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.


La Cieca notices that those lovely people over at Berkshire Record Outlet are offering what might fairly be called a plethora of opera performances on DVD, for just $8.99 a pop. Particularly drool-inducing selections include La Grande-Duchesse de Gerolstein (Regine Crespin), Lakme (Joan Sutherland), Carmen (Denyce Graves, Roberto Alagna), Un ballo in maschera (Carlo Bergonzi,…

on August 03, 2005 at 3:00 PM

Imagine a world where alarm clocks dictate when to go to sleep…. where ugliness is beautiful… where it is a crime to make anything perfect… and where the cheap seats at New York City Opera cost $45.00. Welcome to the Bizarro World, arriving this fall at the New York State Theater. NYCO has jacked up…

on August 02, 2005 at 8:00 PM

At first glance, the photo from San Francisco Opera’s Billy Budd looks like any other opera featuring Nathan Gunn, i.e., pug nose in profile, chin a-jut, freshly waxed chest front and center. But on closer inspection, it turns out that Billy is getting a tweak from Mr. Squeak: “Warm as a sailor’s pants, gay as…

on August 02, 2005 at 7:05 PM

This week on La Cieca’s podcast Unnatural Acts of Opera, we hear Virginia Zeani and Giuseppe Gismondo scale the verismo heights of Mascagni’s Il piccolo Marat. This 1962 performance also stars Nicola Rossi-Lemeni and Afro Poli; Ottavio Ziino conducts.

on August 02, 2005 at 2:02 AM

La Cieca has sneered quite a bit at Anthony Tommasini lately for his slipshod coverage of the Met’s archives and a really repellent obituary of Piero Cappuccilli. But it’s not like Tony is alone in his bumbling. This morning’s Newsday included a wire-service obit of legendary cabaret diseuse The Incomparable Hildegarde, who departed this world…

on August 01, 2005 at 4:48 PM

This week it seems Tony Tommasini can’t do anything right. First he cooed over Renee Fleming‘s impossibly arch performance at a Mostly Mozart concert. Well, subjectivity and all that; still, you have to wonder where bad taste ends and starfucking begins. Then, in this morning’s paper, ironically in a piece about the Met’s archives, Tony…

on July 31, 2005 at 2:09 PM

The ineffable Leyla Gencer gives a master class in grandezza in the latest episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera. The diva stars as La Gioconda in a live 1971 performance of Ponchielli’s opera.

on July 26, 2005 at 2:10 AM

Placido Domingo wants to conduct at Bayreuth: Domingo will in Bayreuth den Taktstock schwingen. (And is La Cieca the only one who thinks that headline sounds like the first line of a Lieder text?) One presumes that on the dark night between Siegfried and Goetterdaemmerung, Domingo will jet to Los Angeles to sing a quick…

on July 25, 2005 at 3:52 PM

Something for the weekend: La Cieca presents Act 3 of Die Walkuere as the latest Unnatural Act. The performance is a classic: Bayreuth 1951, Varnay, Rysanek, Bjoerling, Karajan.

on July 22, 2005 at 3:56 PM

Piero Cappuccilli, considered one of the finest Italian baritones of his generation, lies in an advanced state of putrefaction today. He died July 12, but for reasons best known to Anthony Tommasini of the Times, that passing was not noted until today, i.e., nine days after the fact. Perhaps if Cappuccilli had achieved “international stardom”…

on July 21, 2005 at 4:15 PM

La Cieca wants to let you in on the ground floor of what looks to be the tipping point in podcasting: Odeo. This web-based service offers the easiest and most elegant way she’s seen yet to receive podcasts: subcribe, synchronize, download, or just listen on the built-in player. The site promises in future to include…

on July 21, 2005 at 2:45 PM

More bad news for Alberto Vilar. The Royal Opera House has given him 60 days to pony up the 10 million pounds he promised in return for their naming a reception area of the theater “The Vilar Floral Hall.” (Is this guy the Gladys Glover of opera or what?) Says Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas (chair…

on July 21, 2005 at 1:45 PM

At long last, the final act of Bellini’s sublime bel canto masterpiece Norma, with Montserrat Caballe, Gianni Raimondi and Ivo Vinco. A 1974 performance from Moscow, Francesco Mollinari-Pradelli conducting. Plus: a new, user-friendlier web player! Unnatural Acts of Opera

on July 19, 2005 at 10:42 PM

… there’s a change in cast in the current episode of “Unnatural Acts of Opera” — Fiorenza Cossotto canceled after the second act of this 1974 performance of Norma, and the part of Adalgisa was sung in the third act by Bruna Baglioni. La Cieca makes the announcement at Unnatural Acts of Opera.

on July 19, 2005 at 1:03 AM

La Cieca hears (from very reliable sources indeed) that one of the first initiatives of the new Peter Gelb regime at the Met will be to build up Angela Gheorghiu into “house diva.” Apparently the new attitude will be “you’re going on, with or without that wig.” Another top-priority item on the Met’s agenda: a…

on July 17, 2005 at 2:28 AM

The show goes on at Opera Barga tonight, though not exactly the same show as planned. Since the Berlin Sing-Akademie (hiss! hiss!) has managed to get an injunction against “their” Motezuma‘s being performed, Opera Barga has devised a “pasticcio” version using the original libretto (public domain) and music from several other Vivaldi operas. And the…

on July 16, 2005 at 4:38 PM

The second “episode” of Norma is now available for download at Unnatural Acts of Opera. And speaking of Norma, can anyone confirm this story? It’s a regional production of the opera, sometime around the mid to late ’60s. The Adalgisa either learned the role in a big hurry or else was just congenitally not very…

on July 16, 2005 at 3:30 AM

Did you know Unnatural Acts of Opera is the only all-opera podcast in the whole, uh, podosphere? Even better, this podcast features only live opera performances, preferably demented. Our opera this time is both live and demented, with even a soupcon of backstage drama to add an extra frisson. La Cieca presents the first act…

on July 15, 2005 at 3:31 AM

Those of you who haven’t had the chance to hear the “Oper” section of La Cieca’s podcast of Ariadne auf Naxos should take the time today; starting tonight a new opera will be programmed on the free player. (Both parts of the Ariadne, as well as last week’s Macbeth, will remain available for downloading via…

on July 14, 2005 at 2:14 PM

La Cieca has to say she is just plain appalled at the turn of events in the Opera Barga / Motezuma fracas. Not that she’s any particular fan of Vivaldi opera, but the behavior of the officials at the Berlin Sing-Akademie (who claim copyright ownership of this 270-year-old opera) strikes her as unartistic and just…

on July 12, 2005 at 7:20 PM

San Francisco Opera, as always right on the crest of the wave, introduced its own podcast over the weekend. Pamela Rosenberg and Donald Runnicles yak about the 2005-06 season, which will include the premiere of the new John Adams piece “Dr. Atomic,” and some musical highlights of the rest of the repertoire are included too.…

on July 10, 2005 at 4:15 PM

Backstage drama! The veteran prima donna suspects a conniving newcomer of trying to upstage her — both onstage and off! No, it’s not All About Eve, but almost! Now, on the parterre podcast “Unnatural Acts of Opera,” the Prologue to Ariadne auf Naxos from the Salzburg Festival 1954. Lisa della Casa, Hilde Gueden and Irmgard…

on July 08, 2005 at 2:21 PM

After a service interruption that lost all her files (grrrrr!) La Cieca has restored and restarted her Web radio show Il Gran Teatro della Cieca. Included in this rotation are the Macbeth and Turandot from her podcast, plus complete performances of L’incoronazione di Poppea, Samson et Dalila and Jenufa. Thank you for your patience, and…

on July 08, 2005 at 12:39 PM

Music fans of all orientations, gay, straight and bi (oops, the Times says you don’t exist, my mistake), well, anyway, music fans around the world finally have news worth talking about. No, we’re not talking about Alberto Vilar, but you’re getting warm. Which is to say, it’s good news. Sir Elton John and George Michael…

on July 05, 2005 at 11:04 PM
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