Dr Repertoire is speaking backstage to an elderly diva.
Dr. Repertoire: Who ever could forget your Norma, Signora? Flawless!
Diva: (giggles) Oh, you are too kind!
Dr. Rep: And your Violetta. People talk about Maria Callas? Callas was caca!
Diva: Well, Maria, she did what she could....
Dr Rep: And your Gioconda was superbly memorable, a real "fait accompli!"
Diva: Eeek! I love it when you speak French, Dr. Repertoire. (slyly) Can I see it one more time?
Dr Rep: But the signora has seen it three times already this evening!
Diva: Just once more, only for a moment! Oh, please.
Dr. Rep: Well, all right. (lowers his trousers) There you are, Signora.
Diva: I just can't believe how big it is!
We look down to where the old lady is peering:
Dr. Rep: An honor, Signora... oh, and just one thing?
Dr. Rep: You will grace us with your presence at the benefit gala this Sunday, won't you?
Diva: (giggles) Oh, but I haven't sung since 1966!
Dr. Rep: Then your return is long overdue.
Diva: Well, on one condition. May I autograph the tattoo?
Dr. Rep: What an honor for me! (hands her a very sharp ballpoint pen)
Diva: There we go... "With warmest personal regards and molti auguri..."
Dr. Rep: Thank you Signora, that was....
Diva: "Your faithful friend and sincere admirer, wishing you the best success with your gala performance... and in all your future career ... or other endeavors....
Dr. Rep: Are you by any chance running out of ink yet?
Diva: "Signed: Madgdalena .... Assunta ..... Biancofiore.... Meneghini.... Dallapozza-Cattaneo."
Dr. Rep: (grimacing with pain) No need to add anything...
Diva: "On this fourteenth day of June in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and One..."
Dr. Rep: (weeping) Is it Sunday yet?
Diva: See you then, dottore mio! (she hobbles away, cackling)
Dr. Rep stands for moment, weeping in pain.
Dawn Fatale: Ahem, ahem. Uh, I didn't mean to interrupt you while you were sucking up to the old lady.
Dr. Rep: "Sucking up to the old lady!" Come in, Mr. Tact! Oh, just look at me! Once the enfant terrible of internet opera journalism, "the Matt Drudge of Opera" they called me -- now nothing more than a middle-aged fag with ink running down his leg! That's what I get for trying to produce opera!
Dawn: But you have talent and taste, Dr. Rep. Why can't you produce opera?
Dr. Rep: Dear boy, there are two rules to being an impresario. The first is "You can't make money doing opera."
Dawn: And the second rule?
Dr. Rep: "YOU CAN'T MAKE MONEY DOING OPERA!" I have lost my shirt -- and now, almost, my pants, in trying to support even a small amateur company. Look at me, Fatale, I'm reduced to flattering voiceless crones who sang in cover casts, old bats who weren't fit to clean Laurel Hurley's shoes. And I'm no Laurel Hurley fan.
Dawn: But people are starting opera companies all the time. Surely they must make some money.
Dr. Rep: Oh, starting the company is easy! You get a corporate sponsor, you throw a fundraising gala, the critics show up for your opening night and some of them even stay awake. But after that, it's all downhill. Opera is a money pit; and the money that goes into that pit is your own. If only there were a way to start an opera company but not to have to actually produce opera, then you could make money.
Dawn: Say. You know, purely as an exercise in creative arts management, this is an interesting problem. Suppose you announced the creation of a new company, did all the fundraising, and then didn't produce opera?
Dr. Rep: Of course, if you didn't produce opera, you wouldn't lose money...
Dawn: And if you have money, but don't lose money...
Dr. Rep: Then you make money!
Dawn: Of course, if your first production is a success, you are stuck producting opera.
Dr. Rep: And you lose money!
Dawn: So you would have to make sure the opera flopped.
Dr. Rep: And make money! I WANT THAT MONEY! (he starts to jump up and down with joy)
Dawn: Stop, stop! You're going to crush me, the way Nero did to Poppea. You know, she was unfaithful to him and he jumped up and down on her and squished her.
Dr. Rep: What kind of Mark Lamos productions have you been watching? Nero and Poppea break all the laws, destroy all their enemies, take the money and live happily ever after.
Dawn: So if Nero and Poppea can do it...
Dr. Rep: So can we! Now, the first step, as I see it, is to get a corporate sponsor.
Dawn: Not an arts grant?
Dr. Rep: Are you insane? Arts grants are given by panels of artists, and artists are notoriously unstupid. But corporate bigshots, well, if they had any sense, would they be billionaires in the first place?
Dawn: I see your point. Who is your sponsor?
Dr. Rep: A wonderful man. Sings in the choir, but doesn't want anyone to know. Heavily into the chandelier thing...
Dawn: He does crystal meth?
Dr. Rep: No, I mean real chandeliers, like 40 rooms full. He has so much money he doesn't know what to do with it. So he puts it into opera, with only one small condition. You have to put his name on the production: Alberto Viofive.
Dawn: I've heard of him. He's the one with the blimp that flies over the Met in the Parks, right?
The next day. Dr. Rep and Dawn are walking
Dr. Rep: Now, you understand, this is just the first installment. For this seed money, Mr. Viofive insists that his name be on the poster, the program, the proscenium arch, the seat titles, and (this is new!) embroidered onto all the costumes.
Dawn: It could be worse.
Dr. Rep: Well, actually, it is worse. (they stop in front of a tattoo parlor)
We see a closeup of a tattoo needle inscribing "Viva Viofive!"
Dr. Rep: Quiet, I’m trying to concentrate. Now, the worst possible opera. Not the worst possible artistically, otherwise we could just commission something from Tan Dun. What we need is an opera to offend the largest number possible of our audience. (looking at a score) "Diary of One Who Varnished: The Martha Stewart Story." No, too good.
Dawn: "Typing to Vermeer." Too good.
Dr. Rep: Oh, this is it! Dawn, name the opera with the worst attendance record in Met history.
Dawn: Uh, "Death in Venice."
Dr. Rep: Precisely, you can count on an audience being offended by any sort of gay subject matter.
Dawn: Except for the gay audience, of course.
Dr. Rep: And what offends the gay audience?
Dawn: Anything that doesn't have cute boys in jockstraps?
Dr. Rep: So here we are: "Bareback in America," libretto and music by Andrew Taliban.
Dawn: The conservative columnist? Wow, is there anything he doesn’t think he can do? The subject sounds offensive enough for the straight audience. But barebacking — that surely implies jockstraps at some point.
Dr. Rep: Everyone on stage will wear one. But not cute buff supers, like at the City Opera. These will be real opera singers. And — wait — we don’t cast Rodney Gilfrey.
Dawn: Opera singers in jockstraps? I'm queasy already.
Dr. Rep: And now, we need only find the worst possible stage director. I've got it! Finocchia Zamboni, the only stage director I know who can take an opera about gay men and turn it into a feminist tract.
A rehearsal hall at NOLA.
Dawn: (announces loudly) Will the singing bottoms please wait in the wings? We are only seeing singing tops! Nobody. This is strange. I seem to remember that New York singers were a lot more butch than this.
Dr. Rep: What we need is singers who are terrifically expensive and terrifically unreliable. Someone who will cost us a fortune and then cancel. I've got it. Send in Roberto Lasagna!
Lyric tenor Roberto Lasagna enters the hall
Dr. Rep: So tell us, Roberto...
Angela: One moment. We always sing together you know. What is my role in this opera?
Dawn: Miss Ghaghiu, maybe you don't understand. This opera is about a homosexual man with many lovers, and...
Angela: Perfect. I will be the homosexual, and Roberto can be one of my lovers. I am surprised I have to think of this for you.
Dr. Rep: I love it. She even offends me!
Backstage at the performance.
Dawn: So, let's see if I have this right. The orchestra is on strike?
Dr. Rep: Check.
Dawn: The stage direction is simultaneously horribly complicated and hopelessly confusing?
Dr. Rep: Let me put it this way: at the dress rehearsal, the director's girlfriend was booing. Now, is Miss Ghaghiu ready for the performance?
Dawn: Well, she refuses to wear the jockstrap, but she says she has a Dior ballgown and some body glitter that she thinks looks right for a gym queen.
Dr. Rep: I see she's been to Chelsea. (Loud booing is heard) We're in!
Next day. Dawn Fatale is reading the New York Times.
Dawn: "As an out gay man who is offended by just about everything, I must say that ‘Bareback in America’ was the most impressive piece of musical drama I have seen since ‘Central Park.’ A brilliant parable about the evils of materialism, the opera stars Angela Ghaghiu as a diva involved in symbolic 'orgies' with unattractively flabby representatives of corporate culture (brilliantly symbolized by their wearing jockstraps emblazoned with the name ‘Alberto Viofive‘). Finocchia Zamboni's staging was a witty parody of post-modern mise-en-scene, complete with bungled set changes, meaningless movement and even a lighting instrument plummeting onto the stage, narrowly missing the performers. A particularly chilling touch was the absence of any orchestra music, signifying the death of art in a commercialized society. A superb first effort for Dr. Repertoire's opera company, and we all look forward to more."
Dr. Rep: Tommasini missed the point. Alert the media! Wait, he is the media. Now, surely there are others. What did the others say?
Dawn: Let's see. Terry Teachout thought it was a "searing indictment of bleeding-heart political correctness." Heidi Waleson calls it "accessible." And Peter G. Davis says "not half so bad as it might have been."
Dr. Rep: Raves! And Martin Bernheimer?
Dawn: Hated it.
Dr. Rep: That's it! I knew we could count on Martin!
Dawn: But he adds that "anyone as obviously talented as Dr. Repertoire and Dawn Fatale should surely be given a second chance."
Dr. Rep: Where did we go right?