Headshot of La Cieca

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Making it that way again

Twenty years ago, a sad and lonely gay man sat down with a pair of scissors and a glue stick and said, “I think I’ll make a magazine.”

The occasion was, he thought, the 70th anniversary of the birth of Maria Callas, December 3, 1993. Of course, that date is exactly wrong (it’s either the 2nd or the 4th), but, well, history is history.

Now, two decades later, Our Own JJ wants to give thanks to you, the cher public, for making parterre box/parterre.com the most important project in his life. (And La Cieca says hello, too!)

So, a few highlights of parterre box (the first 20 years):

1993: First issue, “All Those Lousy Traviatas”

1994: The debut of La Cieca.

1995: “Talk the Talk,” a fanciful dictionary of operaqueenspeak, introduces the term “barihunk” to the English language. Early parterre critics include Enzo Bordello, Richard BreathNick Fishbone and Florence Quartavodka.

1996:  JJ is ejected from the Met for trying to smuggle copies of the zine into the auditorium, and and parterre box take its first baby steps on the internet.

1997: Fans share their ur-opera experiences in “A Boy and His Diva” and Deborah Voigt bravely sits for the very first parterre box interview.

 

1998: Iconic interviews with David Daniels, Ira Siff and Ethan Mordden; parterre’s first online scoop, following moment-by-moment the many and various changes of personnel in the Met’s ill-fated “Zeffirelli 2″ Traviata.

1999: “Opera Snooze,” a parody of a certain other opera magazine, manages to offend everyone from “Byron Callow” to “Anne Dwarfette.”

2000: Long and revealing interviews with Catherine Malfitano and John Ardoin; the serial “All About Steve” by Manuela Haltertop.

2001:  Branching out, parterre productions presents scaled-down operas at La Belle Epoque in Greenwich Village.

2002: The final print issue of parterre box, featuring JJ’s dream interview with James McCourt.

2003: Intrepid reporter Dawn Fatale peers into the future: “The Post-Volpe Era”

2004: parterre.com turns blog, allowing for quick and easy daily updates to the site.

2005: La Cieca teases Anthony Tommasini for his favorite adjective, then, in penance, introduces “Unnatural Acts of Opera,” a weekly (more or less) podcast of demented live opera.

2006: A new website called YouTube revolutionizes everything, including parterre.

2007: The #1 parterre scoop to date: Gerard Mortier tapped for General Manager of New York City Opera. Also, the Peter Gelb era dawns for the Met, as La Cieca starts working on getting press credentials for parterre. (We’re still trying.)

2008: The big story of the year: Mortier out, George Steel in at NYCO. La Cieca goes out on a limb and gets it wrong.

2009: A momentous year for parterre, with features about the site in The New York Observer and  Opera News.  The site enjoys a professional redesign by Nick Scholl.

2010: New features include the Regie Quiz; real time chats; the Pubie Awards.

2011: Should this year be called Jimmydammerung or the Year of the Machine? Neither: Anna Netrebko‘s opening night Anna Bolena set new records for page views on parterre.

2012: parterre is protest central when Peter Gelb plays hardball with Opera News, WQXR and Brad Wilber’s Met Futures.

2013: parterre continues its two-decade tradition of annoying those in authority by leaking, three days before the official press release, details of the Met’s upcoming season.

 

126 comments

  • La Valkyrietta says:

    It would be funny if Dima went crazy during Tosca and sang,

    “Cieca, o Cieca,
    nel tuo cor s’anida JJ.
    Prima fu Scotto,
    dopo fu la Netrebko,
    Cieca!
    Mi fai dimenticar Tommasini!”

  • RudigerVT says:

    Early subscriber (with my trove of hard copy safely stored at Christie’s, where they will sell high, I’m sure, and fund my retirement); sometimes contributor and commenter; but chronic, daily reader. A huge part of my opera-queen training. Thanks, JJ, La C et al. And congrats!

  • zinka says:

    Changes to be made for the next 20 years of Parterre:

    1. La Cieca changes name to “La Fleminga”

    2. Only 2 token straight people allowed on forum.(Investigation will be made to assure this.)

    3. Anyone who trashes Zinka for trashing guess-who will be immediately erected..i mean EJECTED!

    4. Cartoons making fun of Peter Gelb will be omitted, unless at least 2% of the members agree.

    5. Nudity will be permitted only if the photo takes up at least 12 inches.

    These changes will go into effect when Obamacare is totally successful;otherwise we will sadly return to the way it is today.

    • antikitschychick says:

      “Only 2 token straight people allowed on forum.(Investigation will be made to assure this.)”

      Well, I call dibs on being one of the two! LOL Although I love cute boys just as much as all ya’lls do!!!! And I own a few pairs of VERY high heels. That makes me a Q by default :-P .

  • James,

    Even though you and I could not be more different in our personality and tastes, I would like to offer a belated congrats on 20 years and your ascendancy in the online opera world.

    If I may I’d like to revisit a mini-discussion from 1997:

    Jeffrey Friedman: I thought that the Metropolitan Opera audience [for Pfitzner’s Palestrina] looked like a weird bunch. Very well behaved, almost no coughing or noise. But TEARS for this? Must have been space aliens.

    James Jorden: Well, no. Actually, I think most everybody there was either industry or paper — and some of the hipper-than-thou BAM crowd. They left in DROVES after Act 2.

    IMO the creator of an opera sets himself an impossible task when he makes his leading character so utterly passive (both verbally and musically) and Pfitzner does his Palestrina. After all, the “agon” in “protagonist” means “struggle” or “contest”: drama without dramatic action is and oxymoron.

    All these fin-de-siecle ruminations on the pleasures of renunciation must have rung truer back then than they do now. The period leading into The Great War really *was* the end of Western Civilization as it had been known for centuries, and a whole generation had to cope with that tremendous sense of loss. Fine. But an apocalypse is, by its very nature, a one-time thing; it just doesn’t play almost a century later. The idea of personal loss leaving an artist permanently blocked is now such a cliche that we cannot take it seriously: as a friend who walked out after the first act commented, “Tell him to take a Prozac and get
    back to work!”

    An even bigger flaw in the structure of the work is to show us for three hours the conniving of the corrupt and/or dimwitted leaders of the Roman Church; and then make the emotional payoff a house call by the Pope.
    Hey, who elected this guy in the first place: those same jerks who were so mean to poor Thomas Allen in the last act. (Though by far the worst of the lot is the Robert Tear character: he even *eats grapes*, code for
    the worst sort of operatic depravity ever sense Massenet.)

    How to describe the music of ‘Palestrina’: “Suppose you make a highlights disc of the best music from any one the lesser Strauss operas. ‘Palestrina’ sounds like all the stuff you would leave out.”

    My favorite thing about this production (other than the stellar and well-cast supporting players) was the finely-detailed but self-effacing production by Nikolaus Lehnhoff. Work this finely-crafted deserves a
    “Meistersinger” to be seen in.

    “Palestrina” makes “Mathis der Maler” look like one of the world’s most enduring masterpieces.

    —-

    Your commentary on two of my favorite operas (Palestrina and Mathis der Maler) really gave me a good chuckle a while back… :-)

  • Kernita Makilla says:

    ‘Tis a place of wonder, where one can wander within paradise keeping a toe on that gray line between art and dementia. “You know what paradise is? It’s a lie, a fantasy we create about people and places as…” (Sorry, I ventured into unknown Charlene waters.) Nonetheless, congratulations on your china anniversary, La. It has blessed me longer than PlanetOut ever did. Besos.

  • Tory Adore says:

    JJ- that picture of you in the hugacious red sequin number just makes me want to sin. Reading the posted .pdf of that issue from 1998 I thought to myself ‘where is the edge from yesteryear?’ everything seems tamer now, like instead of ripping apart those crazy puffed up divas and divos the parterriani now rip into each other- think poor Genevieve or bassoprofundo. And where has that salacious bent disappeared to? tame/lame. but I love you in that hot red sequin number and would love to get my grubby mitts all over your …. xoxo

  • reedroom says:

    I sadly never saw the print edition but that’s the price I paid for not living in New York! Congratualtions La C on 20 fabulous years! Though I’ve been mostly a “lurker” lately, I enjoy my daily (multiple) visits to parterre.com. Couldn’t live without all of you, and the incredible wisdom you all share! Bravi tutti!