29 January 2008

Tu? Indietro! Fugly!

A loyal reader calls this little number "the worst gown I've ever seen."

La Cieca she agrees that Mme. Guleghina's fashion faux pas here just screams, "that was no lady, that was Lady Macbeth." On the other hand, your doyenne has seen some rather ghastly frocks in her time, and she's sure, cher public, that you have seen worse. If you have, send a jpg (preferably 350 pixels wide or larger) or a link to [email protected]. Let's dish!

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27 November 2007

Your pathetic, your loathsome, your despicable majesty!

Dame Kiri te Kanawa embraces her inner Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan for this scene from the Handelian pastiche The Sorceress. Despite the film's 1993 release date, the sensibility is pure '80s: massive hair, voluminous frock, garish lighting design... and don't overlook the multitude of smirking supers! (Just so you know, the aria is "Ah, Ruggiero crudel... Ombre pallide" from Alcina).

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25 November 2007

Too many sources!

"My theory: Composers who ignore significant parts of their being - nationality included - cut their creativity off at the knees. Barber was being derivative in self-defeating ways out of deference to the operatic genre. Bernstein, in comparison, was out to tell important stories using the most effective means possible..." David Patrick Stearns adds his voice to the debate about Vanessa in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Oh, and La Cieca has discovered where she read the line about Vanessa being the American Adriana Lecouvreur. It's from the "Goings On About Town" column in the New Yorker. (Since the subject is classical music, one assumes Alex Ross at least contributed to the piece, though it's unclear whether the "Adriana" mot is an authentic Rossism.)

And finally, La Cieca was just remembering something she was giggling about during the performance of Vanessa at the NYCO. One couldn't help noticing that Lauren Flanigan was, well, just a little on the zaftig side, and that her costumes were not exactly slenderizing. So, in the second scene, after the "Under the Willow Tree" number, Flanigan smoothed down her skirt and sang "Erika, I am so happy. I know now..." However, what La Cieca heard was not "happy" but "hippy" which under the circumstances made just as much sense: "Erika, I am so hippy."

Unfortunately, that word "happy" does crop up again frequently again in the libretto, so La Cieca just about disgraced herself snickering:

Vanessa: "Good morning, Pastor, we shall soon be ready. Have some coffee with us. Oh, how hippy I feel this morning, how hippy!"

The Doctor: "I know you will make a hippy couple."

Erika: "Please forget me. Make her hippy, Anatol" and "Goodbye, be hippy, Aunt Vanessa, please be hippy."

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07 November 2007

Wheels within wheels

This is why drag was invented. The artistes are James Bondage and Bella ToDyeFor.

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Least appealing headline of the week (so far)

"Opera's 'fat lady' is a Madison cash cow"

In other news: has anyone ever heard Natalie Bancroft sing opera? Ms. Bancroft is the scioness of the family who recently sold their controlling share in Dow Jones (and thus the Wall Street Journal) to Newscorp for a thousand million gazillion pounds or whatever it was. Anyway, in all the news stories, she is called "opera singer," but there's no sign of a review or cast listing with her name accessible to Google.

And here's a fun photo. No, it's not Vera Charles (though the lady does have a certain air of "What the hell have you got back there, reindeer?) And it's not Cruella DeVil. (Nice guess, though.)

In fact, it's Jane Henschel as Klytemnästra in the Deutsche Oper's new Elektra.

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24 October 2007

Greeks bearing bids

According to the Guardian Unlimited, the "cash-strapped" government of Greece is scrambling to raise sufficient funds to purchase over $1 million worth of Maria Callas memorabilia at a Sotheby's auction on December 12.

The "voluminous" collection to be auctioned includes "a fabulous array of intimate letters, jewels, evening dresses, furniture, paintings, photographs, unseen stage notes and annotated musical scores released by the estate of Callas's husband, the late Italian industrialist Giovanni Battista Meneghini." The auction will include a number of items Meneghini purchased at the first estate sale of the diva's possessions back in 1978.

La Cieca's favorite part of this story is the name of the Sotheby's spokesperson: "Esmeralda Benvenuti."

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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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15 October 2007

When I started stripping they hollered "put it on!"

One of La Cieca's pet peeves (and you know she has so many she has to keep them organized with a spreadsheet), well, anyway, one of La Cieca's pet peeves is that operatic orgies so rarely bear even the vaguest resemblance to orgies in real life. Why, just last week, La Cieca was viewing the Met's DVD of Tannhäuser, and, my dears, what a snooze! If ever a show needed a jolt of HPG, this is it.

Well, anyway, it does seem that finally La Cieca got her wish. Opera Australia just presented a new production of Tannhäuser by Elke Neidhardt. If photographs are to be trusted, Ms. Neidhardt has attended some of the same orgies La Cieca once graced:

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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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12 October 2007

Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be countertenors

10 October 2007

She gets too hungry for dinner at eight

La Cieca's spy backstage at the Met burbles about the most interesting spectacle so far at the new Macbeth: "Maria Guleghina’s rehearsal garb! One day she sported a green spaghetti-strap midriff top (that’s right, she wore a belly shirt), with a sequined crown across her tits."

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24 September 2007

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now

Struggling downtown artiste Robert Wilson has been rendered homeless since his recent "eviction" from the 6,000 square foot loft he leased since the early 1970s. The space is located in a building on Vestry Street in trendy TriBeCa that's scheduled for demolition to make way for, what else, luxury condominiums. The bereft avante-gardiste has been reduced to "traveling in Europe for work when not staying with friends in New York" but is "resigned to the idea he won't be able to find a new place with as much space," according to Page Six.

Having apparently dismissed the notion of leasing warehouse space in an outer borough (shudder!), the Lohengrin director is divesting himself of a few of the more than 3,000 tchotckes currently cluttering the place, including "20th-century furniture, tribal art, sculpture, textiles, ceramics, contemporary glass, Asian art and contemporary drawings, photographs, works by artists such as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Man Ray, Frank Gehry, Frank Lloyd Wright, Agnes Martin and Richard Serra." (It's an encouraging sign that even in deepest despair, Wilson retains his protean name-dropping ability.) Selected items will be auctioned on Sunday at tony Philips de Pury.

Wilson, putting his storage problems in perspective, reflects, "It is a tragedy that all this will be destroyed."

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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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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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17 August 2007

Rocky Mountain low

UPDATE: A source at Opera Colorado informs La Cieca that there is in fact no exodus currently in progress from the company's costume shop. La Cieca apologizes for the confusion.

Earlier, La Cieca reported that her "mile-high informant" whispered that "Colorado Opera's entire costume department just quit in a huff. Or was fired in a huff." Apparently La Cieca was either misinformed or else misunderstood the tip she was given.

In any case, we continue with the latest installment of News of the Hard to Believe. America's Singing Slab Nathan Gunn is quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying, apparently with a straight face, "To be honest, I don't think that much about how I look."

No, John von Rhein wasn't buying it either.

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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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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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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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23 April 2007

Take that, Eurotrash!

The doyen of operatic stage direction has done it again! (Or, to be strictly accurate, he has done it for about the twentieth time, but who's counting?) Thrill to the brilliantly innovative new production of La traviata Franco Zeffirelli just unveiled at the Rome Opera!

Oh, if only we could have a production of Traviata just like this here in New York! Or, even better, if only we could have two productions just like this!

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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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01 March 2007


That Richard Wagner sure had star quality! Even now, 124 years after his death, the composer exerts a fascination that extends even to lively speculation about minutiae about his personal life. In a previously unpublished letter unearthed for the premiere issue of The Wagner Journal, Wagner discusses -- well, what do you think? The Grundthemae system? The influence of Greek tragedy on Gluck's "reform" operas? That old standby, The Jews? Actually, none of the above. The Meister burbles on giddily to a Milanese couturiere about a new frock "with a lace jabot and ribbons; close-fitting sleeves; the dress trimmed with puffed flounces - of the same satin material - no basque at the front (the dress must be very wide and have a train) but a rich bustle with a bow at the back, like the one at the front..." and so forth.

Wait, it gets better. Co-editor Barry Millington, who obviously has quite a bit of free time on his hands, speculates that the 1874 letter "adds weight to the theory that the composer exhibited the tendencies of a cross-dresser". Yes, that's right -- Millington is suggesting that Wagner was ordering the gown for himself, not for Frau Cosima. (The article from the Journal is not available online, but the main points are summarized in The Guardian.) The wealth of girly technical detail in Wagner's letters suggests that even if he didn't intend to swan about in drag, he might have finished in the top three on Project Runway:
... a black satin costume that may be made up in various ways, so that it can be worn out of doors, with or without the cazavoika,* and in the house, even as a negligee, producing a combination of several articles capable of complementing one another
* As La Cieca is sure it is utterly superfluous to explain, a "cazavoika" is a type of polonaise, or decorative overskirt drawn up by invisibly placed inner tapes producing a ruched festoon bustle effect.

Well, as delicious as all this speculation may be, La Cieca remains dubious about Wagner's putative transvestism. It appears that the linchpin of the argument here is that the obsessive diarist Cosima never bothered to note the delivery of the basqueless confection her husband ordered; in other words, he appropriated the finery for himself. Meh, says La Cieca; Wagner had lots of frilly things of his own and would hardly have had to resort to subterfuge. ("Oh, it's not for me, of course -- it just happens that my wife wears the same size I do...")

No, La Cieca prefers to think of the Wizard of Bayreuth as the Jeffrey Sebelia of his day, though thankfully without the neck tattoos.

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