La Cieca

James Jorden (who writes under the names "La Cieca" and "Our Own JJ") is the founder and editor of parterre box. During his 20 year career as an opera critic he has written for the New York Times, Opera, Gay City News, Opera Now, Musical America and the New York Post. He has also raised his voice in punditry on National Public Radio. From time to time he has directed opera, including three unsuccessful productions of Don Giovanni, a work he hopes to return to someday. Currently he alternates his doyenne duties with writing a weekly column on opera for the New York Observer.


“Newcomers to opera sometimes don’t get the appeal of a dramatic form with so few surprises. Audiences know how Tosca ends before the performance even begins. Earlier this month, though, two operas provided some measure of suspense.” JJ’s latest reviews in Gay City News.

on October 27, 2005 at 9:34 PM

The only thing better than knowing that a singer has had the greatest Sternstunde of her career is having that performance documented. Montserrat Caballe‘s Norma at Orange, for example, which is one of truly must-have DVDs for any true opera fanatic. Now, Dame Gwyneth Jones has had many great nights in her amazing career, but…

on October 25, 2005 at 3:02 PM

La Cieca has found her new theme song.

on October 22, 2005 at 3:56 PM

Twice the terror as murderous twins! Joyce Castle is Edith Phillips! Lypsinka is Margaret DeLorca! DEAD RINGER“Loved? You’ve never loved anyone but yourself!”

on October 21, 2005 at 7:30 PM

UPDATE: Not only are Gli Alagni scheduled for Aida at La Scala in 2006 (as noted yesterday), La Cieca has just heard that Peter Gelb has promised them a new production of Carmen at the Met in 2009-10. And, yes, Gheorghiu is the Carmen, not the Micaela. This is all at least four years in…

on October 21, 2005 at 3:53 PM

parterre box fave Aprile Millo is on WQXR tonight at 9:05 PM EDT in a broadcast of a concert given for the George London Foundation. Sharing the bill are tenor Garrett Sorenson and Ken Noda on the 88s. You can listen in to the excitement here.

on October 20, 2005 at 11:45 PM

The next time you roll your eyes at an operatic plot complication involving mistaken identity, just consider this: Mirella Freni‘s cancellation of her gala peformance of Fedora at the Washington National Opera last month was apparently due to a bungled phone message. According to a WNO insider, La Freni telephoned the company’s main office to…

on October 20, 2005 at 4:45 PM

To mark the 70th birthday (and rumored retirement) of Luciano Pavarotti, “Unnatural Acts of Opera” presents a performance from the tenor’s pre-superstar period. It’s La boheme opposite Mirella Freni, with Thomas Schippers conducting, as broadcast on RAI (Rome) on July 17, 1969. After the acts, it’s even more of the Pav, singing scenes from I…

on October 16, 2005 at 2:55 AM

Early reports from the Ann Arbor edition of the Renee Fleming Daphne Show (additional music by R. Strauss) might have been written by La Cieca herself: “”two hours of excruciating agony,” and “a snooze . . . . high register from back in throat, spread notes.” Well, at least La Fleming won’t the the only…

on October 14, 2005 at 9:00 PM

Quiz question: who said this, and in what context? “If you’ve got the right image and the right picture in your head, it makes a huge difference. The more you work with words in songs, the more you will find your texture. These are light, light songs, but if you really infuse them with a…

on October 14, 2005 at 6:11 PM

“It’s always a treat to start the season with a pleasant surprise, and an exciting new dramatic soprano is one of the nicest discoveries of all—particularly when she heads up one of the strongest ensemble casts the Metropolitan Opera has fielded in years.” That’s our editor James beginning his 2005-06 season as a reviewer in…

on October 13, 2005 at 11:39 PM

Ever feel a pang of nostalgia for the good old days when people dressed for the opera? For a quick cure, here’s a link you should keep bookmarked. It’s the “Look Book” section of New York magazine, featuring photos of some of the attendees of the opening night at the Met. By the looks of…

on October 13, 2005 at 3:30 PM

Beginning tonight on “Unnatural Acts of Opera,” La Cieca presents a potpourri of operatic scenes and arias sung by latter-day stimmdiva Aprile Millo, including selections by Rossini, Verdi, Beethoven , Dvorak and Cilea.

on October 12, 2005 at 8:34 PM

Cher public, those of you who have written to La Cieca wondering at the frequency Anthony Tommasini uses the word “strapping” to describe opera singers of the male persuasion — well, wonder no more. According to the New York Times archives, Tony has flogged his favorite modifer no fewer than 44 times in the past…

on October 10, 2005 at 5:05 PM

A few of La Cieca’s cher public wrote in to complain that last week’s podcast, the Beverly Sills farewell gala, offered lots of gala but not much Sills. So we’re remedying that this week on “Unnatural Acts of Opera,” with an all-Sills program featuring music by Handel, Mozart and R. Strauss.

on October 10, 2005 at 1:42 AM

After what an insider described as a “messy” dress rehearsal that included several cracked high notes (due to allergies? or nerves?), Olga Borodina may or may not be singing the prima of Cenerentola at the Met tomorrow night. On dit that Joyce di Donato has been rushed through the staging in preparation for a last-minute…

on October 07, 2005 at 5:45 PM

….Last scene of allThat ends this strange eventful historyIs second childishness and mere oblivionSans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste…But those eyebrows aren’t going anywhere!

on October 05, 2005 at 8:15 PM

Have the years flown that fast? Well, you tell La Cieca. She just this past weekend realized that it’s been 25 years since Beverly Sills retired from singing. To put that in persepctive, the duration of her retirement (1980 – 2005) is now exactly equal to the duration of her New York City Opera career…

on October 03, 2005 at 6:45 PM

La Cieca sat through Terrence McNally‘s latest effort, Dedication, Sunday afternoon, and the best thing she can think to say about it is that this play makes a whole lot of opera librettos look like masterpieces of literature. There’s this husband and wife children’s theater team who are trying to convince a dying grande dame…

on October 03, 2005 at 2:06 PM

The recently-premiered opera The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant is webcast by the BBC this afternoon at 2:25 New York time, a broadcast from the English National Opera. The Beeb’s website describes the work so: “Gerald Barry‘s new opera, based on the play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, translated by Denis Calandra, exploring the tortured…

on October 01, 2005 at 2:22 PM

You know, it’s one thing to flounce around dusting the floor of a church with your silken train, the meantime flaunting your bosom to the Blessed Virgin, but it’s another thing altogether to take a heartfelt hymn like “Amazing Grace” and transform it into cheap soundtrack music. Can’t someone stop this woman?

on October 01, 2005 at 1:55 AM

Comments, requests, complaints… or other reactions to the Tristan podcasts? And for those of you listening “at home” (as opposed to on the Ipod), here’s a wonderful resource: a complete libretto of the opera with hypertext leading to an English translation and illustrations of the Leitmotiven.

on September 29, 2005 at 4:04 PM

First he lost his Grand Tier, then his Floral Hall, and now, it appears, beleaguered benefactor Alberto W. “Albert” Vilar is about to lose his UN Plaza duplex. The newly-listed apartment boasts 20 rooms, including 6 bedrooms, 10 full bathrooms, 3 powder rooms, a sun-drenched eat-in kitchen, and sweeping views of the East River, the…

on September 27, 2005 at 6:10 PM

“As I have never in life felt the real bliss of love, I must erect a monument to the most beautiful of all my dreams, in which, from beginning to end, that love shall thoroughly satiated. I have in my head ‘Tristan and Isolde,’ the simplest, but most full-blooded musical conception. With the black flag…

on September 27, 2005 at 4:29 PM
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