Cher Public

Good evening, ladies and germs

“Renée: ‘It’s a comedy, a farce, and I’ve become addicted to making people laugh’.” [New York Post]

  • Krunoslav

    Cieca, does that metaphor make you *a pusher*?

  • 98rsd

    She could just sing some Gershwin!

  • armerjacquino


    • “QUEEN FURIOUS.” That’s not you.

  • DeepSouthSenior

    “But we opera singers are used to strangling lyric sopranos dying from consumption.” I’m mentally exhausted, racking my brain, trying to recall any lyric soprano, let alone one dying from consumption, who was strangled. Maybe that’s a common practice offstage.

    • armerjacquino

      I suspect transcription fail. There’s no way that sentence can be made to make any sense unless it’s just the verbatim of someone who abandoned a clause half way through and began a new one.

    • Krunoslav

      I assume a comma was implicit before the word ‘dying’.

      Even so, not all that many sopranos get strangled; Desdemona in RF’s rep, and Fiora in L’AMORE DEI TRE RE outside of it.

    • I can think of a lyric soprano or two I wouldn’t mind strangling, but that’s neither here nor there.

      • I want NAMES!!!!!!!!!!

        • davenport

          Well the most obvious soprano La Cieca would strangle would be Renee Fleming -- he’s been trying to murder her in print for years.

          • I’d have to find her neck first.

            • davenport

              Not an original quote -- Noel Coward said the same about Claudette Colbert.
              Try using your own wit.

            • rapt

              Gee--do you suppose LaC didn’t make up “ladies and germs” either? Could it possibly be--oh, I don’t know--an alLUSsion?

            • antikitschychick

              LOLLL @ ladies and germs. I’m stealing that; gracias rapt ;-).

            • lyrebird
  • Gualtier M

    Question to La Cieca: are you going to see “Living on Love”? There are $20 rush tickets available for the first three previews.

    I am going this Friday with an open mind and all the best wishes for Fleming’s success in a new medium. BTW: she comes off well in this interview though personally I find her so studiously correct and self-conscious in her presentation (interviews and hosting HD’s) that I doubt she has much comedic sense. But I live to be surprised.

  • Grane

    “It’s a comedy, a farce…”
    Now, don’t be so hard on yourself. Armida wasn’t that bad.

    • semira mide

      Well, the way they performed Armida at the Met it WAS that bad. Poor Rossini.

  • javier

    you guys are chewing on the same old bone. armada was 5 years ago. armada was performed by a new soprano in Pesaro last summer and she was no where near as good as Renee was Pesaro 22 years ago or even at the Met 5 years ago.

  • olliedawg

    Renee is a goody-two-shoes, the Shirley Jones of opera (SJ pre-Elmer Gantry, that is). When she hosts Live in HD, she tries to project spontaneity and sincerity, but cannot offer a spark of danger, no sense of “will she go rogue?” like that her BFF, SuzyG, who brings wit and a dash of craziness to those breathless backstage interviews, including this particularly loony exchange with Karita Mattila:

    or how SG humanizes the supposedly “cold” Elina Garanca:

    • IDK, I think Renee was part of one of the unintentionally funny HD moments when Bobby Alagna decides to make a subtle pass at Renee in front of his then-wife Angie:

    • Porgy Amor

      Well, the thing about Garanca — however she comes off as Carmen or Charlotte or whatever — is that she doesn’t seem cold at all offstage. She smiles and laughs easily, she shares a lot without someone having to drag it out of her, and she’s a supportive colleague. I heard her interviewed more recently by Mary Jo Heath on the radio (Carmen matinee with Y. Lee) and she was the same as above…although without the delightful visuals of bouncing up and down when she found something amusing.

      • DeepSouthSenior

        Any mention of Garanca catches my attention. We’ve been round and round about this many times, but honestly, for me she always “sizzles” onstage. It’s never a flameout, but always a perfectly controlled burn. And I LOVE this interview (I almost never use All Caps!) immediately after Act II of the Live in HD Carmen from 2010. Garanca and Alagna are still “wired,” the juices are flowing, and they obviously enjoy working together. Not even Renee’s listless interview technique and typically inane questions can dampen their spirits:

        • olliedawg

          DSS: I believe Gelb writes a lot of the inane interview questions, and it’s the brave soul who dares go off-script (go, SuzyG!)

          • messa di voce

            “Gelb writes a lot of the inane interview questions”

            Evidence, please?

            • olliedawg

              MDV: “Believe” is not the same as “know.” I don’t have any inside information. I have heard many times (and much of it here on Parterre) that Gelb is very hands-on in general, and that these intermission tete-a-tetes are of particular interest to him.

          • Gelb is Executive Producer for the HD series, and one responsibility often taken by people in such a position, whether for film or television, is some level of approval of the script. That approval may be delegated in some cases, though I understand that so far as written copy goes, Gelb is quite hands-on in approving and making suggestions for changes.

            Arguably, interview questions in this sort of situation need to be relatively light: you don’t want to stump that interviewees or have them say something that reflects negatively on themselves or on the organization. It’s not journalism, after all, it’s entertainment, and besides that it’s entertainment targeted to an audience that is not very expert at opera. So the hard-hitting questions you’re looking for really don’t belong in this context.

            • Yeah, I always hear Gelb’s voice in the HD scripts. And I agree that the questions need to be fairly light in this context. For one thing, there isn’t enough time to ask and answer serious artistic questions. And it’s also an imposition on an artist who is mid-performance to be getting into a serious discussion. Whenever artistic questions are asked, they fall dead. I suggest that the questions should be even more light hearted. Forget about asking the diva what was going through her head when she sang that difficult aria. I have yet to hear an interesting or worthwhile response to that question.

            • chicagoing

              The PBS broadcast of the latest Richard Tucker Gala included pretaped comments by the artists about performing at the gala, the aria they were about to present etc. Ingeborg Gillebo spoke about being called last minute to perform and not even having anything with her to wear. When they interviewed her coming off the stage the final question asked of her was “So where did you get your dress?” I wanted to hug the interviewer through the screen. That was exactly what I wanted to know! (Answer: Macy’s).

            • armerjacquino

              The HDs from Covent Garden put up a hashtag before the show, and ask the singers a few (carefully vetted) questions tweeted in by viewers, which seems a decent compromise.

          • DeepSouthSenior

            Well, I don’t know, and don’t care to know, who actually writes the Live in HD interview questions. I can only say, “Stop It!” Put a little thought and intelligence into the process, please, and give the audience credit for having some intelligence as well. There’s only one possible answer to the predictable query, “What do you think of this new production?” (The safe answer is really the public relations point, isn’t it?) Just once wouldn’t you like to hear, “I think it’s a piece of crap. It’s a tribute to the singers that we can get through this disaster in one piece and still focus on the music.” Instead, how about a question like, “What special challenges do you face in this new production?” The singer can reply thoughtfully, without being on the defensive to spit out the predetermined response.

            Even worse is the question, “Do you enjoy performing with X_______, who is standing beside you right now beaming from ear to ear, basking in the glow of a career-enhancing star turn at the Met with a worldwide audience?” Just once wouldn’t you like to hear -- No, not going there, that’s too easy.

            Many interview questions could be turned from stupid to stimulating with the change of a word here, a different phrase there. Like many things in life, a little careful preparation can yield big results.

            I ran the first draft of this post past Mrs. DeepSouth for her thoughts. She suggested that HD viewers be encouraged to send in questions for specific performers ahead of time, that there be a mix of the artistic and personal (“Anna, with his special challenges, how’s your son doing in school these days?”), and that the performers be briefed in advance. I would add, how about a gift certificate to the Met Opera Shop for best question of the day?

            • DeepSouthSenior

              I posted my reply before reading La Cieca @ 9:28. I don’t see a real conflict between the two posts. What I’m arguing for is more though-out and intelligent questions, not highly technical or hard-hitting ones. I think you could still preserve the entertainment value while improving the quality. There are people who are experts at asking and recognizing good questions (real journalists, not mere new readers, for example). Why not learn something from people who really know how to do it?

            • manou

              Far be it from me to contradict Mrs DeepSouth (who one gathers may have to face her own challenges), but the Thiago question would be insufferably intrusive and certainly out of place.

            • DeepSouthSenior

              manou, the suggested question for Anna N. was in the context of viewers sending in questions for pre-approval by the performers. I agree completely that it would be highly inappropriate to spring such a personal question on anyone in public, especially in an entertainment forum.

              You are also correct that Mrs. DeepSouth faces many challenges of her own, 95% of which are due to me.

            • antikitschychick

              Hey there Deepsouth, I was going to politely suggest that the question about ANs son might not be the most appropriate though I see manou has already addressed that.

              I do agree that the questions for the intermission interviews can be varied slightly to be made more interesting and I agree they should encourage people to submit questions through twitter or FB to make the interviews more spontaneous and engaging. I’d also suggest that they ask artists what future plans they’re most looking forward to or what exciting new roles they’ll be taking on…especially to the artists that aren’t active on social media. That way we can get a sense of what they’ll be up to and for the ones that are active they can promote themselves and their twitter or Instagram accounts so we can know what they’re up to.

              I agree that the question about the production is silly though they have tweaked it somewhat by asking what it’s like to work with the director instead and sometimes we do get interesting amswers. A lot also depends on the artist as well and how much effort they put into answering the questions. There are also language barriers to consider in the case of many singers so it’s tricky but I agree that they can be improved, although at the last HD I saw the interviews were good, albeit it was La Donna de Lago with JDD who is super smart, funny and articulate. The rest of the cast and conductor gave good interviews as well.

            • manou

              Dear DSS -- I was indeed sympathizing with Mrs DSS as another grandmother with a very…..lively husband of my own.

            • DeepSouthSenior

              manou, Mrs. DSS feels your pain!

              To connect this family talk to opera singers: I can scarcely imagine the pressures that traveling performers with young families have to endure. We could never heap enough praise on mothers who have to juggle family and career (what a sterile, clinical phrase!). 24/7 would be a good start. I thank God that most women are stronger emotionally, physically, and spiritually than most men, or we’d all be lost.

              How can artists with such responsibilities perform so consistently in public at such a high level of art? I cannot understand talent and determination like that, but I can praise it. (That’s one reason why I’m a little uncomfortable with savaging an artist for a bad run. We rarely know what people are going through in their personal lives. It could be, of course, that they were rotten for reasons that were under their control. On the other hand, I don’t earn my living as a critic, so I’m under no obligation to serve up readers the hard, cold facts on a platter.)

              I hesitate to mention high-profile, A-list singers who seem to “have it all” as performers and mothers, for fear that I should be seen as criticizing others. I’ll just say that we should rejoice with the one, and empathize with the other.

            • manou

              Well last Tuesday after an overwhelming performance of Butterfly M. manou and I were invited to dine with the cast (so that we could be per$uaded to be more generou$ with our mode$t donation$ to the ROH). We rubbed shoulders with the sensational Kristina Opolais (best Butterfly I have ever seen), Brian Jagde (who had the edge over some lame Pinkertons I have seen), but our table companion was the delightful Enkelejda Shkosa (Suzuki) who was telling us about her own circumstances as she has two daughters and now lives in Milan. It seems that she has a “strong husband” who is an invaluable support, and she was saying that in effect, this was their life, and they all had to fit in with all her absences and that the family did not know anything different.

              She is also the Suzuki on the Pappano/Kaufmann/Gheorghiu Butterfly recording, and was very interesting on the subject of Gheorghiu. She said she had heard all the stories about her, but she was absolutely charming to everyone during the recording -- she also said that Gheorghiu sang incredibly beautifully (she said she got goose pimples listening to her).

              (Our dear doyenne can be assured that I did not ask any stupid questions…)

            • Sounds like a lovely evening, Manou.

              Useless fact: That recording of Butterfly was featured in an episode of Desperate Housewives.

            • Lady Abbado


              Enkelejda Shkosa — is she the one in this video sitting by Angela’s side from minute 0:21 onwards? Always wondered who that is!

            • manou

              Yes Milady.

            • LT

              manou, you misspelled Opolais’ name!!!!!!

            • manou

              LT -- I shall commit seppuku on the stage at Covent Garden with one of my ancestors’ sword.

            • DeepSouthSenior

              antik, I’m trying to find something serious to disagree with in your posts, but it’s really hard. There are far worse problems!

              Speaking of the “super smart, funny and articulate” Joyce DiDonato: Those qualities were wonderfully on display during the recent Berlin Philharmonic Live Lounge from the Baden-Baden Easter Festival. Great fun from all, and good discussion of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust, to be broadcast live on Digital Concert Hall, April 11th. Two beautiful, charming, media-sharp, world-class musicians talking music and life (Joyce and host Sarah Wills), with four pretty cool male orchestra colleagues joining in. Doesn’t get much better than that. With her natural gifts in front of the camera, and her interviews and programs, I’ve designed horn player Sarah Willis as classical music’s Queen of Visual Media.

              Direct link to last Saturday’s Live Lounge (don’t see it on YouTube yet):


            • DeepSouthSenior

              JDD’s excitement at meeting Brigitte Fassbaender, who is directing Der Rosenkavalier at the Baden-Baden Easter Festival, is one of the most endearing and genuine moments I’ve ever seen. “I think I embarrassed her!”

            • DeepSouthSenior

              I’m going through the Live Lounge from Baden-Baden again now. There are so many great anecdotes and “quotable quotables” that I’m tempted to write them down. Joyce would love to sing Scarpia, Principal bass’s other instrument to dream about -- the voila! (jaws dropped), etc.

            • antikitschychick

              Thank you so much for sharing that DeepSouth; I hadn’t seen it and it was an interesting chat; will try and get through all of it later, and speaking of amazing tidbits, how about Joyce’s anecdote about Simon Rattle telling her she should sing the Marschalin!! LOL. (Her response: are you crazy?!?!?) Next time someone on here gives me a hard time for a role suggestion I make (I’m looking at you armerjac! :-P), think I’ll just defer to Sir Rattle’s lovely suggestion as an example of how subjective that whole business is :-D.

            • olliedawg

              There was an exchange between Graham and JDD after the glorious 4th act of Les Troyens, wherein JDD asked how the role of Didon had deepened for Graham over the years…and Graham flung her arm around JDD and asked, “How long do we have?,” to which JDD replied, “About 30 seconds…”

          • antikitschychick

            olliedawg deary, you’re belief is correct:


            “But this morning in late October, only months after his most difficult season — a season of scathing reviews that indicted him for accenting spectacle over cohesive drama and various other felonies having to do with his taste, temperament and sensitivity to criticism — he has decided to overhaul a script. Any underling could handle the job of rewriting remarks for the soprano Sondra Radvanovsky when she introduces the Met’s “Live in HD” broadcast of “Otello” in two days, but Gelb is an unabashed micromanager, and the Met’s “Live in HD” broadcasts didn’t become his capital achievement because he let somebody else make the coffee.

            So he opens his laptop. The stakes will be high the afternoon of the show, he notes. Johan Botha, the tenor playing Otello, has been out with a cold and will be making a comeback in front of 4,000 opera fans in the house and another 250,000 watching in movie theaters around the world. Better call them “discerning” — 4,000 discerning opera fans in the house. He types some more stuff about adrenaline and taking vocal risks, and now he needs only a line to wrap things up. He recalls a phrase he heard years ago in Italy when he was representing classical artists and producing music documentaries, one that conveys the backstage intensity of an opera house as the curtain is about to rise. It pretty much sums up life at the Met — for the performers and for the man in charge, in need of a comeback himself after a bitter, bruising year. “As we say backstage: In bocca al lupo. Into the mouth of the wolf.”

            • antikitschychick

              **YOUR**. Sorry for that glaring error.

            • messa di voce

              I stand informed, thanks to you and olliedawg.

            • DeepSouthSenior

              I did not know that Herr Doktor/Maestro/Impresario/Big Boss/HRH Peter Gelb was also a ghostwriter for the New York Times (at least for the first half of the article, anyway).

              You gotta love this paragraph:

              “And yet if plenty of people are over the moon about the changes, plenty of others are keening arias of Internet rage and indignation. This, after all, is opera, opera in New York, not some dainty pastime like professional hockey, and the stage is crowded with grumbling members of the old guard who aren’t renewing subscriptions, disenchanted reviewers, vendors of vitriol on blogs like Parterre Box, self-described ‘opera queens’ bristling at the loss of beloved productions and even old-fashioned letter writers like the one who recently sent Gelb a hand-scrawled note saying: ‘You are an uneducated disgrace to the Met. Resign now!’”

              “. . . vendors of vitriol on blogs like Parterre box . . .” I can see some of us in the stands at Yankee Stadium, “Vitriol, hot vitriol. Get your hot vitriol here!”

            • Cicciabella

              “In bocca al lupo.” Wow! Peter Gelb: cosmopolitan, original and refreshing. Get a professional script writer, for heaven’s sake! I like the ARTE opera live approach to interviews. Interview the singer/conductor/director beforehand, pose questions worded to glean insight into the work , edit the interview into something coherent and broadcast it during intermission. Unfortunately, lately they’ve been imitating Live in HD interviews: inane questions to singers in costume who don’t have the time or concentration to give anything but stock answers: She’s such an interesting character, My coleagues are so nice/hot/talented, The director can actually read music…Hurrah! And then those greetings to family and friends in HD theatres in various languages….use Skype for Pete’s sake. Who wants to hear Singer X crooning to her granny in Turkmenistani? Well, maybe many people do, but I don’t. Get Ira Siff to script the questions and Media-Friendly Singer to put them to her colleagues, in pre-recorded, edited conversations. If you must have interviews with singers (some would ask why), professionalise them. Late evening rant over.

            • olliedawg

              Thanks, antikitschychick, for the info.

              I cannot abide questions like “how has this role deepened for you over the years?” because it is a great question requiring more than 30 seconds of thought and intelligent conversation. We have many incredibly sharp, insightful opera singers with us today who can speak to questions like that with real-world examples and experience. Graham’s 30-second answer to such a question was actually spot-on (paraphrasing here): “X many years does a lot to a person, and everything that happens to us in real life we bring to the stage.” But, I wanted to hear more about that “everything,” not as gossip, but what was the pivot point? what in particular changes an artistic POV? And, that is a way different conversation than a breathless, high-adrenaline sound bite.

              BTW, I so want to go to SF and see that Graham/Antonacci Troyens. I’ll bet it’s going to be completely fabulous.

            • marshiemarkII

              “. . . vendors of vitriol on blogs like Parterre box . . .” I can see some of us in the stands at Yankee Stadium, “Vitriol, hot vitriol. Get your hot vitriol here!”

              Oh DSS, with this one you have entered the Pantheon of Parterre’s Greats!!!!!

              This is so camp I just nearly fell off my chair laughing, you made my evening!
              May I also declare you an Honorary Q?

            • antikitschychick

              Cicciabella, your suggestion about him hiring a professional scriptwriter is great, except, considering the financial woes they’ve been dealing with and the outrage over the Poppy flowers, I suspect if he spends money on a script writer for 5 minute-long interviews he might as well nail the lid on the coffin so to speak.

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

              Last week I watched the Wiener Staatsoper Livestream of “Aida.” The opera is done with one long Pause, and featured a taped, fascinating, intelligent interview with Ryan Speedo Green, a new ensemble member, who sang the King in the performance (along with Radvanovsky, D’Intino and some poor 27-year-old tenor screaming and wobbling his way through Radamès). On other Livestreams, they show taped interviews in various languages somehow relevant to the show or backstage life. For a ballet performance, they told the story of how toe shoes are made and then interviewed about a dozen ballerinas who illustrated – with gusto! – how they “break-in” a new pair of toe shoes. It was both informative and sometimes hysterically funny. They also did a piece following a long-haired tattooed stagehand as he went about his business. Another one differentiated between what is construed as a prop and what constitutes scenery (and who’s in charge of it). I’d rather see any of those at a Pause than an insipid live interview penned by Gelb with a singer who still has an act or two before the performance ends.

            • DeepSouthSenior

              marshiemarkII, Go ahead and “declare” away. I’ve had lots of labels attached to me in my lifetime, and not a one has harmed me yet. Besides, nothing could possibly be as inflammatory as “Mississippian.”

            • manou

              “Vendors of vitriol” is a venerable old chestnut -- does anybody remember the “effete knives”?

            • In re: “effete knives”, I see that commandopera has been taken over by Japanese. A new front in the Senkaku Islands dispute? Anyway, I am guessing dude was involuntarily committed.

            • LT

              JML, when can we expect the unveiling of the new season at Wiener Staatsoper?

            • Bill

              LT -- the 2015-16 season at the Wiener
              Staatsoper will be online at 12 noon
              (Vienna Time) on April 9th. The printed
              season booklet will be available for purchase at the same time.

          • antikitschychick

            you’re welcome olliedawg, and I completely agree with you about that question as well. Some singers can think on their feet and give us some good soundbites, but others need the thirty seconds just to get the first flashback going lol and that’s fine. I definitely think Gelb should get some input from other staff members on this and ask the singers what they’d like to be asked as well…or just let the viewers ask the questions…they can ask for questions through social media on the days leading up to the performance, pre-screen them and get them approved by the performers and voila, if the questions suck then we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves :-D.

  • olliedawg

    I think Garanca is completely delightful offstage — funny (in about 5-6 languages), warm, intelligent, realistic about her strengths/weaknesses as a singer, and generally not too full of herself. Just b/c she’s blond and from Northern Europe doesn’t automatically make her “cold”. Isn’t it time to toss that tired trope? Plus, like Ms. SG, she seems grounded in a way that defies another antiquated trope, wherein all opera singers are disdainful snobs detached from reality (although that makes for much more interesting copy, and there still exists those creatures — I’m looking at you, Angie baby).

    • Some people find her a cold Carmen. And somehow that has morphed into a stereotype about Nordic singers. I agree that she is absolutely delightful off-stage presence. And she has given some passionate performances (Sesto and Giovanna come to mind). But I still think her Carmen was rather coolly (and uninterestingly) sung. I don’t think anyone has referred to her personality as being cold.

      • olliedawg

        kashania, I so totally agree about her Sesto — that’s the first time I’d seen/heard Garanca, and I was complete floored Her “Deh questo” was a revelation. And that interview I posted was such a wonderful introduction to her personality. Loved the bouncing up and down, and what seemed her genuine admiration for Graham’s work in the same role.

        As to her Carmen, she makes a wonderful sound. She looks great. Her interaction with Alagna makes for a compelling onstage pairing. Sometimes she seems to lose a bit of dramatic focus.

  • StageLefty

    The MOST entertaining possible use of available singers at the HD interval(s) might be to put a camera with all of them (comprimari, too, not just the stars) in a comfy lounge, feet up, with no moderator (or conductor…) present and let them dish amongst themselves. That is where the gold is, in my experience… Cher public would then appreciate those artists who have outrageous and hilariously entertaining personalities that are usually cloaked in deference to the formality of the audience. (F bombs will be dropped, guard the children.) The ones who have nothing of charm to offer can hide in their dressing rooms… The stars who do not socialize with “house singers” will be revealed as the outcasts in the room. Uh oh… It’s starting to sound more like an episode of Big Brother… Never mind.

  • Satisfied

    antikitschychick: Thank you!

    You just reminded me to purchase tickets to Les Troyans for an upcoming San Fran visit with the lovely Susan Graham and extraordinary Anna Caterina Antonacci. Just purchased some nice seats in the orchestra, but wow, seats are becoming scarce!

    • antikitschychick

      you’re very welcome Satisfied, though I’m puzzled as to how I did that lol. Are you sure it was me who reminded you of purchasing the Troyens tix??

      • Satisfied

        Oops! It was olliedawg I meant to thank! Thank you olliedawg.

        • antikitschychick

          thought so :-P

    • olliedawg

      You’re welcome, and I’m beyond envious. Please post your impressions here on Parterre.