Despite my frequent attendance at the Met when parterre box made its clandestine debut, I never came across a copy in the mens’ restrooms. Instead, I found my way onto the parterre masthead via “” where James Jorden was a frequent and feisty poster. One day, I wrote to him and asked if he wanted to join me at a masterclass sponsored by the Met – the exact details have vanished along with that aol account. He graciously accepted. After all, at that time, the Met certainly wasn’t going to offer him a ticket. Afterwards, we kibitzed and kvetched and he performed a highlights reel from his bottomless Font of Anecdote. 

Shortly thereafter, he asked if I might be available to help him mail parterre to its growing ranks of subscribers. And so it truly began. In those days, if you had a pleasant interaction with James and a suitably queer sensibility, you got asked to write and to help with mailings. Mailings were a rite of gay passage for me. When I was a grad student in Boston, I spent most Friday nights at the offices of Gay City News, stuffing and licking. So, it was predestined that I would end up doing the same for parterre.

I cherished those times despite the drudgery of the work and creepy vibe from the spectral presence of James’s roommate. We would blast whatever pirate recording currently obsessed James or watch whatever grainy video he had managed to procure – all of which seemed to feature Gwyneth Jones. There was the Flintstones inspired staging of the Die Frau ohne Schatten from Paris and an unlikely Merry Widow. Eventually, we would get giddy from the smell of envelope glue and devise listicles and potential photoshops for parterre such as this one for an imaginary (I think) Renée Fleming album.

Eventually, I acceded to James’ offer to write for parterre box. I would not have embarked on my very minor career as a critic were it not for his gentle encouragement coupled with his flashes of Lady Bracknell imperiousness. And I definitely would not have found my voice without him. For me, James’ biggest impact on opera writing was to have the writing in parterre mirror how queer people talked about opera amongst themselves: the creation of stratospherically high stakes for every performance, the unwavering conviction about what was best for the art form and every singer’s career, and the love/hate relationship with filth. It was as though the characters in Mawrdew Czgowchwz had staged a palace coup at Opera Snooze. Today, online criticism is a veritable snarknado –  somewhat in the style parterre but lacking parterre’s ability to convey the life-changing power of a great performance.  As writers for parterre, we got to confess how opera changed our lives, with sincerity and without regret.

Every few months James would send me an email or an IM to ask if I was interested in writing about some topic of his choosing. One of those asks was for a few words about how Joe Volpe was doing at the Met. Well, this is how that turned out. What you don’t see on the page is all the time and care James put into that piece. So many conversations and rewrites – all of which made the piece better and me a better writer. In the months after James’s death we learned of how many writers he nurtured along. I deeply miss my editor, muse and friend.