Voices from far and wide across the opera world, including your writers, are excited to fête this bittersweet milestone and look forward to the next 30 years of the box!

Michael Anthonio:

To Parterre Box on Your Thirtieth
(A Sonnet of Gratitude)

Even though thirty in age you are
To the opera world and online
To near and far queens of various sign
You’re undoubtedly the greatest star

Although La Cieca has now gone far
Her passion still radiates so fine
Cover us all like a bright sunshine
To you, my dear, I say ‘au gloire’

Thank you for all the encouragement
For all the love and the support shown
Keep pushing me to be better self

So now, a word of acknowledgement
No better blog will ever be known
The rest of them can stay on the shelf!

Dorothy Bishop, parterre productions muse:

I met James around 1995 when he was dating my roommate – who was also an aspiring young opera singer. I had an audition for Nedda and James said “hey let me coach you” and I got the job. lol. So we kept conspiring. My opera career was short lived, but James loved my humor and my many voices, and I loved his amazing ability to write and laugh at divas and politics. My career went from a pop opera solo career (he found this crazy disco Nessun Dorma track for me) on luxury ships to Sarah Palin impersonator (he wrote amazing political humor) to the now “Dozen Divas show” which includes a “James Jorden” inspired impression of Renee Fleming singing Jazz. He was also my good friend. GOOD friend. Like the kind who would bail you out of jail. Though I never went to jail but he did lend me the money to fly home once from a really scary tour in Mexico. I am very proud to have been his friend, and one of his protégés. RIP my dear friend

Callum Blackmore:

Baba the Turk writes Dr. Repertoire (click image for full piece)

Charles Busch:

James Jorden made his first entrance into my life at an intimate gathering of male opera aficionados. Early in the evening, he made a wisecrack about Renee Fleming’s vocal tone that was so outrageous I thought I’d faint and end up with my face in the onion dip. Immediately, I checked out the Parterre Box zine and saw that James’ glittering acid writing style was the perfect expression of his public personality. We didn’t see enough of each other but his Facebook posts and hilarious sardonic comments on other people’s posts, my own included, kept him front and center. Once I told him that as a lifelong Judy Garland fan, I mourn that she wasn’t cast as Madame Rose in the 1962 film of Gypsy. Within twenty-four hours, James posted a half dozen meticulously photoshopped images of Judy’s face superimposed onto Rosalind Russell’s body. It really made me feel that I’d seen Judy as Rose. It was an example of the sweet kindness that lay behind his wicked wag exterior. Making the fantastic a reality for others is a great gift.

Christopher Corwin:

When I first read parterre box in Spring 1994, I could never have imagined what a large part it and James would play in my life. 

About ten years after I first subscribed to the irresistible pink pages, I met James at a party. We had only a fleeting acquaintance over the years until 2011 when I responded to one of his open calls for writers. He unhesitatingly invited me into the fold, as he nearly always did. This past summer he mentioned that after more than twelve years my parterre posts totaled more than 400,000 words! Therefore, I’ll keep this one short.

In September 2015 my relationship to James and parterre changed dramatically after he suggested I start “Trove Thursday.” That same month I also became parterre’s first reviewer accredited by the Met. From then until late this past summer, James and I were in almost daily Messenger contact—never, ever by phone. We also regularly saw each other at performances, nearly always at the Met.

We couldn’t have been more different in our tastes and habits, yet we forged a close bond nonetheless. I feel I knew James both very well and not at all. It was painful to witness to his slow decline which began with the COVID lockdown. Like many others, I offered to do what I could to help—but he always declined. But even toward the end he was brimming with ideas about how to keep parterre lively and relevant particularly after Opera News was euthanized

Parterre’s future will be challenging especially without his special genius around. But James’s uniquely generous openness to all the passionate voices that make up the parterre family will continue to inspire us to keep its spirit alive. 

Thanks to Joel Rozen for the photo of James and me on Met Opening Night 2017.

Happy 30th

David Fox:

Patrick Clement James:

When I think of Parterre Box, I think of La Cieca—dear James, who always treated me with extraordinary warmth and kindness. Certainly, one of my greatest teachers, he was a philosopher of beauty. Obviously, his knowledge about music was encyclopedic; still, his expertise wasn’t limited to the operatic stage. It was wide-ranging and profound: Mae West, Marcia Davenport, James McCourt, Joan Crawford’s eyebrows, the Gillian Girl, Tony Kushner, cock rings etc. Drawing on Coleridge, Virginia Woolf suggested that a genius mind is androgynous, and therefore “resonant and porous.” James had that kind of mind—resonant and porous with images, ideas, gossip, advice. He represented a whole tradition—one that is slowly slipping away—of partisans, cultural cruisers, devotees, disciples—the cognoscenti. As New York City sinks further into the clutches of plutocrats, who else can scrounge up the same bonhomie, acidic wit, and wisdom that James regularly brought to the lobby of what he affectionately referred to as Sybil’s Barn? James was utterly irreplaceable.

Henson Keys:

I think I’ll start with my Parterre “origins.” Many years ago, James decided to expand his staff of writers. He asked anyone interested to send him their mailing address so he could send us a DVD to review as a “test run.” When I opened the DVD, I found to my chagrin that James had sent me a DVD of Siegfried (not Richard) Wagner’s obscure opera DER KOBOLD! I had never heard of this opera at all. I watched the DVD and quite enjoyed the piece, then wrote what I thought was a perceptive review. James thought so too, and began sending me numerous DVDs and CDs to review. The rest is history–I’ve written well over a hundred reviews for the site. James was actually the architect of my writing career–I used my Parterre materials as samples to Opera News Magazine, was hired, and wrote reviews for them for nine years until the magazine’s recent demise. I always admired James for his wit and clarity of purpose. I usually let him choose the titles for my reviews, and they were inevitably clever and usually funny. Miss you James!

Nicola Lischi:

I met James Jorden 30 years ago as he was distributing copies of his very first issue of Parterre Box outside the Met and even inside the lobby, and security “kicked” him out. We made friends: I think he was intrigued I was from Italy and that I was already reviewing for an Italian publication, and asked me to become a collaborator. We decided I should be “Nicholas Fishbones” (and later Ercole Farnese) I on the other hand was intrigued by his vast knowledge, and his very sharp sense of humour which was perfectly reflected in his reviews and articles. At times I couldn’t believe he could get away with it without being sued (or was he? I don’t remember). I’ve rarely met someone with the same knowledge and wit. I was aware of the online “fights” he got involved with, but with me, he never ever had an unkind word: only praise for my reviews, which he hardly edited. I will miss James.

Patrick Mack:

I had been a subscriber to Parterre as a magazine and then there was a long period where I lost touch until I found the website. Having been raised in a city without an opera company (LA) and with no opera fans amongst my friends it was like a secret world. I always loved the blind items. When La Cieca asked for applications for critics I jumped at the chance. I wrote on my email that Andrew Porter in the New Yorker had been my primary musical education and that my favorite singer was Leontyne Price but Renata Scotto taught me to love the words as much as the music. I had no idea at the time that these were essentially ALL the magic words. I sat back confident that I was going to slay my first assignment until it appeared in the form of a Handel opera I had never even heard of (!?!?) James Jorden was always very kind and encouraging and my debt of gratitude to him is enormous. His great skill as an editor (and his talents with headlines) were bountiful. I always told people that he sharpened my pencil. I will miss him very much.

Aprile Millo:

I used to call him a young lion. This was someone who, without fear, reigned supreme in his world, fearless about Opera. Passionate about the Gay Rights movement he combined his two world views forever changing both first in print and then breaking records online with his now legendary Parterre Box. He had an unflinching honest opinion of the driving force and the mystical force that is Opera. His reviews were thoughtful, irreverent sometimes controversial, but always informed by his unique vision of opera as a living and breathing art form. A clever and resourceful Director. I was thrilled to see his shows as they were unerringly inventive and entertaining/filled with a deep knowledge of Opera on its own terms breaking with tradition on many an occasion but never breaking the tradition. Opera is meant to amplify life and all its emotions, and I always felt like that’s what he did for us/ encouraging new young critics and promoting an environment style of to each his own. He was an an extraordinary friend and I will never forget him. T’abbraccio sempre e per sempre James.

Kevin Ng:

There weren’t many opportunities for a fledgling teenage opera lover where I grew up, and scrolling through Parterre became a daily part of my after-school routine. It was the best possible education in opera but also in argumentation, from the insightful reviews to the cutting one-liners in the comments below. It also opened my eyes to an entirely new vocabulary – that of the queer world, and how queerness exists in parallel or more often in opposition to art and society. It offered the education and the community that every young, closeted teenager needs. James himself could not have been kinder, mentoring me from my first feeble attempts at opera blogging through to my first reviews for international newspapers. It never struck me as a teenager that Parterre had an age, or that indeed it could be older than I was. But Parterre has inspired generations of young opera fans before me, and with a great team of James’ friends and colleagues at the helm will continue to do so – what a legacy.

Niel Rishoi:

Though this 30th anniversary of Parterre Box is indeed bittersweet, we can honor James’s memory by continuing the mission: to provide the most individual, independent opera coverage and discussion, arguably the best out there.

RIP La Cieca, and may her memory in perpetuity imperiously saunter down, a la Zinka, the opera house aisles!

Harry Rose:

I met James at Caramoor on July 7, 2012 at Caramoor during intermission of the American premiere of Ciro in Babilonia — by the end of the show, he had asked this very sweaty 14 year old if he was interested in writing for Parterre (which I read occasionally and was absolutely intimidated by). I said yes, and that’s how it began. ‘Growing up’ on this website as a writer, a reader, and a colleague has been the greatest gift – there is no better, more informed, more generous audience that I could hope to write for. Parterre is as much a community as it is a platform; as we forge ahead into the next 30 years without James’s guidance (though with his spirit ever-present!), it’s comforting to think of the ways we might grow as both. Happy birthday, parterre box!

Ira Siff:

I met James in the ’80’s when I had La Gran Scena, and he auditioned to be cast in a diva role. His offerings were brimming with style and intention. Alas, as with many a great diva, the voice didn’t always live up to the desires of its owner, but it was apparent that this was a person of extreme intelligence and understanding. I always believed he could be one of the most insightful stage directors for opera. When Parterre emerged, it was a thrilling moment for those with the passion. I sensed that passion in our audience then, and the understanding of every minute detail and performing quirk. This, of course, changed as so much of our audience passed away in the ’80’s. Parterre remained a hotbed of passion, opinion, knowledge, under James’s guidance. It never lost its edge, even when a wider (well-deserved) public caught on due to the cyber world. As Madame Vera, I was deeply honored to appear on a few covers and do some interviews. Being covered in Parterre meant you’d arrived – sort of  like having Lois Kirschenbaum call you for comps and queue up for 10 autographs afterwards. Those were the days. Viva Parterre. And many thanks to James and all those involved.

Dan Soda:

As the (unofficial) almanac of Parterre, I tried to avoid giving too many personal opinions, especially in re today’s more controversial stagings of traditional operas or on the myriad of new singers on the scene that I’m not familiar with. Only occasionally did I offer my insight on live performances, operas I’ve attended at the Lyric and Chicago Opera Theater, and studio recordings and telecasts that I cherish. Instead posting birthday and anniversary tributes of favorite singers, conductors, directors and stars of the screen and stage was my little way of getting discussions started, especially when Cieca and other Parterrians shared a special memory with the group. Through it all Cieca was encouraging, suggested changes in the On This Day presentations, and often found alternative video postings that I might not have been aware of. Like, the Parterrians were able to correct the specifics, many of you having access to a wide variety of information not always found on the web. In my way I do feel a part of something bigger than you or I or opera for that matter. As the years pass, this becomes even more dear to me.

Members of cher public are welcome to celebrate with us in the comments and peruse other anniversary reflections from John Yohalem, Zachary Woolfe, and Dawn Fatale.