Cher Public

BASTA: Call me by your game

Or maybe—he knew it!—it was his crazed admiration for Renée Fleming that drove the boys away.

It was already nearly two in the morning, late for a work night, and Nixon Ben Mahmoud was ashamed to find himself shedding real tears. 

He never cried, he whimpered from the corner of his bed. Wasn’t supposed to. He just felt so rejected. He’d just come, for chrissakes; he was still fucking naked.

And then, there it went again: his brain, detonating with questions.

How could the familiar furnishings of a Chelsea apartment feel so suddenly indifferent, unwelcoming? Why all this loneliness, with a lover right there? Would he ever feel close to another man again? What was the use of bicep cultivation, if an arm couldn’t hold down a man? Or was the holding problem related instead, he wondered, to his other parts?

Could it be about his busy schedule as the Architecture Museum’s new deputy director of development? Or maybe—he knew it!—it was his crazed admiration for Renée Fleming that drove the boys away…?

Nixon’s gaze moved searchingly, from lamp to rug to gold picture frame to bedspread to corner dumbbells, landing on his prized record collection. His boyfriend was at a loss.

“Baby, maybe we could work this out,” Angus offered. “I mean, I guess I don’t have to take the job right away.”

“Don’t you?” Nixon snapped back. “You said they wanted you in L.A. next week.”

“They do. But who can predict the future? I might hate it. Maybe by March I’ll be back in New York.”

Angus relaxed his arm behind his head. He always looked so tidy after sex, tucked between the sheets. Nixon couldn’t stand it.

“Don’t bother. God, you really know just how to twist the knife, Angus.”

“Baby. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know when to tell you? How to tell you—hell, if I even had to tell you. I mean, I might not accept the offer.”

“Seems to me your mind’s already made up,” said Nixon curtly, burying his face in his hands. “And who could blame you. It’s the Getty. Who am I to stand in your way.”

“Well, if you’re not willing to try…”

“Try? Try what? Might we revisit what happened the last time you were in L.A.? A week into a month of long-distance, and you’re asking to open things up. No, not again, Angus. I’m not up for that kind of torture.”

“That was a year ago, Nixon.”

Nixon started crying once more. The display looked awkward to Angus. As he watched his partner’s brawn collapse, he now wanted to leave more than ever.

“Nixon? Nixon. Please stop.”

“I can’t, Angus. I think this is it. We’re over.”

“Well, we can always play it by ear, right?” Angus remembered Bidding for Buildings, the silent auction fundraiser Nixon had organized for the coming spring. “Maybe we could see each other there and reevaluate?”

“Please don’t dangle the carrot. You know I’ll just wait for you until then.”

“Or you’ll do another opera. Weren’t you telling me about BASTA just the other day? The most handsome supernumerary. I’ll fly in to see you.”

“Please don’t patronize me, and I’m not your baby. If you leave, there’s nothing I’d want less than to see or talk to you ever again.”

From Nixon’s first-floor apartment, they could hear the distant rumble of the subway rolling in. Late as usual.


Samuel Schmidt was wrapping an obituary the following morning when his boss turned up at his desk.

“Sam!” Peter Fox, culture editor for the Metro Times, slapped his star arts reporter on the back. “What you working on now?”

“Oh, it’s that Leslie Dragoon obit, still,” Sam sighed. “But almost done with it.”

“Yikes. What a horrendous story, right?” Earlier that week, in an incident worthy of the Darwin Awards, NYU’s renowned Chinese opera scholar-in-residence had been found at home impaled on a dizi flute. He’d apparently tripped on his blow-up doll.

“Awful. And surprisingly hard to get a flattering quote from his colleagues, I must say. No one cared for him much.”

“Well, keep on it…” Peter shrugged.

“So how’d the Jerold Offerman interview go?”

“Hasn’t happened yet,” Sam replied. “His management is stalling. But they promised we’d have him on the phone by the end of the day.”

“That’s very good! Wanna rehearse?”

“Oh, no need. I think I’ll mostly be asking about that night Maestro Offerman spent at the Fruits de Mer in 2011. The two boys from the Boca Young Artist summer program allege that he bought them Caipirinhas and then invited them to his hotel room for an all-night session of Hungry Hungry Hippos. They were just teenagers at the time.”

“How quaint.”

“I wish I could say the incident was isolated. But get this. I just got an email from another kid, suggesting an intense session of Boggle in Montenegro in the early Eighties…”

“Jesus. What’s next, Mystery Date? What’s Algonquin Opera got to say?”

“Spoke to the general manager yesterday. Alberti sounded awful. You know they have that Lucia reboot on the horizon and Kaufmann’s already out. They really can’t afford to lose their conductor as well.”

“So they’ll ignore—”

“Actually, Alberti says they might not this time. Looks like Offerman’s facing a probable suspension.”

“So Mr. Carlos Alberti is finally caving.” Peter was authentically shocked. “I can’t believe it.”

“Nor can I,” Sam admitted. “You know, it’s strange: for years I’d assumed the rumors I’d heard about Offerman were like some weird joke. There was never any corroborable story, no punishment, no consequences, no reason to believe anything was up with the guy except that he was like this great symbol of eminence for both the Algonquin and the Cleveland Orchestra. The best mentor a singer or rising conductor could ask for. Now it’s looking more and more like his indiscretions were an open secret all along.”


“So I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’d like to ask Offerman when we talk. I’m honestly not even sure he knows what’s going on yet.”

“Well, whatever you do, I’d be sure to get him on the record about Carlos,” said Peter. “That man’s got skeletons in his closet.”

The editor stooped to retrieve a pen from the floor.

“And Twister too, I bet.”

Illustration by Ben A. Cohen


  • Baron Douphol

    we prefer facts to fiction on this site. thank you.

    • Who’s this “we” on whose behalf you’re speaking?

      • Baron Douphol

        i don’t think i am the only one who feels this way. i love opera more than novellas.

        • Luvtennis

          I fail to see how Mr. Rozen’s contributions to the site hinder your love of facts and opera (interesting juxtaposition there) in any measurable way.

          Plus, speak for yourself, please.

          • Baron Douphol

            it does detract from opera. it’s wrong for this site; it’s superfluous.

        • Armerjacquino

          You should maybe check your mouse is working. It seems to be forcibly clicking on things you don’t want to read.

        • Jay Haskell

          I think you’re right. It’s just not the site for this fiction. Yes one can skip it, but then you start skipping other articles and soon there’s nothing left to read.

          • grimoaldo2

            ” one can skip it, but then you start skipping other articles and soon there’s nothing left to read.”
            You mean to tell me you read every single article published on this site and if you skipped one you are afraid that might escalate until there was nothing left to read?
            Maybe you are being sarcastic, or something.
            Anyway I find this series quite entertaining.

          • Armerjacquino

            ‘I don’t like the look of this post and won’t read it. Which somehow means I’m not going to read other posts either’

            Um, ok. I’m sure it made sense in your head.

        • You’ll be surprised and delighted to learn that you aren’t required to read every item on this site, let alone take the time to put down someone’s creative efforts.

          • Baron Douphol

            hey, look, i love me some gay erotica-- i’m certainly not trying to put it down- i just don’t think it fits with the focus of this site.

      • Baron Douphol

        Looks like “we” is Jay and me.

    • iidiotboxx

      I’m fairly certain this serial has been the only piece on Parterre with the guts to address the most devastating story to hit the opera world for some time. That Parterre hasn’t provided a shred of context around Levine and the Met’s negligence to confront his abuse is news itself. If it comes in the form of a serial replete with wacky characters, tangled love stories, and references to New York’s fine arts scene, I’ll happily take it.

      • Our Own JJ

        Well here it is. I was badly under the weather the weekend the Levine story broke. Once I was feeling better (when it was no longer breaking news) I tried writing about it but frankly all I could think of to say was “this is a horrible series of events, but at least it prevented James Levine from squatting at the Met for another ten years.”

        Beyond that, I am firmly of the opinion that whatever may have transpired between consenting adults half a lifetime ago is none of my fucking business and nobody else’s fucking business either. So I decided that if any of the regular parterre commenters had a burning need to vent their hypocrisy and self-righteousness, there were plenty of other places they could do so without my having to monitor the site constantly for potentially libelous content.

        • iidiotboxx

          A post from La Cieca that said “this is a horrible series of events, but at least it will scrape James Levine out of the Met instead of having him squat there for another ten years” would have certainly been less peculiar than no post at all.

          I’d also offer that I see no conflict of interest between upholding your entirely valid personal opinion (though there were no ‘consenting adults’ in this story: four men accused Levine of molesting them when they were in their teens) and reporting this. I’m none the wiser on the personal opinions of Michael Cooper, Zach Woolfe, Terry Teachout, Mark Swed, or Anthony Tommasini (or, for that matter, any of the individuals in the Twittersphere who rightly took Gelb and the Met to task) regarding consensual sex, yet they have each contributed something thoughtful to this cataclysm.

          I sucks when Teachout is more forthcoming than Parterre. Perhaps more to the point, I still can’t believe this is a sentence that was published somewhere other than these pages: “I once knew a great conductor who claimed that he never boarded a plane to a new orchestra without a tube of lube in his pocket.” (

          This isn’t meant to be a challenge, but offer your regular Parterre commenters the same courtesy you have Levine and not rush to judgment; we aren’t all necessarily hypocritical and self-righteous. If anything, it’s meant more as a love letter expressing my disappointment with Parterre’s crickets when everything else here is so expertly, creatively, fabulously covered. A story about sexual power and abuse of privilege and institutional rot deserves your brilliance.

        • fletcher

          Glad you’re feeling better, JJ.

  • Camille

    You’re the funniest thing to hit parterre’s box in a very long while, not to mention — and in the true visionary spirit of the original ‘zine concept, rather than it being just a bunch of us ancient old opera biddies sitting around chewing our respective cuds.

    So, you keep on writing all these down (to paraphrase Joseph Kerman), as this old cow is gonna chew up all the cud you’ve got, and ‘specially can’t wait to hear if J Offerman gets suspended -- or not!

    The SUSPENSE of it all!!!


  • Camille

    Tip to the Wise:

    Your amatory affairs might be improved considerably by removing that portrait of Dame Joan/Julia Varady/Mme Née-Née/Whomever from without the bedchamber.

    Perhaps to be put in the maid’s room instead?

    • Luvtennis

      I hadn’t noticed the picture but yes!!!! It is intriguingly incongruous!

  • Finally got a chance to read the latest, Joel. Thank you. The cast of characters is growing and I look forward to seeing it all come together.