19 January 2008

E l'amor uno strano augello

A reader sends us this page from the Los Angeles Opera season brochure for 2008-2009. (Click on the image to enlarge).

La Cieca wonders if perhaps this production was originally planned for Giulietta Simionato and Mario del Monaco...


17 January 2008

Tit for tat

La Cieca has Maury D'annato to thank for (passively) calling her attention to the blog The Opera Tattler, which in recent days has been detailing next season's plans in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other opera companies of the Transhudson. (The) Opera Tattler also reviews a lot of West Coast opera, and at least so far as La Cieca has read, his (?) blogatorial voice is either very arch or very sincere, either of which is fine by me. ("However, perhaps I should go to Bayreuth in 2009, since I will have the time," writes the Tattler. How can you not love that?)

More bloggerei (in Italian, but it's penetrable enough) may be found on the wild 'n' wacky site Opéra Bouffe, one of many various efforts by the lovely and apparently tireless Giorgia Meschini. At the moment attention at the Bouffe is split between the"new" Zeffirelli production of Tosca at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and the recent purchase of "le boat slippers dell'Adidas, blu e oro. Con 'Respect' stampato sulla linguetta... 'firmate' da Missy Elliott." Bloggy!

Then Opéra Bouffe pointed your doyenne to the utterly necessary Schrott-Locator ™: ¿donde está Erwin?. Even Barihunks doesn't have this level of detail.

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15 December 2007


La Cieca has obtained exclusive video footage of a presentation by Susan L. Baker, chairwoman of the New York City Opera, announcing plans for the company's 2008-2009 "season."

NYCO's announcement, dumped into the scarcely-read Saturday Times, would seem to indicate that our speculation of the past couple of weeks was, in fact, accurate.

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06 December 2007

Dark year for NYCO?

UPDATE: La Cieca has just heard that the "dark season" is not a done deal just yet. The NYCO board meets next week to make that decision. (Given how late in the game this is, most likely the "decision" will be no more than a formality. But La Cieca will keep her ear to the ground, not to mention her shoulder to the wheel and her nose to the grindstone. She also intends to free her mind with the intention that her ass should follow.)

La Cieca has been hearing whispers and grumblings from here and there for a couple of months now, so maybe it's time to go out on a limb and predict that the New York City Opera will take a season-long hiatus in 2008-09. Yes, that's right, no season at all, not until the opening of Gérard Mortier's first year of direction in the fall of 2009.

The primary reason driving La Cieca's gloomy prediction is the lack of any sense of what the repertoire or casting would be for 2008-09, even as 2007 draws to a close. NYCO, like other opera companies, has a fairly long lead time in planning upcoming seasons. Their practice in recent years has been to lock in repertoire and casting more than a year before the beginning of a given season.

For example, it was fairly common knowledge by the summer of 2006 that the current NYCO season would include Vanessa, Cendrillion, King Arthur and so forth; major casting was already set by then as well. Repertoire choices for Mortier's first season leaked several months ago: 2009-10 will feature The Rake's Progress, Einstein on the Beach, Nixon in China, Věc Makropulos, Pelléas et Mélisande, Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, Saint François d'Assise and Death in Venice.

No such details have surfaced about plans for 2008-09; in fact, an informant tells La Cieca that ever since early last summer "managers have been attempting to nail down the schedule and engagements for their artists, but have been met with stone cold silence from the [NYCO] administration."

This same source continues with a little speculation that your doyenne must say she finds reasonable enough:
The official reason given [for the cancellation of the 2008-09 season] will be that Mortier wants to freshen up and fix the hall in conjunction with NYCB (and they certainly will take the time given to do some work on the State Theater, remove the sound system, etc.) but the real reason was he was so patently appalled by every performance he saw this year and last that he wants a literal fresh start for the entire company, and wants no attachment whatsoever to the past artistic administration.

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22 November 2007

Something to give thanks for

La Cieca hears that our dear Aprile Millo (who recently had to cancel a Teatro Grattacielo appearance due to illness) is ready to bounce back big time in 2008.

Word on the street is that Millo will join longtime colleague Dolora Zajick for a bel canto duet in OONY's spring gala, followed by a return to the roster of the Metropolitan Opera for the 2008-09 season.

While we wait, here's some prime Millo via YouTube.

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11 September 2007

"TBA" about to be announced?

A source close to the Met whispers to La Cieca that Maria Guleghina will step into the TBA performances of Macbeth in January 2008 including the HD transmission on the 12th. Your doyenne also hears that la Guleghina has been approached to take over the May performances of the Verdi thriller, currently announced for Andrea Gruber. "The word is that Gelb felt Guleghina was exceptional in the broadcast of Trittico and wants her to build on her prominence at the opera house," our source concludes.

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28 July 2007

Judgment at Nuremberg

Well, this is what La Cieca gathers from Katharina Wagner's production of Die Meistersinger (without, of course, having had the benefit of actually seeing it!)

KW's basic idea is that Great-grandfather Richard presented an overly optimistic view of the dramatic action of the opera. Walther is taught by Hans Sachs to moderate his radical musical ideas by adopting traditional forms; that way his music can be understood by his audience. KW sees this compromise as a sellout, so she depicts the climactic singing contest satirically, as an "American Idol" hypefest.

Walther basically grows out of his rebellious phase (e.g., splashing white paint all over the church in Act 1) and becomes just another bourgeois mastersinger. Sachs is played as an aging hippie type who also cleans up his act for the sake of popularity and respectability.

Meanwhile, Beckmesser the pedantic marker is transformed radically by the experience of the Act 2 riot. Depending on your point of view, he is either driven mad or else he has a profound spiritual awakening. The text of Walther's song that he filches for the competion is on a ripped-up sheet of paper, so his performance at the contest is nonsensical and the crowds laughs at him. And yet to him the song is the purest, most genuine music he has ever created -- but nobody else will ever be able to appreciate it. In a way he has become the radical artist that Walther aspired to be.

[La Cieca's earlier remark about Beckmesser appearing nude in Act 3 was mistaken; she apologizes.]

Now, it is safe to say that this is probably not the meaning Wagner had in mind when he wrote Meistersinger, and it is even a reasonable bet that this meaning is at best extremely difficult to convey through this particular text and music. Now, La Cieca doesn't know much about these things, but as she understand its, part of the current Regie philosophy is that a canonical work like Meistersinger is so utterly familiar to the audience that there is no point in performing it "straight," that you have to try to find something new to say through the work. Whether you believe in this philosophy or not (your doyenne is on the fence), you can perhaps agree that it is meant to be a serious way of approaching the work, not a frivolous one.

Another point is that historically the first year's iteration of a Bayreuth production is expected to be an imperfect first draft; the artistic team are expected to do major revisions for the second year's run, based on what they are suppposed to freely regard as the mistakes of the first year. So really we'll have to wait until 2008 for the finished version of the youngest Wagner's vision. (Does anyone know if there are plans to telecast this production? The bits seen so far on video look as if it would adapt well to TV presentation.)

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19 July 2007

Melons! Coupons!

La Cieca just received a press release from the Met detailing some of the cast changes and reshufflings already afoot for next season. She is pretty sure than none of this has anything to do with last night's steam pipe explosion in Midtown.

Angela M. Brown will sing the title role in Aida replacing Maria Guleghina on September 29, October 4 and 16. La Brown will sing the role of Aida on November 2, 5 and 8 as previously scheduled; Micaela Carosi will replace her on October 30.

Maija Kovalevska replaces Krassimira Stoyanova as Micaëla on February 4, 8, 13 and 16. Stoyanova will go on as scheduled at all other performances of Carmen. Lucio Gallo will sing the role of Escamillo (role debut) in all performances of the opera this season.

Ekaterina Siurina replaces Isabel Bayrakdarian as Susanna in Nozze on November 10, 14, 17, 21, 24, 28 and December 1. La Bayrakdarian retains her October 2, 6, 10, 13 and 18 performances.

Matthew Polenzani will sing Roméo opposite Anna Netrebko replacing Rolando Villazón on December 27 and 31. Villazón is still scheduled at all other performances of the opera.

Anthony Dean Griffey now sings the entire run of Peter Grimes; to no one's surprise, Neil Shicoff is a no-show.

Now, here's where it get complicated. Do listen carefully, because La Cieca is only going to say this once. Maria Guleghina gets the prima and the fall run of Macbeth (replacing Andrea Gruber) on October 22, 26, 31 and November 3. Gruber is still scheduled for the May 9, 13, and 17 performances. Meanwhile, Guleghina is out of the November 12, 16, 19 and 23 performances of Norma, with Hasmik Papian leaping into the breach. Guleghina tries her hand at the Bellini on November 26, 30, December 4, and 7. Oh, and on January 5, 9, 12 and 15, our old, old, old friend TBA returns triumphantly to the Met... as Lady Macbeth.

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10 May 2007

Crones on notice

A Met insider whispers that new chorus director Donald Palumbo, recently praised to the skies for his "tireless" efforts on Orfeo, may not want to stay tired for long. According to our source, “warning of vocal deterioration” letters have already been drafted to be sent to several members of the Met regular chorus, especially in the notoriously wobbly soprano section. Apparently, this warning letter is the first step in a lengthy contractural process of weeding out unacceptable voices. (Ironically, by the time arrives for Palumbo to rehearse the witches' choruses in Macbeth next season, he may already have fired at least some of the Met's worst crones.)

Continues our spy, "Not a surprising move, but one taken earlier than I would have thought in his tenure, since [Palumbo's] tenure really hasn’t started yet. But thank Goddess for it – the soprano section has been a mess for quite a while."

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08 May 2007

Wie alles war, weiss ich; wie alles wird, wie alles sein wird

The Met's press office just sent this out:

New York, NY (May 8, 2007) - Bizet's Carmen with Russian mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina in the title role will be revived during the Met's 2007-08 season, replacing the previously announced performances of Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann. The change in repertory is due to the decision by Argentine tenor Marcelo Álvarez to retire the title role of Hoffmann from his repertory. Mr. Álvarez will instead make his Met role debut singing Don José in Carmen opposite Ms. Borodina. Nancy Fabiola Herrera will sing the title role in one performance. Krassimira Stoyanova sings the role of Micaëla at the Met for the first time. Emmanuel Villaume conducts all eight performances from February 4 to March 1, 2008.
Told you so.

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03 May 2007

"Tales" untold

La Cieca hears that the Met will scrap next season's revival of Les Contes d'Hoffman (scheduled for February-March 2008) in favor of Carmen. A well-informed source suggests that the switch will be done at the behest of tenor Marcelo Álvarez, who would have sung the title role in the Offenbach but will now perform his first local Don Jose. Opposite Álvarez will be the familiar but always welcome Carmencita of Olga Borodina.

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26 March 2007

Fabulous invalid

So now it seems there may be a season for Opera Orchestra of New York next year after all. But keep in mind that word "may" because it's not a lock yet. In an email to supporters, Eve Queler says that she and the other OONies "are currently devoted to assuring you a splendid season. We have received major commitments from our supporters, and expect that additional sources will soon permit us to commit to the full season." She asks that audiences save the dates for December 13, 2007, February 27, 2008 and March 6, 2008, when, if all goes well, the group will present I due Foscari (with Dimitri Hvorostovsky?), La sonnambula (Eglise Gutierrez , Dimitry Korchak) and a gala concert.

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23 March 2007

Mary Dunleavy joins in the fun

La Cieca has just been informed that soprano Mary Dunleavy will participate in tonight's panel discussion "Opera and Technology" at The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University. No word on whether La Dunleavy replaces or supplements the previously announced Lucy Shelton. Our own JJ will be there of course, along with a veritable constellation of opera pundits: Elena Park, Editorial and Creative Content, The Metropolitan Opera; Beth Greenberg, stage director, New York City Opera; Wayne Koestenbaum, poet and writer; and Anne Midgette, critic, The New York Times. That's tonight at 7:30 PM, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue (between 116th and 118th Streets), second floor.

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13 March 2007

At a glance

The 2007-2008 Met season, with casting, all in one place. (Though the Met's own site is very nearly as handy -- by far the earliest the company has ever presented repertoire and casting information.) La Cieca would also venture an opinion that next season threatens a rather lower percentage of "why bother" nights, and certainly a steep increase in dementia opportunities.

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05 March 2007

Event horizon

Now that we all know what's what for the Met's 2007-2008 season, surely it's time to start speculating about what comes after, right? Well, La Cieca has been in touch with her stable of reliable sources, and what she has heard is more than a little intriguing. N.B. All this is as heard, of course, not an official announcement...

Opening night 2008 will be a Renee Fleming gala showcasing The Beautiful Voice in acts from La traviata, Manon and Il pirata. Also in the season's opening weeks: Karita Mattila returns in Salome, Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon team for Lucia (HD simulcast for sure!), La Gioconda with the triple-diva goodness of Deborah Voigt, Olga Borodina and Ewa Podles, plus, for a little 21st century flava, the Met premiere of John Adams' Doctor Atomic featuring Audra MacDonald.

At the other end of the season, late spring 2009, the last revival of the rocks-n-rags Ring with James Levine conducting (start queuing for that one now) and the debut of DGG "It Girl" Elina Garanca in Cenerentola. In between, some hot tickets and some Sternstunden:
  • La sonnambula (Natalie Dessay/Juan Diego Florez)
  • Thais (Fleming/Thomas Hampson)
  • Rusalka (also Fleming)
  • La rondine (Angela Gheorghiu/Roberto Alagna)
  • Tristan und Isolde (Daniel Barenboim)
  • Eugene Onegin (Mattila/Hampson)
  • Cav/Pag (Alagna in both operas)
There's more (a lot more) of course, but La Cieca hopes this is enough to get the conversational ball rolling.

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