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April 24:
Is this the new Stefan Zucker?

April 23: This one is just a whisper at the moment, but La Cieca has heard that Mirella Freni is not going to show up for the Met Pension Fund gala in May? Like I said, it's just a whisper, but...

Those of you listening to today's intermission feature during the Met's Walkuere broadcast just heard Sally Billinghurst  (in her adorably artless manner) confirm our March 15 item (below) about Placido's next new role. So sorry, Tommy!

April 20: The Richard Tucker Foundation has chosen tenor Eric Cutler as the winner of this year's big award, La Cieca hears. Career grants go to Anna Christy, Latonia Moore and Brian Mulligan, and the three Sara Tucker awards go to Jordan Fish, Dimitri Pittas and Michael Todd Simpson. So now you know...

March 15: La Cieca hears that Thomas Hampson may not be singing his first Met Simon Boccanegra in 2006-07 as scheduled. The rumor is that Hampson has been asked to step down so that Placido Domingo can add this role to his already vast repertoire. Can Placido's Kostelnicka be far behind?

March 5:
Our editor James returns to his roots as a stage director with Così fan tutte later this month. (Cosi was the first opera he ever directed all the way back in, well, the Reagan era.) The opening performance is Thursday, March 17 at 8:00 p.m. at the Dorothy Jones Theater at Singers Forum, located at 49 West 24th Street (4th Floor). Tickets for this performance are $10, $5 for students/seniors. (Phone 212-366-0541.)

A second performance returns to a familiar venue, La Belle Epoque at 827 Broadway (between 12th and 13th Streets) on Sunday March 20 at 7:00 p.m. Dinner will be served beginning at 5:00 p.m. For this performance there is a $20 cover and $20 food/drink minimum. Call (212) 254-6436 for reservations.

Featured in this [Working Title] Opera production are Kathleen Berger (Fiordiligi), Kristin Dauphinais (Dorabella), Amelia Watkins (Despina), Jorge Garza (Ferrando), Dennis Blackwell (Guglielmo), and Chad Armstrong (Don Alfonso). Musical direction is by Eric Malson

March 3: Have you noticed lately that a certain magnificent soprano looks like she's just swallowed a canary? Word on the street is that she's making a change of scene, crossing the bridge from performer to impresario of one of America's grandest opera companies. If this is indeed the case, here's hoping this metamorphosis will be the crowning glory of her career!

February 22: In response to
a very official-looking email from the Business and Legal Affairs department of the Universal Music Group, La Cieca reluctantly must now reveal that the mp3 she mischievously identified as "a track from Renee Fleming's new jazz album" is in fact nothing of the kind. The clip was meant as a travesty of Fleming's attempts at jazz. Believe me, it was the farthest thing from my mind that anyone who reads La Cieca could have such a tin ear as to think the breathy cooing on this clip could possibly have anything to do with "The Beautiful Voice." To recap: for the irony-impaired among you, this clip is not the real Renee Fleming: click here.

February 8:  La Cieca has just been informed that the legendary team of superagents Bruce Zemsky and Alan Green have packed their bags and moved out of CAMI, presumably to start up their own management firm. Zemsky and Green handled artists ranging from Marcelo Alvarez to Mariana Zvetkova; no word yet on how many of the dozens of Z/G artists will jump ship along with the duo.

February 7: Finalmente! That David Gockley story La Cieca's been blabbing about all this time has at long last been confirmed. Yes, indeed, Gockley will be be the new head honcho of San Francisco Opera. Those of you who have been holding your breath since December 16 can finally exhale and read the details in the Houston Chronicle or, if you prefer, Gockley's inaugural interview with Joshua Kosman in the San Francisco Chronicle.

February 6:
In the current Gay City News, our editor James reviews Dido and Aeneas as performed by New York Chamber Opera.

La Cieca's new Web radio show presents "Orgoglio di Bellezza" -- a Valentine's Day program of great operatic love stories including:

Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore, as performed in 1976 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Jose Carreras is Nemorino, Yasuko Hayashi is Adina, Thomas Allen is Belcore, and Sir Geraint Evans is Dr. Dulcamara.

Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini, a live performance from New York in 1973, with Placido Domingo and Raina Kabaivanska in the leading roles. Eve Queler is the conductor.

Puccini's La fanciulla del West, a live radio performance from 1961, with Renata Tebaldi as Minnie, Daniele Barioni as Dick Johnson, and Giangiacomo Guelfi as Sheriff Jack Rance. Arturo Basile is the conductor.

Wagner's Tannhaeuser from the 1961 Bayreuth Festival. Wolfgang Windgassen is heard in the title role, with Victoria de los Angeles as Elisabeth and Grace Bumbry as Venus. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is Wolfram and the Landgraf is sung by Josef Greindl. Wolfgang Sawallisch is the conductor.

Verdi's La traviata, featuring Anna Moffo. She is joined by Renato Cioni and Mario Sereni in this live 1964 performance from La Scala, conducted by Herbert von Karajan .

Plus love duets from Otello, Tristan und Isolde, Andrea Chenier, Manon, and L'incoronazione di Poppea.

To listen, just click here .

February 3: This is getting ridiculous, folks. La Cieca, sitting here in New York, reported four days ago that David Gockley had accepted an offer to helm San Francisco Opera. And now she hears that Gockley broke the news to his Houston Grand Opera staff "days ago." And still no announcement from the city by the bay! What their press office waiting for, a slow news day?

January 31: Breaking News! According to a source at San Francisco Opera, David Gockley has accepted the company's offer to serve as their new General Manager -- exactly as rumored and then predicted here in La Cieca's column!

January 18: New York Chamber Opera (in collaboration with La Gran Scena Opera Co. di New York) presents an updated, politically-charged version of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas this week, directed by Ira Siff and conducted by the Met's Lucy Arner. Performances run January 20-24 at the beautiful, intimate Thalia Theatre at Symphony Space, Broadway at 95th Street. For reservations, phone (212) 864-5400 (major credit cards accepted) or go to www.symphonyspace.org.

January 16: You heard it here first. In fact, you heard it here a month ago -- and now the "other" media are finally picking up on the operatic story of the year. According to the Houston Chronicle, David Gockley is mulling an

offer from San Francisco "to lead that city's legendary but troubled opera company."  (Back to top of La Cieca )

La Cieca was delighted to read the enthusiastic reviews for Deborah Voigt' s first Marschallin in Berlin. The  Berliner Morgenpost first commenting on the rumored "40 kilos" Voigt has lost over the past year or so, raved, "She sings the Marschallin in her bold high-dramatic voice, like Isolde out for a stroll in the Prater, but without sacrificing fine detail or clarity of text. Her diction is clear and idiomatic, and her phrasing is tender. Her large-scale operatic gestures redefine this Rosenkavalier production in a more traditional mode. This Marschallin is an undisputed success." And the  Tagesspiel praised the soprano for the "grandeur" and "seductiveness" of her intepretation. 
 
December 20:  Which diva, star of a new production that was one of the Met's hottest tickets of recent years, has refused to repeat her role in a future season because she can't stand the staging? We'll hear her sing a different title role instead.

December 16: The whirlwind of speculation over the next career move of Matthew Epstein (summarized below) continues. A usually reliable source informs La Cieca that, no, Matthew is not going to run San Francisco Opera; rather, he'll take on a prestigious position with Sony. The SFO gig (our source continues) will almost certainly go to David Gockley. So who gets Houston, then? Stay tuned. (Back to top of La Cieca )

Our editor James reviews the Met's Rodelinda, plus Nelly Miricioiu in Vespri Siciliani, in the latest issue of Gay City News.

December 15: Once Matthew Epstein has left Chicago (as reported this morning at musicalamerica.com), you can be sure he'll have better things to do than rest on his laurels. La Cieca hears that Matthew has his eye on San Francisco Opera, succeeding Pamela Rosenberg there. But the competition for this post is fierce: front runners include Charles MacKay of St. Louis and Christopher Hahn of Pittsburgh. And yet another prospective intendant has recently thrown her hat in the ring: none other than Carol Vaness is ready to be "directa" of SFO.

November 4: Our editor James is interviewed about the film Callas Forever on NPR's

Morning Edition.

November 22: Let the dancing in the streets begin! Jonathan Miller, who has spent the last two decades multitasking between creating pretentiously dull opera productions and whingeing about the stupidity of opera and opera singers, has at long last decided to call it quits. Following a sure-to-be-listless staging of La Clemenza di Tito in April 2005, the self-described "angry and bitter" polymath will devote his remaining years to fabricating junk-metal sculpture. You'll find more details (and more whingeing) in this article in

The Guardian.

The perfect stocking-stuffer for the 2004 holiday season is a new CD on the Homophone label, "The Muse Surmounted." The disc is a sampler of the art of "twelve women singers of a certain class, including Florence Foster Jenkins and her rivals," according to producer Gregor Benko. He's also the author of the Waldo Lydecker-style program notes, revealing oodles of scandalous and previously-unknown (by me, anyway) secrets of such beloved divas as Mari Lynn, Vassilka Petrov, Olive Middleton, plus an artiste new to me, Tryphosa Bates-Batcheller, who more than belongs in this august company. Enough already, you need this CD. Go to

The Muse Surmounted Homepage and order your copy today!

November 2: The remarkable Donald Collup has produced an amazing documentary called “Never Before,” detailing the early years of the career of Astrid Varnay. Donald will offer the premiere screening of this film at The Vocal Record Collector’s Society on Friday, November 12 at 520 Park Avenue at 8:00 PM. The documentary includes commentary by la Varnay (recorded last year) on such varied topics as her vocal training, her theory of acting, and her surprise Met debut, plus candid comments on colleagues ranging from Ljuba Welitsch to Teresa Stratas.

Highlighting this presentation is a collection of examples of Varnay’s singing culled from live performances 1941-1955. For more information on "Never Before," go to Donald’s web site.

November 1: Whispers have been heard that that a certain Italianate diva has been putting off (perhaps until too late) the study of a much-anticipated new role. Does she realize she’s gambling with her career? That SRO audience may be shouting "Bravo" to a different singer entirely!

October 29:La Cieca has risen from her long slumber long enough to overhear the name of Joe Volpe's successor at the Met. It's Peter Gelb of Sony Classical fame, who will take over the reins in August 2006 upon Volpe's retirement.

Hearing Daniel Oren mangle Boheme at the Met last week, our editor

James remarked, "After this, that guy will be lucky if he can get arrested in this town." And, what do you know, the old skinhead got it right! According to New York's ABC 7 Eyewitness News this morning: ".... a famed opera conductor was arrested last night at the Metropolitan Opera in Lincoln Center just moments after leaving the stage, charged with failure to pay child support. Daniel Oren had just finished conducting a performance of La Boheme when cops from the 20th precinct greeted him for the encore. The 49-year-old maestro faces a Manhattan family court judge a little later today." In a breathtaking exclusive, La Cieca has obtained a photo of the aftermath of the arrest.

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