31 January 2008

Bess, is you our woman now?

Or, to put it another way, could this soprano be what the Met needs for Roberto Devereux?

While you ponder the future, you can enjoy the past: the final act of Verdi's Macbeth is now on Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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Joyce DiDonato in Maria Stuarda

La DiDonato is joined here by Gabriele Fontana and Eric Cutler in this 2005 video.

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30 January 2008

Frocked up

UPDATED: Now with even more operatic tackiness!

A sampling of Diva Dress Disasters submitted by the cher public.Seen worse disasters? Email La Cieca!

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Singing, actress

For those of you who were stumped by Lady Number Six, here's the mysterious dame herself, Galina Vishnevskaya, in a more accustomed version of Lady Macbeth, the 1966 film by Mikhail Shapiro of Katerina Izmailova.

The great diva returned to the screen only last year in Alexandra (directed by Alexander Sokurov), playing an elderly woman who makes the trek to Chechnya to visit her grandson, who has been stationed there as a soldier for seven years.

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28 January 2008


The unusual and undreamed-of videos just keep popping up on YouTube. Here's a scene from Norma with Elinor Ross and Mario del Monaco!

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No Sleep 'Til Sunnyside

Not a whole lot of news on matters operatic in the past couple of days, so La Cieca has decided a competitive quiz is in order. The clip below is the "Sleepwalking Scene" from Verdi's Macbeth divided among 14 sopranos and mezzo-sopranos. All you have to do is name the 14 singers in the correct order. (La Cieca has decided to be merciful this time and omit overly obscure singers. Each singer in this clip is or was internationally famous. However, La Cieca cautions you that not all these singers included Lady Macbeth in their onstage repertoire.)

When you believe you know all 14 voices, send your answer to [email protected]. First correct answer will receive a gift certificate from amazon.com. Should there be no entry with all 14 correct answers by midnight on Tuesday, January 29, La Cieca will choose randomly among the entries with the highest number of correct answers.

In the meantime, please feel free to discuss and make wild guesses in the comments section.

UPDATE: As of Monday evening, La Cieca has not declared a winner. There is a tie for first place with two entries each naming 13 out of 14 correctly. Interestingly, they both mistake the same Lady. For those of you who might want to do a little more intensive study of the Ladies (and La Cieca doesn't mean only the lesbians in the audience!), here's the mp3 to download.

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26 January 2008

Ach! Hilde, weißt du, daß wir Ratten im Keller haben?

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23 January 2008

Weird sister

The inimitable, irrepressible Miss Tallulah Bankhead once more graces the studio of Unnatural Acts of Opera with a guest appearance on Apocryphal Opera Anecdote Theater. The legendary stage star joins Our Own La Cieca and Miss Cratchitt to perform a pair of scenes from Shakespeare's Macbeth. The main event, of course, is the second and third acts of Verdi's operatic version of the Scottish Tragedy, starring Shirley Verrett, Piero Cappuccilli, Nicolai Ghiaurov and Franco Tagliavini. Conducting this performance from La Scala on December 7, 1975 is Claudio Abbado.

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22 January 2008

Don't want to be a prima donna, donna, donna

Domani e un altro giorno"Believe you me, there is a lot of drama in the opera world, and you have to rise above it .... I really don't get into the drama. ... I don't cause scandals and I don't throw fits. For me, the thing to be admired is to be on time, be prepared and to give it 100 percent." That's Jennifer Larmore speaking "with a faint Southern accent" to The Cincinnati Enquirer. The mezzo firmly asserts "she's not a diva" in the very first paragraph of the piece.

Interestingly, there are lots of numbers in this article -- such as 500 (times Larmore claims to have sung Rosina), 90 (pounds she has lost in the past four years since gall bladder surgery) and, alas, 15 (top ticket price, in dollars, for her recital tonight University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music; students get in free). La Cieca will to the reader to explain why, sometimes at least, it may better to be a diva after all.

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18 January 2008

This is my belief, in brief


That grand old man of music André Previn is writing another opera, following up on the clamorous success of 1998's A Streetcar Named Desire. The commission for Houston Grand Opera is Brief Encounter, based on Noel Coward's one-act play Still Life as well as the screenplay for the eponymous film. (First Tennessee Williams, then Noel Coward ... surely a collaboration with Jean Genet is the next logical step!) Well, anyway, the premiere of Brief Encounter, most likely omitting the above imagery, is set for May of 2009. Too long a wait, you say? Well, in the meantime, sit back and enjoy an excerpt from Previn's one universally recognized masterpiece.

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16 January 2008

Lady Be Good

La Cieca is happy to announce a special performance to mark the return from exile of Unnatural Acts of Opera. Our program is a reprise of the first opera ever podcast on this site, Verdi's Macbeth featuring Shirley Verrett and Piero Cappuccilli. Claudio Abbado conducts the orchestra and chorus of La Scala on December 7, 1975.

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Front burner

A legendary Lulu crosses over.

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Wait 'til you've refined it

A controversial new production of Massenet's erotically-tinged opera Manon featuring "it girl" soprano Anna Netrebko opened last night in....

Oh, all right. Obviously that's not our Anna. In fact it's ecdysiast Dita Von Teese performing her signature "cocktail glass" strip. The model and performer (whose adorably mousy real name is Heather Sweet) has accepted an invitation to attend Vienna's prestigious Opera Ball later this month as the special guest Austrian businessman Richard Lugner. The 75-year-old real estate and construction mogul takes a celebrity to the glamorous gala every year.

Previous guests of "Mörtel" Lugner have included Joan Collins (1993), Ivana Trump (1994), Sophia Loren (1995), Grace Jones (1996), Sarah, Duchess of York (1997), Raquel Welch (1998), Faye Dunaway (1999), Jacqueline Bisset (2000), Farrah Fawcett (2001), Claudia Cardinale (2002), Pamela Anderson (2003), Andie MacDowell (2004), Geri Halliwell (2005), Carmen Electra (2006) and Paris Hilton (2007).

La Von Teese is known as a retro fashion muse and was briefly married to goth rocker Marilyn Manson.

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13 January 2008

Kiri gets it right

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12 January 2008

Shirley, no jest!

La Cieca hears that the one and only Miss Shirley Verrett will grace the airwaves this afternoon as an intermission guest during the broadcast of Macbeth.

Do join La Cieca in the comments section of this posting to enjoy this afternoon's broadcast -- especially the words of La Verrett!

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04 January 2008

Whatever happened to Katia Ricciarelli?

In fact, she became Peggy Lee.

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02 January 2008

Breakthrough of the century for artistic administrators

The diva hazard bonus: a special above-and-beyond payoff to those who have patiently put up with a colleague's diva antics. La Cieca cannot find any official instance of this bonus in the world of opera, but surely it's an incredible idea.

... Kim Cattrall was such a diva to work with on the Sex and the City movie that her costars are getting a secret bonus for dealing with Kim's prima donna behavior.

An insider tells Star, "Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon are getting a 'hush-hush' bonus for not being divas during filming and as a thank-you for putting up with Kim."


01 January 2008

Natalie Déshabillée

La Dessay rehearses the "bathtub scene" from Manon.

Sorry, folks, the video is no longer available for embedding at the request of the uploader, Parsifal1979. You can view it, however, on the YouTube site.

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28 December 2007

Forced to bend her soul to a sordid role

Pint-sized Broadway dynamo Kristen Chenoweth will make her fully-staged role debut as Cunegonde in Candide at the English National Opera this summer. The Bernstein/Wilbur, Latouche, Parker, Hellman, Sondheim, Bernstein & Wheeler operetta will be performed in the Robert Carsen production previously seen at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris and La Scala, Milan. Performances begin June 23 for a 13-performance run.

According to The Stage, "popular tenor" Toby Spence will take on the title role, with other casting TBA. By an odd coincidence, the ENO are presenting a concert only a few weeks prior to this Candide starring a diva some might consider "dream casting" as The Old Lady. La Cieca supposes we should just dream on!

And will someone please wake La Cieca when the New York City Opera gets around to announcing the casting for their revival of the creaky Harold Prince staging of Candide?

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26 December 2007

Golden girl

Ageless Reri Grist sings "Somewhere" in a rehearsal for the 19th Annual Gypsy of the Year Competition, celebrated earlier this month. La Grist introduced this song 50 seasons ago when West Side Story premiered on Broadway. She is joined in this clip by Chita Rivera, Carol Lawrence and other members of the original company.

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23 December 2007

Another song of the season

A concert in Vienna, 2006.

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21 December 2007


"Starring Leona Mitchell (star of the Metropolitan Opera and other major opera houses around the world) and Sarah Rice (the original Johanna in SWEENEY TODD on Broadway), Leona & Sarah, Songs for the Heart & Soul. These two friends join their thrilling voices in an evening of songs, melodie, chanson and an aria or two, with a little gospel/inspirational thrown in for good measure, to uplift the heart and warm the winter-weary spirit. Come be transported and bask in the musical sunshine!

"BCD concerts have been called 'Life-affirming', 'show-stopping', 'Like Babette's feast for the ear' by reviewers and audience members lucky enough to have seen our previous performances. Don't miss out on this heartbreakingly beautiful and thrilling concert."

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20 December 2007

Weathers man

A reader writes...

Dear La Cieca:

I found your site through a Google search because I am trying to track down contact information for Felicia Weathers. So imagine my pleasure at the clip of "Up, Up and Away"!

In 1969 I had the good fortune to play "Trouble" to Felicia Weathers' "Cio-Cio San" in a production of "Madama Butterfly" at Memphis State University.

I've lost contact with Ms. Weathers and am hoping that, with your encyclopedic knowledge [flattery will get you everywhere - Ed.], you might have a lead or a suggestion as to how I might find her.

I know that she's been in Germany for many years, but I have had no luck in finding contact information or an agent listing. I've tapped numerous resources, including contacts here in Los Angeles and at the Met, but to no avail.

Any assistance you might be able to provide would be greatly ppreciated.
So, how about it, readers? If you have contact information for Ms. Weathers, please email it to La Cieca, who will forward it to The Reader Formerly Known as Trouble.


17 December 2007

Don't cry for me, Pensacola

Leocadia Begbick (in the person of Patti Lupone, no less) issues small craft warnings for the Gulf coast. (Just a quick clip from the Mahagonny telecast scheduled for tonight at 9 PM on PBS. Check your local listings, obviously.)

And, of course it's old news by now, but la Lupone will be back on Broadway this March reprising her already classic Mama Rose.

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15 December 2007

Trouser snake

Maite Beaumont created a sensation as Sesto in Lyric Opera of Chicago's recent Giulio Cesare. She's seen and heard here as Cherubino.

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05 December 2007

Who can that attractive girl be?

La Cieca would never have thought this would work. And yet...

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04 December 2007

Surely you chest!

And don't call her Shirley! It's the one and only Ruby Hinds singing the cabaletta to "O mio Fernando" at a tribute to Doris Roberts (yeah, go figure) in Beverly Hills.

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Runners-up and their lilting melodies

Excellent lines from some of the many, many "Season Brochures" that didn't make the final five.

Soprano Montserrat Caballe stars as Jeanette, a virginal pony who for most of the opera is disguised as a mysterious duck. Montserrat Caballe is perhaps best known from TV's Sex & The City where she sang the lilting melody "My Way."

Soprano Diana Damrau stars as Alice, a virginal mortar and pestle who for most of the opera is disguised as a mysterious desk accessory. Diana Damrau is perhaps best known from TV's The West Wing where she sang the lilting melody "Oops I Did It Again."

Soprano Rosa Ponselle stars as Giuletta, a virginal cattle prod who for most of the opera is disguised as a mysterious cigar. Rosa Ponselle is perhaps best known from TV's Heroes where she sang the lilting melody "Without a Song."

Soprano Joan Sutherland stars as Hortensia, a virginal abbess who for most of the opera is disguised as a mysterious food processor. Joan Sutherland is perhaps best known from TV's Miami Vice where she sang the lilting melody "Vesti la giubba."

Dame Gwyneth Jones is perhaps best known from TV's The Life Of Riley where she sang the lilting melody "The Leader Of The Pack."

Hildegard Behrens is perhaps best known from TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer where she sang the lilting melody "How much is that doggy in the window?"

Zinka Milanov is perhaps best known from TV's Everybody Loves Raymond where she sang the lilting melody "Hava Negila."

Victoria de los Angeles is perhaps best known from TV's Fear Factor where she sang the lilting melody "Let's hear it for the boy."

Aprile Millo is perhaps best known from TV's Nanny and the Professor where she sang the lilting melody "I Will Survive."

June Anderson is perhaps best known from TV's Leave It To Beaver where she sang the lilting melody "Love Don't Live Here Anymore."

Ljuba Weltisch is perhaps best known from TV's The Gong Show where she sang the lilting melody "Oompa Loompa Doopity Do."

Dawn Upshaw is perhaps best known from TV's So Graham Norton where she sang the lilting melody "It Sucks to be Me."

Birgit Nilsson is perhaps best known from TV's Grey's Anatomy where she sang the lilting melody "Glitter and be Gay."

Maria Callas is perhaps best known from TV's The Simpsons where she sang the lilting melody "We wish you a Merry Christmas."

Galina Gorchakova is perhaps best known from TV's Ugly Betty where she sang the lilting melody "Super Trouper".

Christine Brewer is perhaps best known from TV's Brothers and Sisters where she sang the lilting melody "Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong."

Leonie Rysanek is perhaps best known from TV's Wife Swap where she sang the lilting melody "Sexy Back."

Cheryl Studer is perhaps best known from TV's My Name is Earl where she sang the lilting melody "Let the Bright Seraphim."

Mara Zampieri is perhaps best known from TV's American Gladiators where she sang the lilting melody "Get your tongue out of my mouth, I am kissing you goodbye."

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22 November 2007

I love Luisa

After you enjoy tomorrow's Black Friday shopping spree at amazon.com, settle back for a little operatic comfort food: classic Turkey Tetrazzini.

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Madeira
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 to 3 cups cooked turkey, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 pound linguine cooked to al dente stage
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese mixed with 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet. When the foaming subsides, add the mushrooms and saute, over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes until the mushrooms have absorbed the butter and are tender. Stir in the Madeira and evaporate over high heat.

In another saucepan heat 3 tablespoons of butter. When foaming subsides, stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Whisk in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cook, over low heat, for about 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove sauce from heat and stir in the cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in the mushrooms and turkey.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole. Layer half of pasta, half of mushroom and turkey mixture and repeat with pasta and turkey mushroom mix. Scatter Parmesan and bread crumbs over the top and dot with remaining tablespoon of butter. Heat for 45 minutes or until heated through, sauce is bubbling and top is browning. If you wish, slide casserole under the broiler for a moment to brown the top.

Recipe from Food Network.


17 November 2007

Musa! Diva! Sirena!

La Cieca's all-time favorite soprano, Renata Scotto, in one of her greatest roles, Adriana Lecouvreur -- if you can think of an operatic experience to rival it, La Cieca hopes you will let her know what you're having! La Scotto is heard in her first Adriana Lecouvreur, from San Francisco in 1977, partnered by Elena Obraztsova , Giacomo Aragall and Giuseppe Taddei under the baton of Gianandrea Gavazzeni. The first act of the Cilea weepy is the centerpiece of the current episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera, but is La Cieca satisfied? Hardly! Bonus features include rare early recordings of Scotto singing Bellini arias (I Capuleti e i Montecchi and I puritani) and your doyenne's admittedly somewhat vague reminiscences of the glory that was San Francisco gay life in the seventies.

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14 November 2007

Good diva

"And so for you opera trivia lovers out there, you'll be interested to know that the outfit 'Octavian' was wearing for the 2007 Tucker Gala's 'Presentation of the Rose' was actually the outfit the 'Sophie' wore to the theater that night! Diana [Damrau] actually gave me the clothes off her back, right down to her shoes, and THAT, ladies and gentlemen, was my first outfit!"

That's Joyce DiDonato blogging, and this opera trivia lover will check in daily for further updates. The lady writes as well as she sings!

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01 November 2007

No, but thanks for axing

Box office poison!Playbill Arts reports more intrigue out of San Francisco: Natalie Dessay will not do the Mary Zimmerman production of Lucia di Lammermoor there next summer as originally announced. Oh, don't worry, la Dessay will indeed sing the role, but the SFO is substituting a Graham Vick staging, citing "the physical dimensions of the [Metropolitan Opera] production and extensive rebuilding required to adapt the sets for the War Memorial Opera House." Ah, yes, of course. The extensive rebuilding, that's it.

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31 October 2007

Enter Madame

One of La Cieca's intricate network of spies has been keeping his ear to the ground in San Francisco where a supernumerary friend whispered to him that "there was concern amongst the SFO backstage ranks that since La Gheorghiu had yet to show up for any La rondine rehearsals, that she may go the route of of her recent Lyric Opera contretemps and be dismissed as a no-show."

Signor Spy assured his super friend that Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna "were merely enjoying a personal idyll in NYC ... that once Mr. Alagna finished up with Pinkerton last Saturday, she (or both) would probably be winging to the West Coast to keep the SFO commitment." He then passed along to La Cieca a report on the soprano's "first rehearsal appearance."

UPDATE: Well, now it seems our original spy has reconsidered the hearsay he shared earlier and asked that the "Super" quotes be removed. Fair enough, La Cieca thinks, since she's not entirely clear on whether Super gave Spy carte blanche to share the "insights" in the first place.

La Cieca does not plan on making a habit of putting the toothpaste back in the tube, but this appears to be a special case. Okay with you, cher public?

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30 October 2007

Jessye is dressy, but Curtis is pertest

Curtis Rayam as Arnalta in L'incoronazione di Poppea, directed by René Jacobs.

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27 October 2007

The solution to the "Ernani involami" quiz

All right, cher public, now that the competion is closed, La Cieca will reveal the 20 singers performing the composite "Ernani involami." First, you might want to listen to the original clip one more time. Now, ready? Here are our 20 divas, pictured and named. Just click on the YouTube clip to play.

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25 October 2007

Happy birthday Barbara Cook!

The legendary lady of musical theater and popular song is 80 years old today!

Ms. Cook celebrates this milestone next month on November 19 and 20 when she appears as a guest artist with the New York Philharmonic.


17 October 2007

Santuzza offers a prayer of thanks

"Over-accessorizing and poor taste in makeup is not an excommunicable offense," a specialist on Catholic canon law has explained.

The expert was speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle in the wake of a scandal involving San Francisco's Archbishop George Niederauer and the activist group the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. On October 7, Niedarauer delivered the Eucharist to "two men in heavy makeup and nuns' habits."

The Archbishop almost immediately issued a letter of apology to Catholics, but not soon enough to prevent Fox News screaming head Bill O'Reilly from grabbing the opportunity to sneer at San Francisco's "far-left secular progressives who despise the military, traditional values and religion."

Following up on the story, the Chronicle spoke to Rev. Jim Bretzke, professor of moral theology at University of San Francisco, a Jesuit Catholic university.

"The general sacramental principle is that you don't deny the sacrament to someone who requests it," Bretzke explained. "The second principle is that you cannot give communion to someone who has been excommunicated . . . .

"While I can see Bill O'Reilly and others might be offended, the sisters do not meet the criteria the church has for denying Communion. Over-accessorizing and poor taste in makeup is not an excommunicable offense."

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Norma Rai

Culminating the month-long Maria Callas mania over at Rai 3, this Saturday the Italian radio network will broadcast a newly restored version ("il cui audio verrà restaurato per l'occasione") of the celebrated June 29, 1955 concert of Bellini's Norma.

Co-starring with La Divina are Mario del Monaco and Ebe Stignani, under the baton of Tullio Serafin. That broadcast should begin at 2:30 PM New York time; everyone else will have to puzzle it out from there.

While this Norma is hardly an "lost performance," currently available dubs of the broadcast are of frustratingly poor quality. Some are pitched incorrectly; others substitute bits of other performances from Callas commercial recordings or other sources. If this Saturday broadcast indeed presents a complete and cleaned-up version, joy will indeed be unconfined.

Oh, and here's a direct link to the Rai 3 player. (La Cieca thanks dear Herman Melville for both the tip and the headline.)

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15 October 2007

Pop-top frocks

New York-based artist Nikos Floros has created an artistic tribute to La Divina herself from 20 thousand beer and soft drink cans for an art exhibition in Athens.

The exhibition includes a sculptural gown inspired by Maria Callas's costume for Iphigénie en Tauride featuring ring-pulls that become a lace-like collar. A kimono sculpture is inspired by Madama Butterfly.

"Today’s temples are supermarkets, malls and department stores," the artist says. "That's where you exist."

Over a period of five years, Floros purchased more than 200,000 aluminium cans of soft drinks and beer and turned them into large-scale sculptures dedicated to La Divina’s spirit, among other things.

"Opera Sculptured Costumes" is on display at the National Bank of Greece’s Melas Mansion through October 19.

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10 October 2007

We'll need no castles in Spain

Autumn in New York means many things to many people. To some, it's glittering crowds and shimmering clouds in canyons of steel; others reflect upon upon jaded roués and gay divorcées who lunch at the Ritz. To singers it's the height of the allergy and cancellation season.

But to us, the most echt of all opera lovers, autumn in New York heralds the announcement of "The F. Paul Driscoll Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence." Luminaries receiving this accolade for 2007 include Stephanie Blythe, Olga Borodina, Thomas Hampson, Julius Rudel and "retired soprano legend" Leontyne Price.

TFPDAFOAITFOE, or, to use its perhaps less amusing but certainly cumbersome original title "The Opera News Awards," will hold its annual gala reception and dinner at the Hotel Pierre in New York City on Thursday, January 24, 2008. In what La Cieca applauds as a heart-warming effort at outreach to the lesbian community, the ceremony will boast Sigourney Weaver (above) and Susan Graham (not pictured) as co-hostpersons.

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04 October 2007

Whatever happened to Marwdew Czgowchwz?

Ever since everyone's favorite apocryphal diva (with the possible minority exception of Lena Geyer), the oracular Oltrano herself, Marwdew Czgowchwz, vanished across the ocean at a time (time out of mind) that was somehow both 1956 and 1975 and yet neither, La Cieca, like all the rest of you, has reread her first copy of James McCourt's novel to tatters, purchased the sempiternally-awaited reissue, and wondered, wondered... well, after all, what's left for her?

Cher public, we're about to find out. This month, Turtle Point Press releases Now Voyagers: Some Divisions of the Saga of Mawrdew Czgowchwz, Oltrano, Authenticated by Persons Represented Therein, Book One: The Night Sea Journey. This flamboyant followup tells the story of the charged atmosphere surrounding the legendary diva (and possible CIA agent) turned psychoanalyst. According to Publishers Weekly, the novel
resurrects the literary, musical and gay scene of 1950s New York. About half relates to Czgowchwz's 1956 trip across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary with her consort, Jacob Beltane, to Ireland, where she is to star in Pilgrim Soul, a Douglas Sirk–like movie about the Irish revolt of 1916. Much of the rest relates to the Gotham-centered peregrinations of Mawrdew's friend, the gay poet S.D.J. Fitzjames O'Maurigan .... The most stylistically astonishing chapters are intermezzos of conversation caught on the wing at Everard's Bath house, the book's pre-Stonewall place to meet and greet in gay New York.
This fall's must-read is now on sale at Amazon.com.

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02 October 2007

Marked Down Woman

La Cieca's old, old, old friend and role model Charles Busch returns to the boards this month in the New York stage premiere of one of his greatest film triumphs, the eponymous matriarch of Die Mommie Die. Busch (who is of course the author as well) stars as Angela Arden, a legendary screen chanteuse bedeviled by adultery, incest, blackmail, murder and the servant problem.

The play is a send-up of those 1960s horror films (sorry, "psychological thrillers") like Dead Ringer and I Saw What You Did, with the added twist that the plot is "borrowed" from the Oresteia. In other words, this is the funniest version of Elektra you're ever likely to see.

Die Mommie Die opens at New World Stages for a limited run beginning October 10, and for an even more limited time you can purchase tickets for this not-to-be-missed theatrical event for only $35.00! To take advantage of this near-felonious discount, Click Here and enter code DMTMC35. You can also phone 212-239-6200 and mention code DMTMC35.

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28 September 2007

Mood swings

Only rarely can a writer inspire first violent agreement and then equally fervent disbelief in the space of a couple of short paragraphs, but Kyle MacMillan of the Denver Post can now claim credit for La Cieca's current bipolarity:
Renée Fleming just might be the the world's most undivalike diva. [well, duh!]

Much like, say, Audrey Hepburn, the 48-year-old soprano manages to gracefully balance sophistication and poise with an appealing sense of grounded genuineness. [whaaaaaa...?]

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25 September 2007

The winner and new diva

La Cieca wasn't "in the house" for the Lucia prima last night like so many of her colleagues; instead she hosted perhaps the most popular of all her online chats thus far. Approximately 120 of you cher public logged in at some point during the night, with 75 or so on average staying for the long haul. Say what you will about Natalie Dessay or even Stephen Costello, there was really only one genuine "star is born" moment last night, and here, as dear Mathilde Marchesi would say, is "la nouvelle Melba" --

Our nomination for Camp Diva of the 2007-2008 Season: Miss Blythe Danner!

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22 September 2007

Happy Birthday, Anna Tomowa-Sintow!

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19 September 2007

Watch out boy she'll chew you up

Jossie is a wild girl," says a former MetOpera colleague. "You never knew what gutter you’d wake up in when you went out with her." .... As her career began to escalate, so did, by many accounts, her outlandish party lifestyle and behavior. Like Carmen, Pérez moved fluidly from man to man, boasting to colleagues and former schoolmates about her conquests onstage and off. She got a reputation for her mouth, her "independent spirit" and for doing it her way.

Anna Netrebko better watch her back, if this article in Williamette Week is to be believed.

And, my dears, you haven't lived until you've seen the splash page on la Pérez' website!

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11 September 2007

Anything I can do, she can do better

Multifaceted Aprile Millo has branched out into blogging, and her site, operavision, includes some of the smartest online opera commentary La Cieca has seen. Currently she's expounding on Opera in 3D, a fascinating article if you can tear yourself away from the image of Renata Tebaldi shaking hands with an astronaut! La Millo naturally has penned a most moving tribute to her late colleague Luciano Pavarotti and includes some rare video of the legendary tenor (and other great performers, including herself!) on the site. Explore!

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07 September 2007

Not a comeback, a return!

Fans of red-haired three-named sopranos d'un certain âge will rejoice to hear that at least a couple of the mainstays of the Volpe Era have been asked back to the Met under the Gelb Aegis. (And after all that naughty gossip about firings and buyings-out! Who ever heard of such a thing?) Anyway, not to delay the gratification any longer, La Cieca can reveal that the Titian-tressed trinominates in question are Hei-Kyung Hong and Ruth Ann Swenson.

La Hong was announced only a couple of days ago as a substitute for the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro on October 2, 6, 10, 13 and 18, replacing Dorothea Röschmann "who has cancelled all engagements for three months for health reasons," per the Met's press office. Less officially, Ms. Swenson is rumored for the 2008-09 season as Musetta in La bohème as a followup to next spring's Violettas, which were at one point assumed to be her farewell to the company.

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30 August 2007

Where is style? Where is skill? Where is forethought?

Yes, another YouTube posting, but this one is something very special indeed. Legendary Zarah Leander is seen in a few moments from her 1975 triumph as Madame Armfelt in Das Lächeln einer Sommernacht (A Little Night Music) at the Theater an der Wien. La Leander also cavorts about a studio, lipsynching a medley of her hits with Les Boys. Once she lights up the cigarette, doesn't she look exactly like Bette Davis doing a musical version of The Little Foxes?

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28 August 2007


That utterly addictive web presence Vinyl Divas has just updated their fascinating, wide-ranging collection of operatic LP covers with high-quality scans of albums featuring every opera lady you've ever heard of (and more than a few you haven't.)

The latest set runs the gamut from Alla Ablaberdyeva (performing Bach, Purcell and Handel with the assistance of the intensely bearded Alexander Fiseisky and his massive organ) to Virginia Zeani (rocking a hot-pink cocktail dress and Jackie Kennedy flip for a Verdi/Puccini recital.)

UPDATE: Although the Vinyl Divas site does not include any sound clips to complement the dizzying collection of album covers, La Cieca thought you might enjoy a sampling of late '60s crossover at its best. Ferocious Felicia Weathers is heard in a psychedelic single:

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15 August 2007

Sai quale oscura opera laggiu si compia?

In fact, the opera is anything but obscure. But the performance has been seen only rarely since 1956.

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11 August 2007

"The muse was definitely not in attendance"

The delightful and greatly missed Madeline Kahn explains how she almost became an opera singer.

The complete version of this 1985 Opera Quiz, also featuring Kitty Carlisle Hart and Charles Nelson Reilly, can be found on Veoh. com.

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09 August 2007

Kunst overload

Nelly Miricioiu sings the second act of Roberto Devereux plus the finale of Rossini's Ermione in the current episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera. Representing the German wing, Martha Moedl is seen in a rare television appearance, performing Lieder by Wagner and Wolf, discussing her career, and performing a scene from Mahagonny. It's all at Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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02 August 2007

Ou sont les podcasts d'antan?

Update: beginning tonight on Unnatural Acts of Opera (2007 edition), a return to Italian opera, with one of today's most controversial cult divas starring as (what else) a conflicted queen. Nelly Miricioiu sings the role of Elisabetta I in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, in a 2002 performance from the Royal Opera, Covent Garden.

La Cieca has now updated the feeds or whatever it is for the archived 2005 and 2006 episodes of Unnatural Acts of Opera. You can download these episodes in iTunes by clicking on 2005 or 2006. Your iTunes application will automatically launch and you can start listening within seconds.

For those using other podcatchers, you will need the RSS information for 2005 and 2006.

And for those of you who just want to hearken back to the golden age of unnatural acts, you can launch a player for 2005 or 2006 and listen while you continue your browsing.

A quick reminder: like NPR, Unnatural Acts of Opera is supported by your generosity. Won't you visit the Amazon Honor System and help out?

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29 July 2007

Le belting

Régine Crespin does her "New York has neon, Berlin has bars" routine on a French variety TV show "Palmarès des chansons" circa 1967. She sings her version of one of the greatest hits of the evergreen entertainer Mistinguett, the chanson "C'est vrai!".

A video excerpt of this performance (featuring Mme. Crespin "entourée de danseurs avec plumes") may be found on the Place aux Chansons website.

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05 July 2007

Régine Crespin, 1927-2007

Régine Crespin in Recital
  • Wolf: Blumengruß - Der Schäfer - Die Spröde - Anakreons Grab -Epiphanias - Mignon I, II and III - Philine - Kennst du das Land
  • Debussy: Le Promenoir des deux amants: Auprès de cette grotte sombre -Crois mon conseil, chère Climène - Je tremble en voyant ton visage
  • Milhaud: Poèmes Juifs (exc.): Chant d'amour - Chant de forgeron -Chant de nourrice
  • Rosenthal: Chansons du Monsieur Bleu: Quat' et trois sept - L'éléphant du Jardin des Plantes - Fido, Fido - Le petit chat est mort - La souris d'Angleterre
  • Encores: Berlioz: Le spectre de la rose; Poulenc: Fêtes galantes; Wolf: Ich hab' in Penna
John Wustman, piano. Hunter College, New York City, November 11, 1967.

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30 June 2007

Curiouser and curiouser

Sempiternal soprano Gwyneth Jones creates a role in a world premiere later today! The veteran singing actress performs the role of the Queen of Hearts in Unsuk Chin's opera Alice in Wonderland, to an English-language libretto by David Henry Hwang after the novel by Lewis Carroll.

The production, conducted by Kent Nagano, will be broadcast live from the Bayerische Staatsoper at 1:30 p.m. New York time today over RealPlayer and Windows Media. (As always, La Cieca gets her latest scoops on all things internet radio from the indispensable OperaCast.)

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26 June 2007

Tu che le vanita project

La Cieca must first of all express how startled she is that this particular item didn't appear first on NYC Opera Fanatic -- after all, Lana Turner as Elisabetta in Don Carlo? Well, in fact, Miss Turner never did sing any Verdi, on- or off-stage (unlike her precursor Joan Crawford), but my goodness, doesn't she just look the part?

It is only with slight disappointment that La Cieca notes that La Turner is not even pretending to be an opera singer here. It's a moment from the beginning of the 1969 film The Big Cube, portraying Lana's character, the celebrated stage actress Adriana Roman, performing one of her celebrated stage roles. (Now, that does seem like a missed opportunity, doesn't it? I mean, with a name like "Adriana Roman," why waste your time in legitimate theater?) Well, anyway, this little scena is only the beginning of a dramatic roller-coaster for Adriana/Lana. Before you know it, her stepdaughter's skuzzy gigolo boyfriend (George Chakiris) will be spiking poor Lana's sleeping pills with LSD in a sinister plot to drive the poor diva mad, mad I tell you.

Now, let's see if La Cieca can remember why she brought all this up just at this particular moment. Oh, yes, now she has it. The Big Cube has just been released on DVD in a boxed set (like Proust!) fetchingly entitled Cult Camp Classics 2 - Women in Peril. The collection also includes our Joan's theatrical swan song Trog and the echt women's prison movie Caged.

Which reminds La Cieca: did you realize that an operatic version of Caged could be cast easily with the singers from Dialogues des Carmélites? (Mignon Dunn as Warden Ruth Benton? Lucine Amara as Matron Evelyn Harper? Régine Crespin as "Vice Queen" Elvira Powell?)

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18 June 2007

Druidesses three times three

La Cieca is startled and delighted to note that there are already some very competitive entries in the "Nine Normas" quiz, including a likely prize winner. So that all you cher public may have the chance to put your vocal identification skills to the test, here's the clip of The Nine Normas.

Feel free to make your guesses in the comments section!

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How tief is your love

Surrounding the second act of D'Albert's opera Tiefland on the current episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera is a veritable plethora of special features. First, La Cieca takes a telephone call from an icon of stage, screen and recordings (hint: she was the surprise star of Broadway's Hit the Sky). Then our old, old, old friend Tallulah Bankhead drops by the studio along with none other than legendary, lovely Marlene Dietrich for a Sapphic singalong. After the act, your doyenne introduces the latest installment of The Enigmas of La Cieca, and, yes, it's another vocal identification. Take the quiz and determine your Norma-Q! Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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15 June 2007

I laughed for art, I laughed for love

"This writer approached the new off-Broadway play The Second Tosca with more than a bit of trepidation, worried that it might amount to no more than second-rate Terrance McNally or, even worse, unfunny inanity like Lend Me a Tenor. What a relief, then, it is to report that The Second Tosca is a delightful, campy, and sincere show, bitingly accurate in its take on opera and the crazy people who create it." Our publisher JJ moonlights as a drama critic in Gay City News.

Rachel deBenedet and Vivian Reed in The Second Tosca. (Photograph by Neilson Barnard.)

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14 June 2007


A glimpse of beloved soprano Gabriella Benackova in an unusual role: Emilia Marty in Vec Makropulos. Tete-de-peau tenor Roman Sadnik is Gregor.

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09 June 2007

Stella for star

Just a few quick words about the magnificent soprano Antonietta Stella, the "tie-breaker" in our recent quiz. She is perhaps not quite so familiar to some of La Cieca's readers as the more celebrated divas also heard on the track such as Tebaldi and Price. La Cieca will quote her dear colleague Enzo Bordello, who wrote eloquently about this singer in 1998:

". . . her 1957 broadcast performance [of Tosca] with Tucker and Warren is sensational. The voice is confidently produced, with plenty of healthy, glowing tone. She tosses off the role's many high B's and C's like they were child's play....

"The long and the short of the matter is that I simply adore Antonietta Stella. What did she do well, you ask? Well, I would reframe the question this way: what did she NOT do well? Although I never saw Stella in the theater, I can honestly say that few singers have thrilled me as much as she on records and video. At its best, the voice represents the highest standard of Italian lirico-spinto singing. There is a morbidezza in the sound that is ravishing. In addition to producing focused high notes, Stella sang with unforced resonance in the lower register. The legato is melting and her pianiszimo singing ranks with the best of anyone."

Antonietta Stella sings "Vissi d'arte"

Stella on YouTube

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08 June 2007

"Life is like an opera"

Who, La Cieca asks, could disagree with this sentiment? Particularly when it is expressed so, well, expressively by the divine Jacqueline van Quaille in Tintin, the Musical (Kuifje de musical). The scene opens as Bianca Castafiore, the Milanese Nightingale, prepares to go onstage for a performance of Faust. She pauses a moment to read a telegram from Captain Haddock informing her of his adventures with Tintin and Snowy as they search for the Temple of the Sun.

La van Quaille may be heard elsewhere on YouTube singing Isolde in 1970!

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06 June 2007

Entendez ma voix!

Alexandrina Pendatchanska summons the spirits!

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04 June 2007

Dog Sees Diva

The month of June in New York traditionally offers scant little in the way of operatic entertainment beyond the Met's Parks concerts. And so the premiere of an opera-themed play off-Broadway sounds like particularly good news.

The show is called The Second Tosca, and it is described as "a contemporary comedy that takes place backstage at Opera California during rehearsals for Tosca. Meet a rising operatic star, her rivalrous brother, the controlling maestro who wants to marry her, a diva with a dog, an assistant with a dream, and a meddling singing ghost." The author is Tom Rowan and the "rising star" is portrayed by Eve Gigliotti. The producer is Sorrel Tomlinson, whose first production, Dog Sees God, was one of the breakout hits of the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival.

The Second Tosca opens at the 45th Street Theater (354 West 45th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues) for a limited engagement through July 1. Opening night, June 13th, will be at 6:30pm. All other performances run Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased by calling 212-868-4444 or visiting Smart Tix.

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21 May 2007

Trema, vil schiava

Although the cult TV hit Gilmore Girls has just ended its run after seven seasons on the CW, La Cieca thought you might enjoy a video featuring the "missing" Gilmore Girl (Miss Gail, that is.)

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18 May 2007

Witchy Woman

The return of Unnatural Acts of Opera continues with another rarity, Respighi's 1934 grand opera La fiamma. Starring in this tale of witchcraft in medieval Ravenna is American soprano Alessandra Marc as the mysterious Silvana.

According to Will Crutchfield's review of this live 1987 performance in the New York Times, La Marc's "voice is full, beautiful, creamy at times. Her tone is pure: it does not have the overripe, pushed vibrato that afflicts so many singers in weighty operatic roles today. Miss Marc also has a feel for the soaring curves of Puccinian lyrical writing. She is generous with portamento, and she lets her feelings into her singing. One would not be surprised if Zinka Milanov had been one of her models."

The cast also includes Mignon Dunn and James McCracken, with Robert Bass conducting.

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14 May 2007

Happy (belated) birthday Giulietta Simionato

The legendary mezzo-soprano celebrated her 97th birthday on May 12. In this clip she is seen rehearsing with Franco Corelli for a 1963 production of Cavalleria Rusticana, and then in an interview from 2003.

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25 April 2007

She never does anything twice

La Cieca is totally in awe of the insightful (and totally enjoyable) reporting her baby sister OperaChic is doing on the most recent Angela Gheorghiu scandale. In what La Cieca chooses to regard as an early 50th anniversary hommage to one of the most infamous moments in the career of Maria Callas, la Gheorghiu has, yes, walked out of a production at the Rome Opera. It seems that at the prima, Renato Bruson took a bis of "Di provenza," which (so OperaChic whispers) the soprano interpreted as an act of war. Gheorghiu obtained a doctor's certificate and canceled her second (and final scheduled) performance.

Permit La Cieca to say: maybe this is why they stopped allowing encores in the first place.

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05 April 2007

Ruth's no stranger to friction

DRAMA on the front page of today's NYT Arts section! Ruth Ann Swenson comes out swinging at the Met for "snubbing" her in favor of younger and less zaftig artists. Her current run of Cleopatras in Giulio Cesare is her final contact with the Met*, apparently the end to a 20-season career there spanning over 225 performances.

And now La Cieca is going to throw this one open to discussion from the floor!

CORRECTION: Swenson is also contracted to sing Violetta during the Met's 2007-2008 season.

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30 March 2007

Dignity returns to the NYC opera scene

Who the hell is Margie HartOn April 17, Dame Kiri te Kanawa returns to the scene of... well, not a crime, actually, more like a triumph: that is, her surprise Met debut in Otello way back in 1974. No, she's not singing, but on April 17 she will make a personal appearance at the Metropolitan Opera Shop, to greet her fans and sign CDs from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm.

The following day, the controversial Kiwi canary will grace this year's Metropolitan Opera Guild Luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria. The alphabetical list of singers and other colleagues who are scheduled to honor the diva includes Licia Albanese, Martina Arroyo, Harry Bicket, Stephanie Blythe, Russell Braun, Lawrence Brownlee, Barbara Cook, Mignon Dunn, Barbara Frittoli, Massimo Giordano, Maria Guleghina, Marilyn Horne, James Morris, Regina Resnik, Julius Rudel, Beverly Sills, Risë Stevens, Ruth Ann Swenson, and Benita Valente. (Apparently Joann Yockey and Linda Zoghby had prior commitments.)

Mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade will do the vocal honors and the program will also include "rare" video clips of the honoree. Tickets to the Luncheon are $250 and $400.

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28 March 2007

Balcony box

Something new and interesting (La Cieca hopes) on Unnatural Acts of Opera: a 2004 concert performance of Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi, starring Anna Netrebko (Giulietta), Daniela Barcellona (Romeo) and Joseph Calleja (Tebaldo). Act One is the current podcast, with the second to follow on Friday.

Speaking of the lovely Miss Netrebko, she and Rolando Villazon will headline a gala celebrating 40th Anniversary of The Met at Lincoln Center next Tuesday. The concert will be webcast over the Met's RealNetworks (and of course Sirius) beginning at 7:00 PM. Unfortunately, La Cieca has a prior commitment that night, but she is sure that you, her cher public, will want to chat about the gala here at parterre.com. As such, La Cieca is sending out request to you parterre.com regulars for volunteers to host the web chat. (Quite simple, really: you'll need only to be online and on the chat site beginning at 6:45 and continuing until the finish of the broadcast.) If you're interested in helping out, email La Cieca at [email protected].

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24 March 2007

Sleeves importante

Even as she toys with the idea of yet another emergence from semi-retirement, Madame Vera Galupe-Borszkh is divesting herself of some of her most celebrated frocks. An Ebay auction continuing through March 27 offers such cult couture as the Manon "St. Sulpice" gown and an argentate mantle worn by Madame's hysterically hieratic Turandot. Also included are a pair of pink chiffon and marabou confections (sizes Large and Enormous) suitable for your next Dreamgirls theme party, and a Merry Widow ballgown originally worn by none other than Roberta Peters!

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Our editor JJ's busy week included a review of the Met's Aegyptische Helena in Gay City News, and that panel La Cieca has been yammering about all week. As his presentation on the topic "Opera and Technology," JJ introduced this little documentary about your own La Cieca.

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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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22 March 2007

Watch and learn, young divas

From today's Daily News coverage of Naomi Campbell's community service:

"Decked out in a pencil skirt, leather trench coat and cloche hat, the supermodel sure knows how to make sweeping the floor look good every day of the week.

"On Monday, she opted for Christian Louboutin boots, an Azzedine Alaia coat and Chanel cap, while on Tuesday she rocked a chinchilla bomber and fedora. Fashion fans are surely waiting avidly for what the catwalker will step out in next. They're also saving their pennies to bid on their favorite Sanitation Naomi outfit - Campbell is auctioning off all the work clothes she wears this week to benefit the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund."


21 March 2007

Annals of g-string jurisprudence: an update

Operatic trailblazer Kiri te Kanawa has won yet another victory for every soprano who doesn't really feel all that much like singing anyway.

The Kiwi canary testified that it was only after agreeing to appear on a concert program with veteran pop icon John Farnham that she discovered that some of his fans expressed their enthusiasm by throwing their panties onstage.

The diva, noting that Farnham collected the frilly underthings "as a sort of trophy," sniffed that she would find performing in such a milieu "disrespectful."

Dame Kiri is pictured at right performing a scene from Mozart's Don Giovanni with a fellow paragon of operatic decorum, Bryn Terfel.

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20 March 2007

Je marche sur tous les chemins

"Move as little as possible when performing practical or enticing actions. For example, if you wish to look over at something or someone, move your eyes first until they cannot move any more, then move your head, then your torso and adjust your lower body last and only when necessary." At long last, you too can learn How to Walk Like a Diva. (For a practical demonstration of the results of these 10 easy steps, take a look at what La Cieca posted earlier this month.)


16 March 2007

Will work for feud

The latest episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera episode offers, in addition to the second part of Gluck's Armide, the long-awaited return of Apocryphal Opera Anecdote Theater. Our drama this time is based on the real-life story of a feud between two of opera's most celebrated divas!

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15 March 2007

Most grating

Many tears will be shed in heaven today by Nellie Melba, Claudia Muzio, Lotte Lehmann, Adelina Patti and (we suppose) the young Jill Gomez, since none of them made the list of "The 20 Greatest Sopranos of All Time" featured in the April issue of BBC Music. (Don't bother to click on that link, since the content isn't online.) The magazine's panel of "experts" selected the following 20 divas in ascending order of greatness:

20. Elly Ameling
19. Rosa Ponselle
18. Renata Tebaldi
17. Christine Brewer
16. Elisabeth Schumann
15. Karita Mattila
14. Gundula Janowitz
13. Galina Vishnevskaya
12. Régine Crespin
11. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
10. Emma Kirkby
9. Kirsten Flagstad
8. Margaret Price
7. Lucia Popp
6. Montserrat Caballé
5. Birgit Nilsson
4. Leontyne Price
3. Victoria de los Angeles
2. Joan Sutherland
1. Maria Callas

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14 March 2007

Whatever happened to...

Tiziana Fabbricini? Well, in the words of Charlie Handelman: Mamma mia! What a "Mamma morta!"

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23 February 2007

Kiss kiss

YouTube starlet William Zauscher has returned, this time in a more divacentric mood.

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Happy Birthday, Régine Crespin!

The legendary French soprano celebrates her 80th birthday today.

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22 February 2007

Siren song

Currently on Unnatural Acts of Opera, the ravishing Loreley by Alfredo Catalani in a performance from La Scala in 1968. Heading the cast is perhaps the definitive "meteoric" diva, Elena Suliotis.

La Cieca remembers as a tiny child seeing this late '60s photo of La Suliotis and thinking that she had to be the most glamorous star ever, with her frosted bouffant, nude lips and Barbara Parkins eyeshadow. And in this Loreley she sounds utterly glamorous as well!

Unnatural Acts of Opera

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21 February 2007

Comeback kid

The Metropolitan Opera has just announced that Lorin Maazel will return to the Metropolitan Opera for the first time in 45 years to conduct six performances of Wagner's Die Walküre beginning January 7, 2008. These performances will be Maazel's first with the company since the 1962-63 season. (To give you some concept of how long ago that was, Maazel's assignments that season included Der Rosenkavalier with Regine Crespin making her Met debut, directed by Lotte Lehmann.)

The Walküre performances run through February 9, 2008, with a cast that includes Lisa Gasteen (Brünnhilde), Adrianne Pieczonka/Deborah Voigt (Sieglinde), Stephanie Blythe/Michelle DeYoung (Fricka), Clifton Forbis/Simon Dennis O'Neill (Siegmund), James Morris (Wotan) and Mikhail Petrenko (Hunding).

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09 February 2007

Not only connect...

"At 'Connect at the Met for Gay and Lesbian Singles,' a social mixer at the Metropolitan Opera on February 2, prospective hookups sipped Champagne in between acts of Leos Janácek's 'Jenufa.' This grim tragedy might seem unlikely to kindle thoughts of romance, but even those participants who failed to launch a relationship had the satisfaction of witnessing one of the company's most powerful artistic triumphs in years."

Our publisher JJ's first opera of 2007, reviewed in Gay City News.

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08 February 2007

Grace Bumbry sings Richard Strauss

In the latest episode of Unnatural Act of Opera, deluxe diva Grace Bumbry wails in a lesser-known corner of her vast repertoire, two operas by Richard Strauss.

In performances two decades apart, she takes on the title role of Salome (1978) and Klytemnestra in Elektra (1997). La Cieca's generosity extends even farther, though. As bonus, we hear Bumbry in an interview discussing Madame Lehmann and her breakthrough performances as the "Schwarze Venus" at Bayreuth.

As encore -- a 2003 performance of "Der Manner Sippe!"

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Spit out your chewing gum now

The promotional trailer from Los Angeles Opera's production of Mahagonny, starring the one-two punch of Audra MacDonald and Patti LuPone. (And Anthony Griffey makes three!)

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06 February 2007

I want to dish a prima donna, donna, donna

Which diva has been secretly married for over a year to a male model barely half her age?

Which diva (not the same one) is in talks to return to the Met in the same fach she "abandoned" over a decade ago?

Which diva (neither of the above) seems to be inching her way out of the closet, if her most recent biographical information is to be believed?

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02 February 2007

More junk from the trunk

Margaret Junktrunk
Hello there! I'm your announcer Margaret Junktrunk. Welcome to the Sirius Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Ligeti's beloved masterpiece Tosca, a work that illustrates the idea, first expressed by Hegel, "A stitch in time saves nine," or, as the libretto puts it, "Basta!" In today's performance we will hear tenor Ian Bostridge, baritone Thomas Hampson, mezzo-soprano Regine Crespin, and a young soprano appearing for the first time at Metropolitan Opera debut this season, Kathy Battle.

Of Kathy Battle's debut here two months ago, Alex Ross wrote in Popular Mechanics, "Not since Rosa Ponselle melted the heart of a six year old fan seated far up in the mezzanine of the great Mayflower Hotel has any artist managed going both the weird and large aspects of Ligeti's silly little dentist-girl. Her high e flats are pure, with the instrumental timbre of a clarinet, and she is not afraid to use thigh resonance when necessary."

In tonight's performance, Kathy Battle will wear a toga that was specially created by the famous designer Halston for Leontyne Price when she sang this role at Covent Garden in the 1955 season. We have with us in the studio this evening Peter Allen, a freelance massage therapist and stage director, who will share an anecdote with us about tonight's opera.

Peter Allen
Thank you, Margaret. This story takes place exactly eleven years ago this week, when the famous divas Leontyne Price and Mirella Freni were rivals both on the opera stage and for the affections of Napoleon. One of the ladies had a precious ruby-encrusted toga that was a gift from Winston Churchill following a particularly licentious performance of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Naples. What she did not know at that time was that Poulenc had written a special chorale for...
Margaret Junktrunk
I'm afraid we're running short on time; can you just jump to the punchline?

Peter Allen
"And so, a dispute over a toga was the cause of The Hundred Years War."

Margaret Junktrunk
Thank you! In our next intermission, we will have a discussion on the subject of the "ragazza" musical style, with panelists Kylie Minogue, Bobby Orr and Tony Blair, moderated by our very own silly hostess Beverly Sills. In just a moment, we will hear the ponderous opening measures of tonight's opera. Yes, now Maestro Riccardo Muti is entering Paris and our opera will begin eventually.
-- John Welch

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31 January 2007

Helmets off, here they come, those Beautiful Girls!

A galaxy of talent sufficient to cast an Arena di Verona production of Sondheim's Follies assembles in the following recording. It's the "Ride of the Valkyries" as sung on February 13, 2003 at a gala performance in Tokyo. Wotan's daughters, in order of appearance: Alessandra Marc (Gerhilde), Eva Marton (Helmwige), Karan Armstrong (Waltraute), Agnes Baltsa (Schwertleite), Anna Tomowa-Sintow (Ortlinde), Gwyneth Jones (doubling Siegrune and Rossweisse) ... and Jochen Kowalski (Grimgerde).

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30 January 2007

Amazing Anja SIlja

In honor of the soprano's return to the Met in Jenufa, a selection of performances from 1959 - 2004.

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23 January 2007

Beautiful music, dangerous rhythm

"It was an affair to rank with the coming of Christ, the death of Garland, the birth of the blues, and the freezing of spinach." -- Arthur Bell, Village Voice.

"Miss Steber appears from the steam room in a chiffon gown, loaded with diamonds and a black towel draped around her waist. Mrs. Leonard Bernstein, Suzy, Patrice Munsel, a lot of Metropolitan Opera stars and half of New York society love it. Miss Steber is in good voice, singing everything from Tosca to Strauss waltzes while boys yell, 'Brava!'" -- Rex Reed, Daily News.

From October 4, 1973, Eleanor Steber's iconic recital at the Continental Baths. Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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17 January 2007

More Adriana auf Deutsch

So, does this text for Principessa di Bouillon sound like outtakes from Isolde, or what?
O Wollust, voller Pein!
Glück und Qual im Bunde!
Du still verzehrend Sehnen,
Schnell geschlagne Wunde!
Heisse Glut, Schauer, Zittern,
Und Wahnsinn, Schrecken
Muss in des Liebenden Brust Das Warten wecken!
Jeder Laut, jeder Schatten,
Leis die Nacht durchwebend,
Will gegen die zitternde
Seele sich verschwören,
Zwischen Zweifel und Sehnen
Bangend und schwebend
Scheint ewig ihr
Der Augenblick zu währen.
Ob er kommt? oder nicht?
Ob er eilet? oder mich fliehet?
Horch! Eben kommt er!
Nein! Die Wellen, sie schäumen,
Und ein alter Baum
Seufzt auf in seinen Träumen.
Du heller Stern!
Der fern im Osten glühet,
Ach, schwinde nicht!
Du lächelst so freundlich hernieder!
Sei Leitstern meiner Liebe!
O bring ihn mir wieder!

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16 January 2007

Turban Outfitters

Gala Gloria Swanson (sixtyish at the time) trills out a tune from a musical version of Sunset Blvd. that, alas, never made it off the drawing board.

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12 January 2007

Not since Nineveh!

La Cieca and sidekick Milton Host are back with another rarity: Der Barbier von Bagdad by Peter Cornelius. Joining them in the studio with repurposed commentary: a formidable diva of the Johnson era. (No, not Lyndon Johnson. Edward Johnson.)

Act 1 is available now at Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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11 January 2007

She got through all of last year

Good times and bum times --
She saw them all, but my dear,
She's no longer here.

The actress everyone is eulogizing as the "definitive Lily Munster" had another, in La Cieca's opinion far more important credit. In 1971 Yvonne de Carlo created the role of Carlotta Campion in Follies, and introduced the showbiz anthem "I'm Still Here."

As we all know, Stephen Sondheim wrote that song while out of town, replacing "Can That Boy Foxtrot." Which, La Cieca supposes, makes La de Carlo responsible for the cult status of that more racy Sondheim ditty as well.

Yvonne de Carlo died on Monday, January 8 at the age of 84.

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04 January 2007

Tinseled Gaiety

Legendary diva Nazimova in a scene from her 1921 film version of Camille.

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28 December 2006

Bel canto lushinghier

La Cieca thought that now that Puritani has opened at the Met, it's as good a time as any to review the company's (rumored) bel canto plans for the next five years or so. Remember, everything in this life is uncertain, so please regard these "predictions" as the gossip they are.
Anyway, La Cieca hopes you'll find plenty of fodder for discussion in the following grafs.

Next season (as you all know) opening night will be a new production of Lucia di Lammermoor starring Natalie Dessay. Sharing the role of Edgardo will be a trio of toothsome tenors: Marcello Giordani, Marcelo Alvarez and Giuseppe Filianoti. Further upping the hunk quotient will be Mariusz Kwiecien and John Relyea. The Mary Zimmerman production will be led (on opening night at least) by James Levine.
Per La Cieca's sources, Mad Lucy will pay a couple of return visits in following seasons, first with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon in the fall of '08, and then with Mlle. Dessay again sometime in 2010. Ze French diva gets the unusual honor of opening two new productions next season, the Lucia, of course, and then a new Fille du Regiment opposite puppylicious Juan Diego Florez.
JDF and Dessay reunite in the fall of 2008 for a new Sonnambula. The tenor will reprise his Tonio during the 2009-2010 season, this time with Diana Damrau as Marie. And that pairing will be repeated in the Met premiere of Rossini's Le Comte Ory the following season.
Now, jumping back to 2009 again, that's when the new production of Rossini's Armida is skedded, featuring of course Renee Fleming and (among other tenors) Eric Cutler.
And then comes 2012, aka "The Year of the Jackpot," when just possibly we will hear the Tudor Trifecta (Fleming, Netrebko and Angela Gheorghiu) as well as a new Giulliame Tell (presumably for Giordani) plus revivals of L'elisir (Netrebko, Florez, Kwiecien), L'italiana and Semiramide.

Oh, and for Druid fanciers, the outlook is not quite so rosy: a single revival of Norma next season with Dolora Zajick, Maria Guleghina and Franco Farina -- or, as Mme. Vera Galupe-Borzkh might sum it up: "Can Belto, Can't Belto and Can't Canto."

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