18 January 2008

O brother where art thou

An Italian TV report on the already infamous all-Alagna-all-the-time Orphée.

Now, David Alagna may not be one of the world's great stage directors, but he certainly is among the cutest!

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10 January 2008

An Orpheus from Hell

Over the years we have heard many different versions of Gluck’s Orphée. One can choose the Vienna version for castrato, which is shorter and simpler (or better: equally difficult, but in a less spectacular way), the Paris rewrite for tenor or the Berlioz reworking for the distinguished mezzo Pauline Viardot (Anne Sophie von Otter sang this version in Stockholm a few weeks ago). In short, a singer can “play” with the role in order to show his/her ability in portraying Apollo’s son: however, any adaptation should respect the spirit of Gluck’s masterpiece.

Eh, che faro?Unfortunately, this is not the case with the Orphée which opened on January 8 in Bologna, starring Roberto Alagna in the main role. Together with his lesser-known brothers David (director & composer) and Frédérico (scenic designer), the French-Italian tenor presented a rather unusual patchwork, with heavy cuts (almost all the dances and the great aria “L’espoir renaît dans mon âme” are omitted, while “Objet de mon amour” has been reduced to a single stanza) and the tenor part rewritten in a lower key, in order to fit in with Alagna’s chronic problems with the high register.

Moreover, the role of Amour (originally sung by a soprano) has been reassigned to a baritone: in fact, instead of the God of Love, we have a gravedigger who leads a modern-day Orphée into a death cell in order to save his wife from a group of mummies. In the third act, Eurydice attempts to seduce the gravedigger, threatening to elope with him. Orphée decides he has to look at her in order not to lose her again(!) She dies, of course, and Orphée chooses to be buried with her. (Apparently, Alagna didn’t like the original happy ending).

Now, all this may sound like a bad dream, or at least a cheap mise en scène of an Offenbach operetta, but that is just what Alagna’s Orphée is about. One can understand that such a humble singer as Alagna might have wanted an Orphée to call his own, yet he’d better have written it together with his oh-so-smart little brothers, instead of stealing Gluck’s name for this trivial farce. Yet, we cannot forget that such a shame also involves both the opera house’s superintendent Marco Tutino and the musical director of the show, Giampaolo Bisanti, whose bland interpretation and eccentric tempos (too fast in the pit, too slow on stage, the pairing of these two musical realms being a mere accident) made a bad thing worse.

Alagna shouted like he was singing Cavalleria Rusticana on a bad evening in a big house (Bologna’s theater is rather small), but the voice is too thin and not well projected, while what remains of the high register is often off key. His Eurydice, Serena Gamberoni, is a tiny sopranino, with a non-existent low register and shrilling high notes, in the manner of old-fashioned soubrettes. French baritone Marc Barrard was the grotesque, wobbly Amour. Audience reaction was mixed: a few loud booe and a big round of applause. Gluck turned into a poor imitation of Mascagni? Who cares, as long as we have The Brothers Alagna! -- Antonio Tamburini

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20 December 2007

Le Scandale, 2007 edition

Cher public, La Cieca meant to turn in early tonight, but she got one of those bees in her bonnet. This particular specimen of Apis mellifera is the "debacle" (as La Cieca has been astonished to see it termed) of Anna Netrebko's Juliette last Saturday afternoon. Such harsh criticism La Cieca has rarely heard since the infamous Renata Scotto Norma. Even La Cieca's own bitchery about Renée Fleming never (well, rarely) reached such heights of dudgeon.

La Cieca should remind herself that much of this accidie springs from opera-l, which most of the time is a valuable resource and all that, but it does seem to be a haven for every tongue-clucking old maid still hunched over her Philco every Saturday afternoon during the broadcast season. (Some of them predate Texaco, La Cieca thinks.) Anyway, the consensus over at opera-l is that Netrebko is kaput, over, finished -- that is, assuming she was ever anything to start with. The Roméo et Juliette has been called "failure" and even (yes!) "debacle." Admittedly , La Cieca occasionally amuses herself by throwing those terms (including the "d" word) around indiscriminately, but she has the defense that nobody with half a brain takes her babbling seriously anyway. On the other hand, La Cieca has her doubts that everybody over at opera-l shares her sense of light-hearted irony in these things.

Look. La Cieca regards herself as a very critical listener, but she simply cannot discern any "debacle" or even "failure" in last week's Roméo performance. Netrebko was admittedly somewhat off her best form at the beginning of the opera. She did have a minor crack on the high D in her first cadenza, and for most of the performance her voice sounded a bit cloudy and thick compared to what La Cieca (and, you, of course, cher public) have heard on Sirius and in the theater earlier this season.

La Cieca hesitates to jump to the conclusion that this one performance indicates an inevitable downward spiral toward ruin for Ms. Netrebko. She prefer to take the more cautious position that Netrebko was simply having a "B" voice day instead of her customary "A." The cause may have been nerves, or a mild case of acid reflux, or a minor allergy attack, or (who knows?) she may have been starting her period on Saturday. The point is, nerves and all the rest (including even dysmenhorrhea) don't last forever.

As, it so happens, tonight's Sirius broadcast neatly indicates. La Cieca tuned in at the beginning of the second act to hear Netrebko in fine fettle. Your doyenne will note also that in the bedroom duet tonight Netrebko is singing with a lighter tone and softer dynamics than she did opposite Roberto Alagna -- the better to blend with Joseph Kaiser's less aggressive approach, one assumes.

Well, enough scolding. A recent news story about Antonio Banderas' directing Carmen got La Cieca to thinking: how long before Angela Gheorghiu backs out of the projected Met production of the Bizet opera -- and how thrilling it would be if Netrebko could be persuaded to jump in!

Oh, and just so you don't think La Cieca has completely abandoned her position as Sultana of the Soupcons, here's a tidbit. Your doyenne hears that among Netrebko's la Gheorghiu's upcoming projects (besides that unlikely Carmen and the perhaps even unlikelier Ghosts of Versailles) is a complete recording of Giordano's Fedora opposite (who else) Placido Domingo.

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24 October 2007

Radamès, non è deciso il tuo fato

Latest casting news from the Met: Stephen O’Mara will sing Radamès in Aida on Wednesday, October 24, replacing Marco Berti, who has withdrawn from remaining performances due to illness. The role of the Egyptian captain for the the remaining performances of the season (October 27 - November 8) will be sung by that popular man-about-town TBA.

La Cieca's idle speculation: it should be simple enough to get someone in to sing a single performance of Pinkerton on the evening of October 27, which would free up Roberto di Nazareth. La Cieca's prediction: not bloody likely, but she's been wrong before.

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19 October 2007

"Bizarre and nondescript characters corralled from every stratum of society"

La Cieca thanks the visiting Enzo Bordello for pointing out to her some recent updates to the indispensable Met Futures Page so painstakingly maintained by Bradley Wilber. Most of it sound plausible enough, but every now and then a piece of casting leaves La Cieca so stunned she hardly manage to quote a Waldo Lydecker quip. Such is the case with a projected 2009 revival of Adriana Lecouvreur with Maria Guleghina and Jonas Kaufmann.

That show at least seems possible actually to transpire, unlike the new Carmen in 2010. The announced team for the Bizet, which includes Matthew Bourne, Richard Eyre, Angela Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna, Barbara Fritolli and James Levine, surely adds up to ten pounds of diva in a five pound bag!

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18 October 2007

Alagna, Anna again to bed

Ken Howard/Metropolitan OperaOf course, cher public, you heard it about it here a few weeks ago, but La Cieca has just read a press release from the Met announcing that, yes indeed, Roberto Alagna will reprise his Roméo opposite Anna Netrebko on December 12 and 15. (Our Own Gualtier Maldè, as you no doubt recall, confirmed the rumor when he spoke to Alagna after Aida on Tuesday night.) The December 15 matinee of Roméo et Juliette is the first of this season's "Live in High Definition" transmissions to movie theaters around the world.

Joseph Kaiser is Roméo on December 8 and 20, and finishing up the batting order will be Matthew Polenzani on December 27 and 31.

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La Cieca is nothing if she is not open-minded. So can someone please explain (or at least excuse) the following statement from Bernard Holland in today's NYT?
Verdi has a way of testing his singers at the opening curtain. (See also "La Traviata," Act I, Scene 1.)

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17 October 2007

Bobby takes one for the team

Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan OperaSo, was last night a triumph or a disaster? Well, it was neither since the role of Radames doesn't play to all of Roberto Alagna's strengths but it was a very fine showing by a distinctive and sensitive artist in a repertory that isn't his natural metier. The evening's biggest triumph was scored by old reliable Dolora Zajick who got the biggest hand at the end. As she should.

Was Alagna overparted or inaudible? Not at all. Really in some ways the role of Radames is easier than Romeo in that the tenor gets some rest here and there as other major characters take the stage, the tessitura is lower and there are intermissions to give the vocal cords a rest. The orchestra is often less dense than Puccini's orchestration in Butterfly and conductor Kazushi Ono was stressing string articulation over brassy blare. Was Alagna lacking in metal and heft for the role? - not really, the top was there (veering sharp occasionally) and the vibrato was wider than it was (but not really too wide and not only in this role).

Oddly enough, despite its reputation as being a "robusto" tenor role, the part of Radames has long stretches of lyrical singing. "Celeste Aida" is a love song, not a call to arms. The Temple Scene is prayerful, the Nile scene love duet is romantic and impetuous. The Tomb Scene also requires lyricism and pianos. I think that Karajan or somebody told Carreras (or was it Pavarotti?) that the only phrase that requires real dramatic declamation is the last phrase of the Nile scene "Sacerdote, io resto a te!".

In the best lyric Radames tradition (think Gigli, Bjorling and Pavarotti - though not quite in their league) Alagna treated "Celeste Aida" as a love song sung mostly mezza voce with a lot of sensitive coloring and phrasing. He hit the final B flat forte and repeated the phrase softly an octave lower as Richard Tucker did for Toscanini.

It helped that he had the most romantic appearance of any Radames since Corelli. In the first scene he was bare-chested (and looking slimmer than he did last year at La Scala) with a gold metallic collar, cape tucked around his shoulders, gold arm bands and leather peplum and gold sandals (not elevator sandals as he wore at La Scala). He looked very sexy with nice pecs with just the right amount of chest hair. The applause at the end of the aria seemed to please Roberto no end and he smiled joyously at the audience and seemed to feel vindicated and happy to have a chance to put last year's disaster behind him.

Then he made the first of a few musical mistakes (understandable given the circumstances) in the duet with Amneris before Aida goes on. (This is the same piece of music that marked his exit at La Scala) Dolora and the conductor got him back on track and things went quite well from there on. Alagna was occasionally covered by Dolora but reached a pretty good balance with Angela M. Brown.

His lack of an easy and integrated piano was a problem in the Temple Scene which was just okay. His contribution to the Triumphal Scene was solid but Radames doesn't have much to do there. The Nile Scene had his biggest challenges and most distinctive successes. Alagna's top carried him well in this scene ringing out reliably though his lower range can get grainy and woolly-sounding. The duet with Aida was full of interesting nuances and verbal expression that many Radames miss or ignore. Here finally he got some nice diminuendos. The final outburst to Ramfis was broad-phrased and ringing with a prolonged final note.

The "Gia i sacerdoti adunansi" duet with Amneris was well-done though Dolora definitely held back a bit for him and both she and Roberto got out of sync with the conductor. The final "A Terra Addio" duet with Angela Brown was some of his best singing of the evening matched by Brown, both spinning out gorgeous piano phrases. He didn't seem tired at the end and gained strength as he went on.

He acted more than most Radames do and he was visually credible as the romantic bone of contention between two passionate women (less so as a warrior and leader of men). However, the role still is two dimensional and more complex, vulnerable heros like Romeo, Rodolfo in Boheme and Des Grieux in Manon show better what Alagna can do as an actor. His timbre is a little odd-sounding in Verdi. It has a white wine quality - a combination of bright-toned forward tartness on the top with a hint of fruity mellowness below that is ideal for French repertoire but a little exotic in standard Italian opera.

The whole performance was a refreshing change of pace from business-as-usual tenor bombast and highlighted qualities in the role that are often missed. Was it ideal?, was it what we are used to? No. But it was interesting and I mean that in a good way.

Ms. Brown has all the vocal attributes of a great Aida but couldn't pull together an even line as she moved from high to low or forte to piano or declamatory to legato. Whenever she had to change pace (which is often in this demanding role) Brown had a momentary loss of vocal control and focus while the voice changed dynamics or register. This meant that unsettled phrases were then followed by swaths of gorgeous tone. But the bumps did take their toll, particularly on the high C in "O Patria Mia" which started to go badly awry and then was truncated.

Dolora was the pro she is and has been for a very long time giving more vulnerable colors to Amneris but still sounding the brass when needed. Dobber had a handsome compact tone and suave phrasing as Amonasro with a nice mahogany finish to the timbre but also needed a bit more bite - Di Luna might suit him better. Kowaljow was sonorous and solid as Ramfis and Reinhard Hagen had a pleasing but somewhat unimposing debut as the King. Ono does better with the orchestra players than he does with the singers and lacks the slancio and dramatic phrasing that Italians have in their blood in this music. He is a very intelligent musician and, once again, this wasn't a routine reading of the score. -- Gualtier Maldè

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15 October 2007


La Cieca has just heard that Roberto Alagna will sing his first Met Radames tomorrow night, replacing the ailing Marco Berti. Which means, if you haven't guessed it yet, that Marcello Giordani is jumping into tonight's Butterfly. By the end of the season, Giordani will have five different roles in his Met repertoire for 2007-08: Edgardo, Roméo, Pinkerton, Ernani and des Grieux (Manon Lescaut.)

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28 September 2007

E Susanna vien

La Cieca predicted a cast change earlier, and what do you know, so it came to pass! Soprano Lisette Oropesa will sing the Tuesday prima of the Met's revival of Le nozze di Figaro and at least one more performance. She is jumping in for the enceinte Isabel Bayrakdarian. Ms. Oropesa is not only a member of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program but (even more impressively) she is La Cieca's homegirl since she is a graduate of LSU in dear old Baton Rouge! It should be noted, however, that she and La Cieca matriculated in different centuries.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Angela Gheorghiu has been fired from Lyric Opera's production of La bohème which is scheduled to open Monday, October 1. Thundered General Director William Mason, "Miss Gheorghiu has missed 6 of 10 rehearsals, including the piano dress rehearsal and both staging rehearsals with the orchestra. She missed one of the most critical stage-orchestra rehearsals when she left the city for New York without permission, a direct violation of her contract." La Gheorghiu was in fact spotted in the audience for the Met's prima of Gounod's Roméo et Juliette on Tuesday night.

The news is somewhat less dire for other members of the Gheorghiu famille. Those of you cher public who missed out on Roberto "Million Dollar Legs" Alagna's stylish Roméo this week may get another chance at seeing his collaboration with Anna Netrebko in the Gounod love story. La Cieca hears that Alagna will return in December to fill the "TBA" slots on the 8th, 12th and 15th, including the broadcast and HD telecast. Matthew Polenzani, La Cieca hears, will take over the role on December 20.

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14 August 2007

Bobby, come on over for dinner

Roberto Alagna will jump -- no, not into the swimming pool, but rather into the first two performances (September 25 and 29) of the Met's fall revival of Roméo et Juliette, replacing Rolando Villazón who has withdrawn due to illness. The Met's press office officially announced Villazón's cancellation today, though regular parterre.com readers knew all about it last week. The role of Roméo remains TBA for the performances on October 3, 6 and 11; Villazón remains on the roster for the winter stint of performances including the HD simulcast.

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03 August 2007

Pool boy

It's the Roberto Alagna workout!

(Via Parsifal's)

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27 February 2007

To infinity, and beyond!

The delectable details of the 2007-2008 season at the Metropolitan (discussed this morning in a press conference with Peter Gelb, James Levine and representatives of the new season's production teams) may be found on the Met's web site. Our publisher JJ was there in the flesh, and he forwards his impressions:

The biggest news this morning was something unspoken. Instead, it was Levine's body language, which (in contrast to previous years) suggested he is both comfortable and secure working with Gelb. Levine stayed for the entire press conference and was particularly attentive when Phillip Glass was speaking.

The press conference was as carefully staged as a Met performance. In fact, a lot more carefully than Simon Boccanegra. The meeting began at exactly seven minutes after 11 a.m.

Mr. Gelb reflected on the successes of the current season, which include:

  • An increased audience for the HD simulcasts, now up to 250 screens for Eugene Onegin
  • The box office (though "not necessarily a thermometer") is running nine percentage points higher than this point last season
  • This season so far 61 performances have sold out, in contrast to 20 sellouts for the entire 2006-2006 season
  • Eight HD presentations are booked for next year
  • Opening night 2007 (new production of Lucia di Lammermoor) will be simulcast in the plaza, and the Met is in negotiations with NYC to show it in Times Square as well.
James Levine chimed in that what he finds "even more exciting" than the many innovations this year is that he sees a strong sense of follow-through. It is one thing to get new audiences into the theater the first time, but to sustain that audience you must offer them quality. He adds that he is pleased with how Gelb works with him on a day-to-day basis on solving problems. Levine will conduct the new productions of Lucia and Macbeth next season, plus revivals of Manon Lescaut and Tristan und Isolde, as well as the Met Orchestra's Carnegie Hall series.

Tweaks to next season include revival of the Anthony Minghella Butterfly with Patricia Racette and Roberto Alagna, Barbiere and (as reported by La Cieca a while ago) The First Emperor.

Mary Zimmerman (funny, unpretentious and smart) talked about her production of Lucia. Scene changes in this staging will be done "a vista."

Glass and associate director and designer Julian Crouch introduced Satyagraha. The composer stressed the political and social content of the work, and Crouch talked about how the set materials of corrugated iron and newspaper were suggested by the themes of the opera.

Stephen Wadsworth waxed un peu teachy-teachy on the subject of Iphigénie en Tauride ("Gluck was an ethnic Czech, did you know that?"), but, as Dawn Fatale pointed out, at least the set does not include a built-in shower. The edition of the score will be based on Gluck's Vienna revision, in which Oreste is a tenor, presumably in order to facilitate the participation of Placido Domingo.

The other producers appeared on video. The most buzzworthy statement from this segment was from Adrian Noble, who says the design of his Macbeth is suggested by photographs by Diane Arbus.

The cutest stage director of the whole group was Laurent Pelly (La Fille du Régiment), with Crouch and Richard Jones (Hansel and Gretel) tied for second.

Zoe Caldwell will the the Duchesse de Krakenthorp.

In response to reporters' questions, Gelb said that the Met has negotiated rights to release all its archival performances on CD, DVD, download on demand and "media not yet invented." Anne Midgette asked if there were updates on new commissions by the Met, but Gelb declined to comment, saying that the Met would have a statement later this season.

And then, finger sandwiches and coffee on the Bass Grand Tier, where yet another of parterre.com's web of reliable sources noted that the Gérard Mortier/NYCO deal is all but signed on the dotted line.

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17 December 2006

Justify my love

Roberto Alagna appeared on an Italian talk show this evening to explain (once again) his side of the walkout. The host is Pippo Baudo, the ex Mr. Katia Ricciarelli.

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The Inner Voice of Reason

You may well be surprised to hear La Cieca say this, cher public, but she's bellowing a lusty "brava" to none other than Renee Fleming. On yesterday's matinee Met broadcast of Rigoletto, Fleming took on a role associated with Geraldine Farrar, that of intermission commentatress. One of the first questions she lobbed at Joseph Calleja (Duca in the performance) was his opinion on the Roberto Alagna brouhaha. Calleja sensibly non-committed, but Fleming spoke eloquently off the cuff, essentially becoming the first member of the opera establishment to defend the "walkout" tenor.

Now, admittedly, Fleming has some personal stake in this argument since she has herself been booed rather violently in the same theater, as you all recall. But La Cieca definitely agrees with Fleming's contention that Alagna should be allowed by La Scala at least to attempt the further performances of the run. It's a very reasonable and pro-artist attitude, and La Cieca thinks very likely representative of Fleming's offstage personality. (By that La Cieca means really offstage, i.e., away from the grand persona Fleming adopts when giving interviews.)

Now, is it too much to hope that, just perhaps, Fleming might allow some of that offstage wisdom and good humor to infuse her operatic and concert performances? Her onstage vocal antics are just as unnecessary (and just as counterproductive) as Alagna's offstage tantrums.

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15 December 2006

A weekend in the country

Per Opera Chic, Roberto Alagna is off for what promises to be an interesting weekend at Franco Zeffirelli's palatial villa near Rome. According to Alagna's "Chief Counsel Avvocato" Marco Rocchini, the tenor will apparently spend much of the weekend in transit, since he plans a quick visit to Paris on Tuesday, and then will return to Milan on Sunday for a television interview. Rumor has it that he will perform a selection from Aida on the chat show.

Meanwhile, not a peep of what happened or did not happen at last night's Aida at La Scala. For better or for worse, this has become All Bobby All the Time. (And we're not talking about Bobby Bubbles.)

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14 December 2006

"But more about Antonello later"

BREAKING! La Cieca has been informed that a stray RAI microphone in the wings of La Scala picked up an emotionally heated conversation between Roberto Alagna and Franco Zeffirelli immediately following the tenor's angry walkout on Sunday night. A translated transcript follows:

FZ: Calm down. The gong rang. The fight's over.

RA: I will not calm down! And I will not be plotted against! Such nonsense, what do you all take me for -- little Nello from the country? Been my understudy for over a week without my knowing, shows up when everyone knew I'd be here, and gives a performance! Out of nowhere -- gives a performance!

FZ: You've been all through that with Lissner...

RA: Full of fire and music and what-not, carefully rehearsed I have no doubt, full of those Franco Zeffirelli touches!

FZ: I am sick and tired of these paranoiac outbursts! I didn't even know Antonello Palombi was your understudy until half past two this afternoon!

RA: Tell that to Dr. Lombroso, along with the rest of it!

FZ: No, I'll tell it to you! For the last time, I'll tell it to you! You're a beautiful and intelligent artist...

RA: A body with a voice!

FZ: Well, perhaps not the voice for Radames. You have every reason for happiness, but due to some strange, uncontrollable, unconscious drive you permit the slightest action of a ragazzo...

RA: Ragazzo!

FZ: Ragazzo like Antonello to turn you into a hysterical screaming divo! Now once and for all, stop it!

RA: It's obvious you're not a tenor.

FZ: I've been aware of that for some time.

RA: Well, I am.

FZ: I'll say. Now come on Roberto, let's get out of here. I'll buy you a drink.

RA: I'll admit I may have seen better days, but I am still not to be had for the price of a cocktail like a bruschetta.


Film at 11

First off, La Cieca should tell you that her producer/alter ego JJ will be heard this afternoon on WNYC's talk show "Soundcheck" discussing (what else?) L'affaire Alagna. The program begins at 2:00 PM and JJ is scheduled to be heard in the final segment between 2:30 and 3:00. "Soundcheck" gained notoriety last month when uber-diva Jessye Norman got into something of a snit after a fellow guest questioned the charitable motivations of certain celebrities. La Cieca hopes that this afternoon's show will include comparable fireworks.

Well, now a different version of the "walkout" video has surfaced from Spanish TV:

In the words of dear Alex Ross, "I'm no Zapruder," but La Cieca does note certain subtleties:

  • The staging has been modified since the opening night. Amneris (Ildiko Komlosi) does not enter during "Celeste Aida," but remains offstage until the very end of the aria.
  • Alagna sings the written ending of the aria, i.e., a long high B-flat, without the added "vicino al sol" on the lower B-flat.
  • Alagna is still onstage when the orchestra begins the introduction to "Quale insolita gioia," though he is out the door within seconds of Komlosi's first vocal entrance.

Now, what, if anything, does all this mean? Well, the first two changes would seem to suggest that someone decided to try to avoid "killing" Alagna's applause after his aria. The quiet ending, plus the presence of another character moving onstage) would tend to put a damper on audience reaction. La Cieca's guess is that Alagna was not happy with the polite applause at the prima and so tried to (as one might say) "give the public a chance to express their admiration." The video thus gives impression that Alagna was going a little mild milking of the applause. The well-timed "bravo" might be an attempt by a fan to build the ovation. Now, going further out into the realm of speculation, perhaps the ensuing "boo" was a scornful reaction to the "bravo" rather than a jeer at Alagna's performance per se.

Here's where it gets particularly interesting, at least to La Cieca's fevered imagination. A feature of these La Scala shouting matches is that the exclamations used are both wildly inflammatory and dangerously ambiguous. We are told that shouts were heard of "Vergogna, vergogna!" and "Questa e la Scala!" But to whom were these cries addressed, and in reaction to what? Were they saying, "shame, shame" to Alagna because his singing (in their opinion) was below La Scala standard? Or was the "shameful" part his perceived disrespect (or cowardice?) in walking offstage just because of a mixed reaction from the public. ("This is La Scala, get used to it!")

Or maybe the yelling was mostly, as we might say, intramural; i.e., various members of the audience yelling at each other, in which case Alagna's walk was really a gross overreaction.

But, speaking of the "walk" issue, I think this video takes some of the heat off Riccardo Chailly. When he starts the Amneris music, Alagna is still onstage. All Chailly can see at that moment is that the tenor is not doing the staging he was taught, which is not exactly unprecedented in Italian opera. For all Chailly could see, it may have appeared that Alagna was just stepping into the wings for a moment to clear his throat or grab a gulp of water -- again, these things do happen.

Had Antonello Palombi not bounded on from the wings, presumably Chailly would have stopped the orchestra, the curtain would have been lowered, and the performance would have continued with Walter Fraccaro, perhaps following a brief announcement. Where La Cieca is going with this is that it doesn't look like Chailly was necessarily conspiring against Alagna along with the three mysterious karate men, the anonymous phone caller and all the other members of the anti-Alagna faction.

Meanwhile, the latest installment of Opera Chic whispers that Stéphane Lissner has given orders to the Scala staff: if Alagna attempts to enter the theater, call the police! In contrast to such hysteria, Riccardo Muti spoke to La Stampa Daily, turning aside questions about Alagna's behavior but sniping at the "moronic" stage production by Franco Zeffirelli.

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13 December 2006

What it sounded like

Roberto Alagna sings "Celeste Aida" December 7, 2006 at La Scala. And for those of you who are interested, here's how the Antonello "Fleet of Foot" Palombi sang the aria in 1998.

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Well, it had to happen sooner or later, and so it did happen, sometime between last night and tonight. La Cieca has decided she's taking Roberto Alagna's side in The Scandale.

Yes, yes, La Cieca hears your gasps and snorts of disbelief and contempt, but you know, cher public, La Cieca is, deep in her bleeding heart, always on the side of the underdog. And, yes, by this point Alagna is the underdog.

Of course La Cieca knows that Alagna brought this upon himself. But in life (as in opera) there are very few pure heroes and villains. Do we not, for example, weep for Manon as she so movingly expires, whether at Le Havre or in the desert near New Orleans? And yes, she brought most of her misery upon herself. If the poor dear thing had even a shred of morality, she could have saved everyone (particularly Des Grieux) whole cartloads of heartache. But morality wasn't what Manon was about; that's not how she was made.

Is it supposed to be news that Roberto Alagna is a hothead? Does he have a track record of behaving coolly and rationally in a crisis? Has he ever been known to say, "no comment" when asked a question, any question? So why is everyone so shocked, shocked to witness what should be -- by now -- familiar behavior?

La Cieca is of the "fool me once" school, frankly, when it comes to opera singers. And, to tell the truth, it's Stéphane Lissner who ought to be saying "shame on me" these days -- at least to himself. In other words, Lissner is not helping the situation by acting so inflexibly, refusing to negotiate with Alagna over his return to the theater.

Now, please understand, La Cieca is not saying that Lissner should simply cave; rather, she's suggesting that there is a win-win possible here, and Lissner is dropping the ball. It's not a particularly impressive act to fire a recalcitrant artist; basically the lawyers and the press office will have to do all the heavy lifting anyway. A great impresario is one who can bring an unruly tenor to heel, and, what's more, trick the tenor into thinking it was his own idea.

Take Rudolf Bing with Franco Corelli, for example. No artist was more "difficult" than Corelli, and yet Bing got him onstage for over 300 performances -- far more than he sang anywhere else in the world. Bing once joked that handling Corelli was what he was "underpaid" for, but in fact, that's what a general manager is supposed to do, to get important artists on the stage and before the public. Firing a singer is, in a sense, an admission of failure. In fact, Bing even admitted in later years that his inability to come to terms with Maria Callas was one of the worst blots on his record as General Manager of the Met.

In contrast, consider Lissner's inflexible behavior in the past few days. Yes, he's showing everyone who's boss, but meanwhile, he's presenting a sold-out "gala" Aida with Walter Fraccaro and Antonello Palombi alternating in the star tenor role. Yeah, I'm sure the audiences who have to sit through that are saying to themselves, "Well, it's excruciating, sure, but at least somebody put his foot down! Thank God La Scala has returned to its artistic mission of upholding the Rule of Law!"

Since last night, a couple more tidbits of information have surfaced suggesting that Alagna's sense of persecution is not 100% paranoia. To begin with, the video of the walkout.

Doesn't it strike you as odd that a television station should have such access to video footage that was recorded for DVD release? Does anyone think that someone in the Decca crew might have leaked it? Hardly. The only way the clip of Alagna's "exit" could have emerged was for the management of La Scala (i.e., Lissner) to make it available. And why ever would an opera house want to publicize so sordid an event? (Can you imagine, for example, that the Met's press department would supply the media with a sound bite of Domingo's being booed last week?) The answer is simple: La Scala is actively working to make Alagna appear the bad guy.

Furthermore, doesn't Palombi's "save" strike you as just a bit too miraculous? How often does it happen that the second cover is standing in the wings, warmed up and ready to bound onto the stage, when there is no prior warning that the artist he's covering might be in vocal distress? In other words, did Palombi know in advance that Alagna might be booed?

If you must know, La Cieca's tipping point on this issue was reading Norman Lebrecht's predictably anti-artist and pro-bandwagon comments this morning. The Alagnas are difficult, the Alagnas are self-absorbed, lot of opera houses are pissed off at the Alagnas, but of course this slap in the face of the honorable public of Milan is the last, the very last straw.

Well, Norma, your middlebrow maunderings are wrong yet again. This might be the end of the line for the Alagnas -- if they were the sort of dull, uninspired singers that mostly populate the world of opera today. But they're not. Despite their vocal flaws and outrageous behavior, they are something special and rare. The main reason that opera is in such dire straits today is that nobody wants to shell out hundreds of dollars for a ticket to hear some well-behaved mediocrity. (That is, unless that mediocrity's name is Fleming, but she's not working much at La Scala lately either.)

La Cieca will have more to say about this later; cher public, do chime in.

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12 December 2006

Stupid tenor tricks

There's video of "Il momento dell'abbandono di Alagna e la precipitosa entrata di Palombi in jeans."


11 December 2006

Roberto, il diavolo?

It just gets better and better. Now Opera Chic reports that Roberto Alagna is threatening to (counter)sue La Scala, citing a hostile work environment. And yet, he has announced he intends to sing Thursday night's performance, even though the Scala management has already announced a substitute singer. More tales of anonymous phone calls, threats, showdowns and overheard vocalizing -- all at Opera Chic. (La Cieca will go out on a limb on this one and predict that this scandale is going to make Opera Chic the parterre box of Italy, or at least of Milan. Fame, fortune, and Carpal tunnel syndrome await you, my dear!)

Oh, and while, we're on the subject, Roberto Bolle.

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The other Bobby

Walkout tenor Roberto Alagna is just generally pissed at the whole La Scala Aida experience, frankly. Even before the "buu" incident at last night's performance, Bobby was spewing in an interview with La Repubblica that he (and the other singers in Aida) were being treated like second-class citizens: "La verità è che, in Italia, ormai i cantanti non se li fila più nessuno," Alagna fumed. "Esistono solo il direttore e il regista, quando mai vedi sui giornali una foto dei cantanti? Lo sa che alla cena a Palazzo Reale non eravamo nemmeno stati invitati e che anche lì ho fatto un mezzo scandalo? E poi tutti quegli applausi a Roberto Bolle... Vadano a vedersi un balletto, invece di un' opera."

Yes, it's true. Apparently at a gala dinner-reception following the prima, the singers were shuttled off to a secondary ballroom while Franco Zeffirelli, Riccardo Chailly, Scala intendant Stéphane Lissner and hobnobbed with the glitterari in the "A" room. And the photographers did indeed focus on Roberto Bolle, which is understandable at least on the grounds that "the other Bobby" is more than a little photogenic.

Opera Chic has more (constantly updated) details, including the point that the Scala performances are being taped by Decca for eventual DVD release, a project that will be pointless without Alagna's cooperation. Oh, on the same blogsite, a delightful photo of little Bobby's Scotto Heels.

UPDATE: Now Decca and La Scala are making noises about legal action against Alagna. He says he will show up for the performances scheduled for taping, but not the others (in January). And the Italian news site SKY Life has an online video report about this scandale, including bits and pieces of the gaudy Zeffirelli production, an interview with Antonello "Sul Palco in Jeans" Palombo, plus a tantalizing glimpse of The Other Bobby rocking his triumphal thong.

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10 December 2006

La Cieca returns, Alagna departs

Your correspondent is back in town just in time to report that Roberto Alagna walked out of tonight's performance of Aida at La Scala when his rendition of "Celeste Aida" was greeted by "qualche fischio" among the polite applause. The Corriere della Sera reports that Antonello Palombi was rushed onto the stage in "black jeans and t-shirt" to complete the act, but not before the audience cried, "vergogna, vergogna!" and "questa è la Scala!"

According to Opera Chic, Alagna has retreated to his Milan hotel suite pursued by paparazzi. The tenor has been complaining of poor health for over a week; the first performance of this new production of Verdi's opera was on December 7.

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12 September 2006

Endless Love?

The Artists Formerly Known As The Love Couple made one of their now-rare duo appearances last weekend singing something called "Come Prima" at a BBC concert in London's Hyde Park. The poster for the event suggests that Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna are shall we say, growing apart.

Why the distance between the once-inseparable team? Don't go blaming Sir Terry Wogan! But could it have something to do with the unbilled appearance of "hunky Romanian pop singer/actor" Stefan Banica Jr.?

Mr. Banica, star of such film epics as Liceenii rock’n roll (1990) and Sexi harem Ada-Kaleh (1999), recently created the role of Billy Flynn in the first Bucharest company of Chicago. He is seen here soulfully duetting with compatriot Gheorghiu.

So, just how simpatico were Gheorghiu and Banica onstage? Well, let's put it this way: the Beeb's website captioned this photo "Angela Gheorghiu duets with Roberto Alagna."

If you care to hear how this concert sounded, you can access it at BBC Radio 2. La Cieca's correspondent on the scene in Hyde Park suggests, "Use the 5 min skip button to miss the less interesting items. Angela's first contribution is 10 minutes in. Roberto's, followed by their duet, is about 50 minutes in, and the rest 1 hour 15 mins." Though, be warned, you'll miss "Italian sensation Vittorio Grigolo, plus trumpet player Alison Balsom and special guest, music legend Lionel Richie."

Alas, the afternoon portion of the concert was not broadcast, so you'll just have to use your mind's ear to imagine the performances of "Madness tribute band One Step Behind, irrepressible cockney duo Chas & Dave, and poptastic singer Chico."

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11 August 2006

Enzo sees the future

Our old, old, old friend Enzo Bordello has been laying low for the last year or so, but he seems to be sniffing about the web again in search of the latest operatic news. He's uncovered quite a trove over at Brad Wilber's Met Futures page. Enzo's sum-up:

  • Maria Guleghina's star appears to be on the ascent again. In addition to Aida and Norma (!) next season, she is slated for Lisa in Pique Dame and her role debut as Turandot in 2008-2009.

  • Marcello Giordani, Marcelo Alvarez and Giuseppe Filianoti will all share the role of Edgardo in the next season's Lucia di Lammermoor revival.

  • Philip Langridge continues a Met tradition with appearances as the Witch in next season's Hansel and Gretel production.

  • Vienna darling Elina Garanca debuts as the Barbiere Rosina next season.

  • Prokofiev's The Gambler returns next season with Vladimir Galouzine reprising his critically acclaimed Aleksei.

  • Roberto Alagna sings his first Met Andrea Chenier next season.

  • A new production of Thais is scheduled for 2008-2009. No casting details but one can only assume this is a vehicle for Renee Fleming and Thomas Hampson.

  • Karita Mattila has apparently come to terms with whatever her alleged issues were with the Met's Salome production and reprises her triumph in the title role for 2008-2009.

  • Lulu and Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk return to the repertoire in 2009-2010.

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22 May 2006

Tough guy

Joseph Volpe's memoir The Toughest Show on Earth (see, La Cieca can get the title right when she wants too) is a book about a working-class kid from Queens who wanted to be Rudolf Bing when he grew up. Or, rather, it's about a stage carpenter who was bright enough and ambitious enough to do catch Bing's eye during the disastrous lead-up to the first Met season at Lincoln Center. I'm not sure how accurate the details are in Volpe's story of how he "fixed" the set of Franco Zeffirelli's Antony and Cleopatra (especially the Zef's meek acceptance of an unknown carpenter's hacking away at his work), but it is a characteristic story. Volpe sees himself and depicts himself as a man who puts his thoughts into action, an autocrat even, like his role model Bing.

Volpe's rise from middle management to top dog (when he finally claimed Bing's old office) hinged on a series of coincidences. First came the death of intendant-to-be Goeran Gentele, leaving a lacuna hastily plugged with the semi-competent Schuyler Chapin, first of several weakish General Managers who allowed Bing's centralized power to dissipate. Meanwhile, Rafael Kubelik deserted the newly-created post of Music Director, sweeping the young James Levine into power. Volpe found himself allied with the volatile new Director of Productions John Dexter, who relied on Volpe to get things done in the notoriously entropic Met bureaucracy.

As Levine's power and influence increased, so, apparently, did his hunger for love and approval from his colleagues; he simply wouldn't say "no," even when he ascended to the rank of Artistic Director. After General Manager Bruce Crawford accomplished a financial turnaround for the company, he resigned, replaced by the innefectual Hugh Southern, who shared Levine's distaste for confrontation. Thus Volpe's role evolved into that of Bad Cop. For for example, he's the one who had to tell Eva Marton that, despite what "she'd been led to believe," the soprano would not get the plum of recording the Ring with the Met orchestra. (Volpe indulges in passive voice to avoid pointing fingers at the culprit who misled Marton, but it's not hard to figure out.)

Upon Southern's ouster, Volpe was promoted -- not to General Manager (the Bing/Gatti-Casazza title) but rather General Director, on equal footing with Levine and development diva Marilyn Shapiro. The disgruntled Volpe enhanced his power by taking on the most onerous task in the house -- saying "no" to Jimmy. Finally, in 1993, 30 years since he entered the Met as a stagehand, Volpe attained his goal, General Manager, which conferred not only the duty but the power to say "no" to anyone and everyone.

Volpe dedicates a chapter of the book to what is generally regarded as the most controversial action he took as GM, the firing of Kathy Battle in the winter of 1994. He builds a convincing case against her, documenting behavior ranging from difficult to impossible ranging back to 1982, and assures us that he at least went though the motions of offering the soprano help after he fired her. He even admits that the brutal language he used in the press release canning Battle was in part motivated by his desire to assert authority in his new role. What he glosses over, though, is why the Battle problem was allowed to escalate to total war. The answer, of course, is that she was Levine's pet. He deliberately ignored her bad behavior, and (perhaps even worse), everyone in the house was afraid to upset the maestro. Unchallenged, Battle grew into a monster.

Now, in an opera you send in a hero to slay a dragon. But this scenario was more Godzilla than Siegfried, and Volpe was the only one at the Met ready to use the Oxygen Destroyer. The press release accompanying Battle's heave-ho was overkill, but it worked. The problem, perhaps, is that it worked too well. Volpe convinced himself that bullying was the only effective management style, and the second half of the book is littered with examples of failures of that policy and the resultant lapses of judgment and taste that have plagued the Met for the past decade.

Volpe's motto doesn't seem to be so much "the buck stops here" as "he told me it was a buck; how was I to know it was counterfeit?" He claims he foresaw the disastrous problems inherent in the various fiascos helmed by Francesca Zambello, Graham Vick, Giancarlo del Monaco, Piero Faggioni and Franco Zeffirelli, and even says he tried to do a little last-minute fixup (a la the clouds in Antony.) But Volpe offers no sense of how such misquided production concepts could have survived even the talking stage. How could he have looked at set and costume renderings for Zambello's Lucia, for example, and said, "Yeah, this will work?"

This lack of vision, combined with a habit of delegating casting and planning decisions, plus a conservative tendency to go with the familiar (even when the familiar is mediocre or worse) -- what it all adds up to is a picture of a man with little faith in his own abilities as an artistic director. This, alas, is why Joseph Volpe is no Rudolf Bing. During his tenure, Mr. Bing made good decisions and bad decisions, but they were informed and confident decisions. Volpe's big ideas tended to be more of the "do it because I say so" variety.

For example, we find out that in 1999 the Alagnas in fact did sign the disputed Traviata contracts, but Volpe held them to the letter of his own arbitrary deadline. He said Thursday, and on Friday morning Herbert Breslin was ready to fax over the contracts. Alagna and Gheorghiu were even willing to work with Zeffirelli, which must have taken a whole lot of persuading on Breslin's part. Volpe had in his hand an opera house's crown jewel: a new Traviata with superstar singers, a celebrated director, and no less than James Levine conducting. But he tossed that all away, saying, "Forget it. The deadline has passed. They're out." Then he blabbed the whole story to the New York Times, making everyone involved look silly and childish. And for what? The Met ended up with a Traviata nobody wanted and nobody liked, and six years later Gheorghiu finally showed up for Violetta -- wearing her own costumes and doing her own staging.

The bit about the Alagnas' signed contracts is one of the few new bits of information in this book; obviously the publishers are thoroughly lawyered up and whatever dirt Volpe might have been ready to divulge has been thorougly expunged. We do learn, though, that when money talks, Uncle Joe listens. He tells with a straight face the story of how Sybil Harrington
hated the flat silver walls that Dexter and the designer, David Reppa came up with [for a production of Don Carlo], but she bided her time until after Dexter left the Met. Once he did, the scenery department, at her insistence, redid the walls with an elaborate pattern more in keeping with King Philip's -- and her -- taste.
Volpe also allowed a more notorious benefactor to dictate that the booking operator at the Met's onsite restaurant answer the phone with, "Good afternoon, Vilar Grand Tier Restaurant," as if seeing the "V" word stenciled all over the walls wasn't enough. Volpe insists that he and Alberto Vilar "had little personal contact," and with crystal clear hindsight, notes that Vilar "always seemed to be harboring secrets . . . . I wondered when all this would go up in smoke." But he didn't let that stop him from allowing Vilar to act as if he ran the place.

That about does it for new and interesting content. There's a nude photo of Karita Mattila illustrating an anecdote about how Volpe strong-armed a photographer who took a nude photo of Karita Mattila. There's yet another rehash of the Lincoln Center redevelopment debacle, a "controversy" that even the New York Times is bored with by now. As expected, the Erica Sunnegardh "breakthrough" is predicted in uncanny detail, with comparisons to Rosa Ponselle and Roberta Peters. And, amusingly, Volpe repeats the urban legend about the first-night reception of Robert Wilson's Lohengrin production ("I had also failed to register a recent development in the history of booing. For months, anti-Wilson forces had been peppering the Internet with appeals for the Met audience to give his Lohengrin the same treatment it had dished out to Zambello's Lucia." If you can't be bothered to use Google, Mr. Volpe, at least delegate that task to a fact checker.)

It's a quick read, with lots of names dropped. The Pavarotti stories are either already famous or else are so characteristic as to sound familiar. Neither Volpe nor his coauthor Charles Michener can be accused of being a stylist; the prose is plain and undistinguished, rather like Volpe's legacy. Volpe's hero Rudolf Bing hired John Gutman to ghostwrite his entertaining, bitchy memoir 5000 Nights at the Opera. But then Mr. Bing always did have style.

The Toughest Show on Earth: My Rise and Reign at the Metropolitan Opera by Joseph Volpe. Knopf, May 2006 $25.95

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30 April 2006

I could go on singing 'til the cows come home

La Cieca has just learned the scheduled roster and repertoire for the Volpe Farewell Gala to be performed on Saturday, May 20 (and, if all this music stays in the show, part of May 21 as well.) Deborah Voigt will open the program with special material by Ben Moore, accompanied by Brian Zeger. The first of the James Levine stand-ins, Valery Gergiev, will then conduct selections from Ruslan and Ludmilla and Tannhaeuser. (Further baton duties for the evening are shared among Marco Armiliato, James Conlon, Plácido Domingo, Peter Schneider and Patrick Summers.)

The first operatic solo of the evening ("La speranza" from Semiramide) goes to Juan Diego Florez. Further highlights of the first half include a duet from L'italiana in Algeri (Ildar Abdrazakov, Olga Borodina), "O mio babbino caro" (Ruth Anne Swenson), "Una furtiva lagrima" (Ramon Vargas), "Ah non credea mirarti" (Natalie Dessay), the Count's aria from Figaro (Dwayne Croft), "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" (Denyce Graves), "Tacea la notte" (Renee Fleming [!]), "Je vais mourir" from Les Troyens (Waltraud Meier), the Prize Song (Ben Heppner), and Marietta's Lied (Kiri te Kanawa[!!]).

Frederica von Stade, Salvatore Licitra and Domingo (who sings, too!) will also perform a few songs in this segment, and after a "gala film" is shown, la Voigt will return to perform "Pace, pace."

Susan Graham is first on after intermission with another Moore ditty, followed by Stephanie Blythe ("Ah, que j’aimes les militaires"), Thomas Hampson (Pierrot's song from Die Tote Stadt), Samuel Ramey (Mephisto's serenade from Faust), Dimitri Hvorostovsky and Rene Pape in arias from Don Carlo, and the double-barrelled mezzo excitement of Dolora Zajick's "O mon Fernand" and Ms. Meier's Easter Hymn from Cavalleria.

Two numbers from Così fan tutte follow: "Ah guarda sorella" with Mmes. von Stade and te Kanawa, and "Soave sia il vento" with Fleming, Graham and Hampson. The baritone returns with Karita Mattila for selections from The Merry Widow, and then the audience will take a well-deserved bathroom break while the Met Ballet performs a jolly polka. (UPDATE: further clues suggest that this number will accompany an "open" scene change, so the audience will finally learn the meaning of all that yelling and banging that goes on while we sit in semidarkness for ten minutes at a stretch. It's important that we see this now, because that spoilsport Peter Gelb has vowed to use some sort of voodoo "technology" to facilitate instantaneous scene changes, the way they do on Broadway, at the NYCO, in every European opera house, and, well, basically everywhere in the universe besides the Met.)

James Morris will then lead the Gods into Valhalla, and Susan Graham will bid us all farewell with "Parto, parto." But wait, the show's not over yet. In what might best be called the "TBA Segment," we will (or perhaps will not) hear tenors Roberto Alagna and Marcello Giordani in arias from Cyrano de Bergerac and La gioconda respectively. The legendary Mirella Freni is penciled in for an aria from Alfano's Risurezzione and a Puccini song, and then comes an item listed merely as "(34. L. Pavarotti)."

Returning to the scheduled program, Mattila, Heppner, Pape, Morris (and Matthew Polenzani) bring the curtain down with the finale to Fidelio under the baton of Maestro Schneider. At this point, La Cieca assumes, Rudy Giuliani will present Volpe with a plaque or something and perhaps make a joke about how he's expecting Joe to be on time for work. And then The Beautiful Voice will be heard once more asking the musical question "When I Have Sung My Songs."

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13 January 2006

Volpe, al giungervi di questo foglio...

So, this is what La Cieca read on the website of the Italian newspaper Il Mattino:
Roberto Alagna
. . . sta male a causa di crisi ipoglicemiche e non potrà cantare per almeno tre mesi . . . . A dare la notizia lo stesso cantante accompagnato dalla moglie, il soprano Angela Gheorghiu, che ha annullato i suoi appuntamenti in giro per il mondo per i prossimi mesi pur di stargli vicino.

Now, La Cieca is not the world's strongest Italian reader, but this certainly seems to say that la Gheorghiu "has canceled her international engagements for the coming months in order to be near him." Which, in turn, makes La Cieca wonder: is La traviata in New York an "international engagement?" (La Cieca will also add that this is the first time she's ever heard of a singer canceling because of hypoglycemia. Can't he drink a glass of orange juice or something?)

UPDATE: January 14 . . . A veteran diva close to Gheorghiu says this morning, "Angela will sing the Traviatas."

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21 October 2005

Morir, si pura e bella?

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 the future, so don't book your tickets yet. Actually, this tidbit could have waited a few days (or years) but La Cieca wanted an excuse to post the scrummy photo of Bobby as Radames. Doesn't he look like he's about to say, "My father rules many lands and peoples, and that is why they call me Prince?"

La Cieca has just heard that the honor of opening the 2006 La Scala season will go to Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna, who will grace a new production of Aida. Please let La Cieca be the first to congratulate maestro Riccardo Chailly for persuading these two megastars to take on the roles of the Priestess and the Messenger -- now, who do you think he will get for the leads?

The most reliable source of all (i.e., himself) states that a long-term career goal for Rolando Villazon is ... Wagner. Don't panic yet; he's talking Lohengrin sometime around 2015, as reported at Mouvement Nouveau.

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03 August 2005

Digital Dementia

Antonietta Stella as AmeliaLa 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, Antonietta Stella), Norma (Montserrat Caballe, Tatiana Troyanos), Faust (Alfredo Kraus, Renata Scotto, Nicolai Ghiaurov) -- and even a 1988(!) La Gioconda starring Grace Bumbry and Fiorenza Cossotto! Now, you all know how quickly great stuff like this sells out at Berkshire, so what are you waiting for? Get over there now!

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