with doctors, nurses, and hospital staff watching from a window outside in the halls.

When the heart monitor flatlines and the doctors rush in to try to shock Mimi back to life, the music of the opera begins over the chaos of CPR and heart-shock paddles.  At the moment of Mimi’s death, the production turns to the mind of the grieving Rodolfo.

With the hospital personnel assuming the roles of Marcello, Colline, Schaunard, and Musetta, Rodolfo begins to try to recreate his time with Mimi in a fevered dream caught between the sentimental story of his love for Mimi and the stark reality of her cruel march toward death.  As the set transforms into the various locales of the opera, the only constant on the stage is the hospital room, constantly pulling Rodolfo back to reality.

Herheim’s most brilliant conceit is adding the character of Death to the opera, in many guises.  One singer, Svein Erik Sagbraten, plays the capering, chilling Grim Reaper throughout the opera.  Here, we see Death as Benoit, as Parpignol (who mocks a cancer-victim young child by keeping the horse just outside the child’s  reach as he begs for the “cavallin”), as Alcindoro, as the Toll Gate Keeper, even as the bandleader in Momus, and finally as himself, accompanying the final act on his violin and watching dispassionately as Mimi sickens.  The effect is macabre and more than a little bit scary.

The Momus scene is genuinely frightening.  As Mimi and Rodolfo finish “O soave fanciulla”, the set opens to reveal a vision of the Paris streets.  The denizens of Paris begin to file in and watch the couple exiting with the “Amor!” and silently wave to them.  At the end of the scene, the entire group of Parisians turns silently, facing the audience, their faces in a rictus-like smile.

It is clear that this is going to be a nightmarish Momus scene, and that the lovers are trapped here with no escape.  The whole scene feels like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with Alcindoro (Death) controlling the proceedings, revealing all the Parisians as dead or dying when they all remove their wigs and hats to reveal their baldness.

Even the children’s chorus is involved, mocking the prostrate Mimi before they, too, are revealed as the sick and dying.  The end of the scene finds the bandleader (Death) taking Mimi by the arm and leading her away as Rodolfo is dragged away by his friends.  It is a carnival of death.

Another Herheim invention is setting up a rivalry between the maintenance worker (Marcello) and one of the doctors (Schaunard) for the affections of the lusty Nurse (Musetta).  It is clear from the very beginning of the opera that the Doctor has seduced her away from the maintenance man, and the two almost come to blows several times.

For instance, in Act One’s Benoit scene, it is Schaunard, not Benoit, who Marcello accuses of being a seducer.  As Death removes his “Benoit beard and hat” to reveal himself, he points at Rodolfo shrieking “Sua moglie!!!” instead of referring to his own wife.  Again, the effect is stunning and disturbing.

The production is absolutely crammed with detail and character development, but this occasionally becomes a problem.  There are so many interesting things going on at the same time that it’s often difficult to find where the main focus should be.  The character interplay is so dense and so interesting that we’d like to see it all; however, I missed many details until my second or third watching of the DVD.

The principal singers are mostly excellent, except for a strangulated and stiffly acted Doctor/Colline.  His “Vecchia zimarra, senti” is poorly sung and was as well one of the few seemingly purposeless moments in this very specific production.

Vasilij Ladjuk as Maintenance Guy/Marcello and Espen Langvik as Doctor/Schaunard sing robustly and act well their fierce rivalry.  Ladjuk is dark and blue-collar; Langvik is blond and distinctly upper class.  The Norwegian National Opera Chorus and Children’s Chorus are superb here—the singing is splendid, and their acting of Herheim’s concept characters is committed and adds tremendously to the atmosphere of the production.

As the tormented Rodolfo, Diego Torre acts the desperation and uncertainty of his character with skill and powerful emotion.  He sings with a stentorian tenor reminiscent of Ermanno Mauro (which means he could use a few more colors and volume changes) but he is clarion and honeyed when he needs to be.  Most impressive was his ability in this production to show the utter confusion of a man who simply cannot accept his lover’s death.

Marita Solberg is a splendid Mimi, riveting in her acting, completely committed to Herheim’s ideas, singing with tonal beauty and a great variety of vocal colors.  Most interesting to me was that she bears an astonishing likeness to the young Renata Scotto in the 1977 Live From the Met Bohème.  She is costumed in a very similar dress as well (when playing the “Mimi of the past”) and, if you closed your eyes, you might well hear some phrasing and tonal similarities as well.  Of course it’s only speculation, but I wonder if Herheim was sneaking in an homage to Madame Scotto…?

The first lines of the essay in the DVD’s accompanying booklet (by Acting Artistic Director Anne Gjevang) are these: “Who among us doesn’t already have a personal relationship to La Bohème?  Probably a deep and intimate one: this opera, more than any other, strikes a chord that resonates in us where we are most sensitive.”

Well, I think this is certainly true of those who love opera, but I’m not sure that goes for newbies or those attending one of their first operas.  I therefore would not necessarily recommend this DVD to those who want the sentimental story of young love and tragedy (though I think my acting students and many of their generation would love it).

But Herheim has created a radical but logical rethinking of Puccini’s masterpiece that will reverberate in the watcher/listener for a long time after its viewing.  I felt compelled to watch it three times immediately.  It moved me, it made me think, it made me imagine.  And that’s what great opera productions are supposed to do.

182 comments

  • zinka says:

    The JOY of Parterre is that we adore each other (io spero), even if we disagree violently..Like..the old screaming standee line…no one died!!!!!
    I am still “conflicted” (as La Cieca will tell you) about “enjoying” these avant-guard productions..i like them for the entertainment factor..like the Meistersinger from Bayreuth…Hilarious in parts..but still the “traditionalist” in me fights with the modern style.

    Regarding Zajick, not everyone is subtle (Barbieri..Lauri-Volpi, Ruffo,etc.) but Zajick is still a RARITY today befcause few few few singers sing with cojones.. When I met her briefly over the years, I mentioned this to her (without the cojones part) and she had me do a lesson for her students where i played Magda, Leyla,etc..and others who represented a generation pretty dead today.
    She feels that we can still make “new Zajicks’ in a way…but I fear that most impresarios would prefer to hear “innocent voices’..you know….”No make-da waves.”
    Leonie would be out of place…so sad…

    Well,I just wanted to get that off my chests..Love CH

  • TShandy says:

    “With Norway’s internationally renowned Eivind Gullberg Jensen conducting, the production reaches superb heights of operatic drama.” What a joke! I’ve tried to think of ANYTHING more dramatic than the love of Rudolfo for Mimi, life in the garret, young artists meeting at the Cafe Mormus… It’s all fabulous with a score that tears your heart out. The present clip is actually an abomination of everything Puccini intended as he was very familiar with the lives of starving students because he was one. I also have a sick feeling that Benoît, the landlord, is portrayed as an evil Jew/Shylock type. The whole things disgusts me.

    • La Cieca says:

      Well, whatever you do, don’t bother to view the video. You wouldn’t want these strong feelings of yours to be contradicted in any way.

      • TShandy says:

        What can I say? I really like La Boheme. I’ve seen many performances, cried many times, studied the score and had friends and lovers perish in the AIDS epidemic. I am familiar with the heartache Puccini is portraying. La Boheme simply doesn’t need anything more than what it already is.

        • la vociaccia says:

          My question to you: How are any of your feelings with regards to Boheme being about heartache, loss, terminal illness etc. being challenged at all by this production? They didn’t turn the whole libretto on it’s head -- Mimi still dies, Rodolfo still meets her in an attic, he’s a poet, she’s a seamstress. The only difference is that the whole story has already happened, and Rodolfo is, through his pain at the loss of his love, hallucinating the whole scenario again. There’s still plenty of room to take the tissues out, and marvel at the brilliance of puccini.

          • TShandy says:

            Well, la vociaccia, it’s like a performance of the “St. Matthew Passion” I went to where the entire drama of the Crucifixion was acted out in front of the chorus and soloists. The heartrending “Erbarme dich, mein Gott” was how Bach chose to communicate the grief he felt towards a suffering Jesus. Nothing else was needed. Bach was speaking to everyone in church on that Good Friday. The aria must have been comforting to his congregation. The whole drama of the Passion, so brilliantly laid out by the soloist as onlookers that it was unfathomable that some director chose to “interpret” what Bach had so awesomely put before us. The same is true of La Boheme. Puccini evidently agonized over the music and orchestration and he succeeded so masterfully. Anyone who has ever lived can relate to Boheme’s simple story. Leave it alone. It wants for nothing more than what it is.

          • poisonivy says:

            Um … there are plenty of recordings if you want that “just the score” approach? I don’t even know if I like Herheim’s approach but I’d rather see it before I make a judgment?

          • la vociaccia says:

            Well, again, you’re speaking in absolutes. You can certainly feel that the libretto is sacred and any transgression amounts to treason. Myself, the author of this review, evidently many commenters here, and obviously herheim felt that more emotional substance could be mined from the story. Again, no one is suggesting that we do away with tradition and start setting every boheme as a hallucination, but its unfortunate that you would label this concept as an ‘abomination.’ I can respect the fact that boheme is too close to your heart to allow such changes; but personally I think herheims vision is quite beautiful.

    • zinka says:

      When Piotr Beczala (Frank Sinatra) does the Duke in the new Met Rigoletto…I wonder if he will tell me if he likes it or will be “diplomatic.” it may even be good.,,..,we shall.see

      How would we all be if we agreed on everything??BOOOOOOOOORED!!!!

  • zinka says:

    P.S. On the old standee line where there were one or two token straight people..we would make up funny opera scenes…Little did we know..,we were MILD compared to what goes for things today…

  • TShandy says:

    Well, it’s like what Homer Simpson once said: I like my my beer cold, my TV loud, my homosexuals FLAMING, and my La Boheme SIMPLE & TRADITIONAL.

  • grimoaldo says:

    I am going to play devil’s advocate a little and return to the passage in the review that quite honestly filled me with horror:

    ” this opera, more than any other, strikes a chord that resonates in us where we are most sensitive.”

    Well, I think this is certainly true of those who love opera”

    Both the Artistic Director of the opera house where this production was put on and the reviewer make the assumption that everyone, all opera lovers, find La Boheme the opera more than any other that “resonates” in them. This is utter fooey as far as I am concerned, La Boheme was very moving and enjoyable the first five times I saw it and then that was enough, thank you. I do not question that it is good, but unlike operas by Handel, Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, once you have heard Puccini’s operas a few times in good performances you have got everything out of it that you are going to get, at least that is my experience. La Boheme is a domestic, personal drama without any of the political or social or metaphysical elements in, let’s say, Don Giovanni, Don Carlos or the Ring. It is puny and piffling compared to those masterworks, both musically and dramatically.
    It is rather depressing to me that
    “Puccini’s works dominate the operatic stage, particularly in the United States, where, according to Opera America, Madama Butterfly and La Bohème are the two most frequently performed operas respectively, with Tosca being eighth and Turandot being twelfth on the same list.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/giacomo-puccini

    Puccini’s operas are good, but not THAT good that they deserve to dominate over all others as they currently do.

    • armerjacquino says:

      ‘Strikes a chord’ != ‘is better’

      I think the point isn’t that BOHEME is the supreme masterpiece or anything like that, but that it connects directly with experiences common to many people. It’s precisely because it’s a ‘domestic, personal drama’ that Gjevang makes the point. Nobody is saying that it’s a greater work than the ones you cite, merely that it’s a very accessible one.

      Whether or not that is true is arguable, but in any case I don’t see any reason why the suggestion should fill anyone with horror or depression.

      • poisonivy says:

        Indeed, I think La Boheme has the same timeless appeal as Elisir d’Amore. It simply captures that feeling of falling in love better than any of the more philosophical operas that you mentioned in your mini rant.

    • La Cieca says:

      Whether Puccini deserves to dominate the repertoire is not really the point here. The fact is, Boheme is an extremely popular opera, and I think the value of his Herheim production is that he is at least in part trying to examine the reasons for that popularity.

      And what he finds (or claims to find, anyway) is that sometimes, anyway, art tells a lie instead of revealing a truth. When the experience that is the raw material of the artistic expression is too painful, the artist tends to sentimentalize the story, shaping the narrative so that it comforts — even though that “comforting” art is a gross distortion, a lie.

      Boheme lends itself handily to this sort of critique because it is so popular; that is to say, practically everyone in the audience for this opera goes into the theater with a set of expectations about what is about to happen and, more important, what is about to be felt. The process of making the art, which generally is transparent to the spectator, is here made the center of attention.

      “Why is La Boheme so popular? Why is this your favorite opera?” Herheim asks the audience, and then obliquely poses his own theory: because La Boheme presents the frightening phenomenon of death as something that essentially has no sequelae: a few quick tears neatly cued by the music, and the painful process of grieving is over. Instead, Herheim makes the entirety of the opera a depiction of the beginning of the grieving process, with Rodolfo constructing a fantasy version of his relationship with Mimi in order to distract himself from the horrible reality of her death. (The problem with even this fantasy version is that “the story” seems to take on a life of its own, overtaking Rodolfo’s romantic dreams with the bizarre nightmare that Mimi is cheating on him with Death.)

      • luvtennis says:

        La Cieca:

        But isn’t the upshot of this production that “no one ever need see this sentimental clap trap again now that I have exposed it for what it is?”

        Now I happen to agree with the notion that Boheme, like most of Puccini’s operas, is about as deep as a well-made Hollywood movie, and disagree that it needs any explication.

        In fact, you could argue that Herheim is NOT explicating the opera. He is deconstructing the audience’s reaction to the opera. Ultimately, I have to wonder if all that will lead to the final death of the form.

        After all, how many times can you deconstruct a work before you have simply destroyed it?

        • La Cieca says:

          But isn’t the upshot of this production that “no one ever need see this sentimental clap trap again now that I have exposed it for what it is?”

          No. Who says so?

          Now I happen to agree with the notion that Boheme, like most of Puccini’s operas, is about as deep as a well-made Hollywood movie, and disagree that it needs any explication.

          Popular art is still, after all, art. It influences how people think and feel. There are massive treatises written about television commercials, and long, detailed critiques published on the content of rap songs. I would argue that popular art is a more important target for serious analysis because it does seem so simple and obvious. A recognized “masterpiece” is automatically assumed to have hidden depths that need to be plumbed and explicated, but a popular work’s is automatically assumed to be shallow, with all its effects on the surface, and therefore whatever deeper power it may exert is left in the dark. Further, it’s a work about which people have the largest body of preconceived notions that profits best by closer re-examination.

          In fact, you could argue that Herheim is NOT explicating the opera. He is deconstructing the audience’s reaction to the opera.

          You could argue that, but I don’t think you could argue that exclusively.

          After all, how many times can you deconstruct a work before you have simply destroyed it?

          This is like asking, “how many times can you make coq au vin before Julia Child’s recipe crumbles into dust?”

          • luvtennis says:

            1) I know that Herheim was not intending to be dismissive of the work, but he has, in essense, deconstructed Boheme in a way that suggests that all it has to offer is easy sentimentality. And while his production clearly sympathizes with the characters, I am not sure that you can say the Herheim cares much for Puccini as an artist. It’s like listening to commentary on a DVD. I find that if I spend too much time doing that the work begins to recede in importance. This production is like a DVD commentary by someone who isn’t all that keen on Puccini.

            2)As someone who believes that Buffy is one of the great art works of the last 100 years, I certainly agree that pop culture deserves study. But there is a big difference between Buffy -- a work that is incredibly rich, and works on so many different levels -- comic, mythic, social commentary, allegory -- and say, Charmed which works on only one level as far as I can see. Of course, that is not to suggest that Charmed might not be a good source for a study of pop culture, especially if the study focusses on the rise of the supernatural as the dominant dramatic genre. Buffy would be a good topic for that sort of analysis too, but it is also sufficiently complex to warrant study on its own. Not all popular works of art hit that standard. Most don’t.

            3) Yes, you can make coq au vin an infinite number of times without affecting the late lamented Ms. Child. But if everytime you made her recipe you accompanied it with a graphic depiction of the effects of all that rich delicious goodness has on your liver and kidneys, you might just succeed in killing Julia’s recipe. Isn’t that what happened to Chinese food when those studies came out pointing out how many calories it had? ;-)

          • kashania says:

            LuvT:

            This production is like a DVD commentary by someone who isn’t all that keen on Puccini.

            I disagree. I think the extreme care he has taken with the details of this production displays a respect for the work and the composer. And I think that the concept of having Rodolfo looking back on the story adds a layer of emotional resonance to the piece. We not only experience the emotions of the story as they are happening but also on a different level as we experience the story through Rodolfo’s perspective.

            While I can see that people would prefer to see the story presented in a more straight-forward way, I can’t see how such an emotional and moving treatment of the work can be viewed as anything other than a tribute.

          • operalover9001 says:

            I would argue that this production is less about the audience’s reaction to the opera, but rather why audiences choose to go to the opera. Rodolfo can’t deal with Mimi’s death, therefore, he sentimentalizes their relationship and her death. I think Herheim is arguing that opera audiences are doing the same -- Boheme is a nice way for us to access our emotions/cry in a nice, safe setting, rather than actually addressing the actual reason we feel so emotional.
            And yes, if you describe “the effects of all that rich delicious goodness has on your liver and kidneys”, you might not want to eat coq au vin as often, but when you do, you’ll appreciate it much more.

          • luvtennis says:

            Kashie:

            You never take my side anymore!!!!! If u weren’t the nicest, most even-tempered forumite in Internet history, I would be very cross with you….

            ;-)

          • oedipe says:

            Since when is coq au vin bad for your health and/or fattening?

          • manou says:

            Coq au vin is especially bad for the health of the cock.

  • Nerva Nelli says:

    Of course, Maury, the fact that Behrens sounded like a drowning raccoon in her middle register (in which Leider, like Traubel, was always sovereign) would mean little to one for whom G’DANG is all about the Rache-Terzett high notes.

    Minghini-Cattaneo, we all agree, definitely was the real deal. One of my all-time favorite mezzos.

    • marshiemarkII says:

      If you paid attention, something that is impossible when spend your whole life looking at your navel, you would remember that what I LOVE about Behrens in the Rache Terzett are the earth shattering LOW notes, that no other singers does the same, in the Allrauner, Rachender Gott. Talk about a GRANDE Voce di Vagina. The high notes are just there, God’s gift, what can say?

      • Nerva Nelli says:

        I pay attention to that worthy of attention; not to self-deceiving fangirl raving.

        Low notes; high notes; OOPS! She sounded like *shit* in the middle. If *you* paid attention, you’d have noticed that that’s what I mentioned in re the Comparable Hildegard. Do a search for “drowning raccoon”.

        • armerjacquino says:

          Interesting comparison re Zajick here, too, since she’s where we started. Nobody would deny that her chest voice and her top are pretty resplendent. When she’s less than interesting, it’s in the middle.

        • marshiemarkII says:

          Some raccoons drown, but others stink and like shit never drown, THEY FLOAT!

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            You mean floating as in the Behrens “party tape” version of “Placido e il mar”?

          • marshiemarkII says:

            You never waste an opportunity to show what an unmitigated and ignorant fool you are. Placido e il mar, as ANY self-respecting opera queen would know, anyone with half a working brain cell certainly, is sung by the CHORUS!!!!!!!
            The sublime line for the soprano is SOAVI ZEFFIRI SOLI SPIRATE and was among the most glorious singing Behrens ever did indeed. The ethereal heavenly sound she produced is the stuff of legend.

            The stinking stuff that never sinks, but just stinks, is FAT, also known as LARD, by all scientific measures

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            Yes, *divina bellezza*, and for all those who are not fixated exclusively on diva bullshit--including the composer--the soprano line is part of the choral number:

            No. 15 -- Coro

            CORO
            Placido è il mar, andiamo;
            Tutto ci rassicura.
            Felice avrem ventura,
            Su su, partiamo or or.

            ELETTRA
            Soavi zeffiri
            Soli spirate,
            DeI freddo borea
            L’ira calmate.
            D’aura piacevole
            Cortesi siate,
            Se da voi spargesi
            Per tutto amor.

            CORO
            Placido è il mar, andiamo, ecc.

            Same with Tito’s floating line in the middle of the Act II CLEMENZA chorus

            No. 15 -- Coro

            CORO
            Ah, grazie si rendano
            Al sommo fattor,
            Che in Tito del trono
            Salvò lo splendor.

            TITO
            Ah no, sventurato
            Non sono cotanto,
            Se in Roma il mio fato
            Si trova compianto
            Se voti per Tito
            Si formano ancor.

            CORO
            Ah, grazie si rendano, ecc.

            ………..
            Better luck next time!

            Stuff of legend, huh? Legends come in many forms-- this seems apposite:

            http://tinyurl.com/bh3hp7t

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Thank you for putting the evidence that the soprano line is Soavi Zeffiri and NOT Placido il mar. Your cut and paste skills are better than your reading comprehension. I’ll consider you for a secretary position next time I need one.

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            Like Romney, you don’t even admit when you’re shown to be wrong. The A-B-A number Behrens marred is entitled “Placido e il mar.” End of discussion.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            And you give further evidence of autism, like the Eveready Bunny, you keep going and going and going, even though your cut and paste skills are good enough to put up the libretto for everyone to see the corresponding lines. But much worse are your clogged ears that prevent you from hearing one of the most gorgeously phrased versions of Soave Zeffiri ever sung, with an ethereal sound and endless breath. Behrens schooling, having spent years singing with both the Freiburger and Munchener Bachchor, plus her enormous scholarship in classical history and literature, gave her the perfect grounding for the great Bach, Mozart and Beethoven singer that she became. Which made inevitable her ascent to the throne as one of the greatest Wagnerians in history. No showtunes for her, is that why you resent her so much?

          • kashania says:

            Thank goodness this endless exchange never gets tired.

          • manou says:

            Better than Wimbledon?

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            “Behrens schooling, having spent years singing with both the Freiburger and Munchener Bachchor, plus her enormous scholarship in classical history and literature, gave her the perfect grounding for the great Bach, Mozart and Beethoven singer that she became. Which made inevitable her ascent to the throne as one of the greatest Wagnerians in history.”

            You might as well be a Paraguay-based flack for Houston Chamberlain with this Aryanist nonsense. Offensive if it weren’t patently pathetic.

            Plus, does “Bist du bei mir” qualify anyone as “a great Bach singer”?

        • The_Kid says:

          Also, am I the only one who finds this “Voce di Vagina” deal kinda sexist? After all, no one has talked about tenors singing with their penises!

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            Well, yes, I’d be happy to have that term retired hereabouts-- but you’re dealing with an antediluvian, pre-Stonewall sensibility in Marshie here, so his seeing women in caricatured terms should not unduly surprise.

          • La Cieca says:

            Or, as tenors call it, “a duet.”

          • marshiemarkII says:

            “you’re dealing with an antediluvian, pre-Stonewall sensibility”

            This is really amazing. A queen that has made a career (extremely obnoxious at that) with a vile campaign of repetitively, ploddingly, relentlessly and WITLESSLY putting the picture of a “bike” whenever a female singer of alleged sexual tendencies is mentioned. Who later went as far as posting a “vagina hygiene kit” completely unwarrantedly, and severely OFF-TOPIC, and extremely OFFENSIVE to all well-meaning people, not least our genital female parterrians, now has the indecent temerity of talking of antediluvian, pre-Stonewall sensibility???? What’s the matter, are you from Mars?????? Are you so completely out of your mind, and out of touch, that you are incapable of seeing how ridiculous and absurd your posts are? Didn’t you take notice of the chorus of indignation that your little bike and other misogynist posts have generated along the way?

            The Voce di Vagina by the way Kid, is pretty main stream talk in what is considered an opera queen blog for queens and their admirers, and with a heavy content in camp. Witty and campy queens are one of the reasons why I am here. From the reactions and the number of other parterrians that have adopted it, I have to conclude that the humor is appreciated. I have not heard one word of complaint from our genital female partners, to whom I have no intention of ever offending about this or any other matter. If they asked, I would drop it in a second, but if a prissy queen, or worse a mythologically hypocritical one like Nerva objects, I’ll give one big snarky smile and move on!

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            Marshie, you’ve thoughtfully provided (amidst the usual overkill bloviation) a response to your own, um, *intervention*:

            “Are you so completely out of your mind, and out of touch, that you are incapable of seeing how ridiculous and absurd your posts are?”

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Kid, I’d love to hear about tenors singing with their penises. “Coloratura di cazzo”?

          • marshiemarkII says:

            How about “Tenore di Forza di Coglioni” that would about describe Franco, no?
            You are a treasure Clita Adorata!!!

          • la vociaccia says:

            You know who sang with his dick? Bonisolli. He practically waved his genitals all over the stage

          • marshiemarkII says:

            And how would a young gurl like you Carissssssima Voci know that? Bonisolli is more like your Mom’s generation no? :-) :-) :-)

          • la vociaccia says:

            Marshie!!!! You are cruel! La V is an old queen trapped in the body of someone too young to have seen Leontyne or leonie on the stage. E triste

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Well Carissssima Voci, now you can have Layla, Emalie and the glorious Mario Chang who sounds like a sublime version of the young Jose Carreras!!!!! So not all is lost.
            Are you going to the Juilliard Cosi in two weeks, it promises to be spectacular!

          • The_Kid says:

            MM2: as far as a ‘genital female’ (whatever that is) complaining is concerned, how do you know that one did not do just that at the beginning of this conversation? also, since when does one have to be a ‘genital female’ (as opposed to, i guess, a ‘prissy queen’, the use of which expression immediately identifies the user as a closet femmephobe) to identify a sexist comment? also, as far as i can remember, you are the only person here who needed to refer to a singer’s genitals to comment on her greatness, or the lack thereof. the rest of us less witty mortals seem to find other adjectives to do justice to glorious singing.

  • I have a feeling that the tone of the conversation about this production might be similar to that of when Zefirelli’s Traviala La Scala production first opened.

  • Couldn’t care less about tired ole Boheme. I think I’ll give Herheim a try. Honestly, have just sat with a tenor friend who’s an opera newbie (he’s a baroque specialist) throughout one of the Zeff incarnations and I couldn’t wait for it to end. Honestly, Stratas used to enliven it and create something real, if only she could sing. But I’m weary, weary, weary of the entire thing and like to see someone shake it up.

    • Ah. And my Tenor Friend reaction to his first Puccini was that it sounded like cheese toast (he’s a vegan) and that Puccini was a button-pusher. He actually rather liked Gianni Schicchi but fell asleep somewhere about O mio babbino. Long live Monteverdi!