14 January 2008

Fleming-Bocelli ticket in 2008

The Washington National Opera has announced their 2008-2009 season will feature headliners Renée Fleming and Andrea Bocelli under the artistic direction of Plácido Domingo. According to an article by Our Own Anne Midgette in today's Washington Post, The Beautiful Voice will grace a new production of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia, an opera that has deep personal significance for the diva. Directing the opera will be "John Pascoe, a friend of Fleming's." Pascoe designed the leather jerkin Erwin Schrott sported in last season's Don Giovanni at WNO, so his credentials as an FOF are already well-established.

Alas, Fleming and Bocelli will not actually share a performance at WNO, since his vocal contribution will be limited to a pair of performances of Rossini's "Petite Messe Solennelle."

Family values will be honored this season as Domingo's wife Marta will direct La traviata and Keri-Lynn Wilson (Mrs. Peter Gelb) will conduct Turandot.

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02 December 2007

"Singing Norma Today"

(with apologies to Stephen Sondheim)

Bless her soul,
Bless her golden throat,
All her fans can gloat.
Renée's preparing to chant
The bel canto role.

Today is for Norma
Norma, the role of the divas of choice.
America's soprano will honor us forever.
Today is for Norma,
As sung by the Beautiful Voice.

Pardon me, is everybody here? Because if everybody's here, I
want to thank you all for coming to my Norma, I'd appreciate
your going even more, I mean you must have lots of better things
to do, and would you please inform my fans, remember fans you know,
they're called the Fleming Flappers, but they're not, because they wouldn't flap
at anyone as wonderful as I am--
Change of plans:
I'm all wrong as a pagan,
Change of plans,
I'll do Eugene Onegin,
Tell the fans,
That I'm not singing Norma today.

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We report, you decide

UPDATE: Soprano Renée Fleming has issued the following statement:

"Today, December 3, 2007, is the 84th anniversary of the birth of Maria Callas, the greatest interpreter of the role of Norma in the 20th century. In honor of this great artist, I have decided to reaffirm my decision not to sing Norma indefinitely. As a gesture of respect for this magnificent bel canto stylist, later today I will not visit her grave where I will not leave a wreath in remembrance. Further, at my concert tonight in Baltimore, I will not dedicate any of my encores to her memory. As a soprano and single mother, I feel it is the least I can do."

Fleming's publicist, Mary Lou Falcone, refused to comment on this statement.

La Cieca now continues our coverage of

this week's most earth-shaking story, the decision of Renée Fleming not to sing Bellini's bel canto masterpiece Norma. Our latest report is from Fox Eyewitness News Channel 12, WPRI in Providence, Rhode Island:

Renee Fleming ... will join the Boston Symphony Orchestra for a performance of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin."

Fleming, however, has decided to ditch plans to perform Bellini's opera "Norma" with the orchestra next summer. Her publicist says the role "just didn't fit."
La Cieca has now received word that "The Story" has just achieved international coverage. In Canada, the Pierceland Herald ("The Voice of the Heartland") reports that "the opera ['Norma'] wasn‘t included in the Tanglewood schedule being released Friday. Instead, Fleming was listed for the Aug. 2 concert performance of Tchaikovsky‘s Eugene Onegin'." The Saskatchewan-based web site goes on to confirm the "just didn't fit" quotation.

Be sure to check back here at parterre.com frequently for new information on the
Mistletoe Crisis" as it unfolds.

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01 December 2007

Larger and more fun

"... Netrebko is the larger presence. She has an earthiness and impishness — a daredeviltry — that may prevent her from ever attaining the kind of rarefied, disembodied sainthood that has been awarded, for example, to the American sopranos Renée Fleming and Dawn Upshaw but that also makes her more fun to watch." Charles McGrath writes a gazillion words or so about " A New Kind of Diva" in this weekend's Sunday Times magazine.

In other news, Renée Fleming is still not singing Norma.

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30 November 2007

Sgombra è la sacra selva

I hate to tell you, dear, but your skin makes chiffon velvet look like the Rocky MountainsAs La Cieca's clever public guessed six weeks ago, Renée Fleming is not going to sing Norma.

"The part just didn't fit as she had hoped it would after living with it," Fleming publicist Mary Lou Falcone said Thursday to the Associated Press. La Fleming, 48 (though she doesn't look a day over 20, does she?), will perform Eugene Onegin under the baton of James Levine next summer at Tanglewood instead of the Bellini work.

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14 November 2007

"Did you get her innuendo?"

"Ms. Fleming's soprano has gotten bigger and richer since her Dallas debut 15 years ago. 'I was replacing Carol Vaness in a lot of Mozart repertoire she couldn't sing anymore,' Ms. Fleming says of her early years."

You can read more of The Tactful Voice's audition for the remake of The Women in an interview with Scott Cantrell in The Dallas Morning News.

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Who's the missing star?

La Cieca was just wondering about something yesterday on opera-l, and doggone if Anne Midgette wasn't wondering about the same thing today in the New York Times. (That woman haunts my dreams, I tell you. It's like she's inside my head. Now, where was I? Oh, yes...) The point that dear Anne and I (among others) have mulling is this:

There was a time when Norma was considered a rarity or at least an opera that could be revived only when a very special prima donna was available and willing. The first Met Norma, for example, was Lilli Lehmann, the house's biggest female star of that era. Even given Lehmann's réclame, her appearance as Norma was considered by at least one critic (W. J. Henderson in Times) to be a sort of stunt:

The opera was chosen by Fräu Lehmann for her benefit, and from a financial point of view her selection was a very wise one . . . . From an artistic point of view the choice does not seem to be so commendable. There is no artistic reason why Lilli Lehmann should present herself to the New York public as a colorature singer. She may have been actuated by a not unnatural desire to display her versatility, but to get up a performance of Bellini's "Norma" for her benefit savors rather of self-esteem than of a strong devotion to honest art . . . . She demonstrated that her voice possessed far more flexibility and that she had a greater command of the pure ornamentation of signing that anyone suspected ... It must be said, however, that Fräu Lehmann took many of the elaborate ornamental passages at a very moderate tempo and sang them with very evident labor, thus depriving them of much of that brilliancy which the smooth, mellow, pliable Italian voices impart to them. Fiorituri without brilliancy have no "raison d' étre," and no Italian diva of standing would have received half the applause that Fräu Lehmann did for singing these passages as she did. The audience was excited by astonishment at the fact that she could do it at all.
Well, that was a longer pullquote than La Cieca originally intended to use, but, goodness, that is such excellent critical writing, isn't it? Anyway, back to the argument. Lehmann, Rosa Ponselle, Gina Cigna, Zinka Milanov and of course Maria Callas were all big established stars when they took on Norma at the Met. So were Joan Sutherland and Montserrat Caballé. If Shirley Verrett, Renata Scotto and Jane Eaglen received mixed reviews for their Met performances of the opera, it wasn't because of lack of star power or clout -- they were all extremely important names on the Met roster at the time of their casting.

Then there are performances from the likes of Adelaide Negri and Marisa Galvany -- (covers who had to go on) and Rita Hunter, one of the many jumpers-in for Caballé. The presence of Hasmik Papian at the beginning of this year's run of Norma should be understood in the same spirit, i.e., a late-in-the-game substitution.

Papian is going on for Maria Guleghina, who was pulled out of the beginning of the Norma run to perform the new production of Macbeth. So the question is, who ever dreamed up the notion of Guleghina singing Norma at the Met? True, she won a big popular success here with Abigaille back in 2001 and she more or less owned the role of Tosca at the house for about five years. But nothing in those performances (or, to be frank, her few attempts at the Bellini opera elsewhere) really shouts "this woman must do Norma at the Met." So why would a revival of Norma be put in the pipeline five years ago for a singer who neither then nor now promises to display anything special in the role?

Which is why La Cieca poses the question: was this revival of Norma originally planned for a different singer? And if so, who? Deborah Voigt? Violeta Urmana? Renée Fleming?

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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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06 November 2007

Sweet November

La Cieca's DVR hard drive will be overflowing by the end of this November since the indispensable Turner Classic Movies has scheduled a whole month of "guest programmers." Among the celebrities gracing the tube to introduce their favorite flicks will be some of particular interest to the parterre crowd. For example, this Thursday, November 8, playwright/actor Charles Busch will take a brief respite from his Die Mommie Die duties on the New York boards to present a quartet of women's pictures: I Could Go on Singing, The Hard Way, Escape and A Woman's Face.

Iconic Harvey Fierstein arrives on November 26 to introduce The Catered Affair (upon which his upcoming Broadway musical is based), as well as the camp classic The Women and two lesser-known pictures, The Boy with Green Hair and The Devil is a Sissy.

November 18 heralds the arrival of "one of the world’s most beloved and recognized figures in the worlds of opera and jazz," Renée Fleming. Films featured that day will include Red Dust, Captains Courageous, Test Pilot, Gone with the... oh, La Cieca begs your pardon, that was Victor Fleming.

In fact, "The Beautiful Cineaste" has selected for our enjoyment a quartet of musical extravaganzas: The Great Waltz, Song of Love, Interrupted Melody and Maytime.

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31 October 2007

Remember, La Cieca is just the messenger

Writes a spy:
Today at the final dress, it was pretty obvious why Reneeeeee would cancel her Normas – the "Sempre libera" was SCARY bad – completely off the voice for the mewing and really sloppy coloratura, and then she had to go back on-voice to try and get to the Bb/B/C/Db area. The repeated C’s were especially hair-raising, and she didn’t actually get up to the pitch on any of them in the whole aria. A friend [also] watching the dress said it was uncomfortable and worrisome to have to listen to her try and get through it. While she can still produce creamy sounds in her basic rep, her ability to sing fioritura (which, while totally wrong for bel canto, was impressive at one time) is basically gone.

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26 October 2007

Now this is more like it

Totally pulled together. Class act. Doing what comes naturally. Well played!

Call it what you will, but, fair is fair: this is great stuff.

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24 October 2007

Lassée Come Home

Or, "Fleming Subjugates La Scala." Note the "polite" applause at the end of the performance.

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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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15 September 2007

Off her Crocker

23 July 2007

Swiss miss

The nice people at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland cannot be happy about last minute changes to this past weekend's concert schedule caused by late cancellations by James Levine and Renée Fleming. Maestro Levine, advertised for concerts on July 20 and 22, tendered his regrets on July 16, noting "My doctors have strongly advised me not to travel but to stay calm and collect my energies." Also collecting her energies (or whatever) was La Fleming, who pulled out of the the July 22 performance on four days' notice, i.e., July 18.

Barbara Bonney emerged from a mysterious year-long hiatus in her career to substitute for Fleming at the July 22 gala, where she sang the soprano part in the Mozart Requiem in d minor. The other soloists, all thankfully enjoying robust health, were Anne-Sofie von Otter, Kenneth Tarver and René Pape. In lieu of Ms. Fleming's art song portion of the program, Thomas Quasthoff performed Schubert lieder. Wielding the baton for this program and the July 20 opener was Manfred Honeck, future Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

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12 July 2007

Et nous aussi, honey!

"Je voudrais que le public oublie que je chante" -- Entretien avec Renée Fleming, Opéra Magazine No. 20 Juilliet - Aout.


12 April 2007

The gala continues

In further celebration of our 200th podcast, La Cieca presents a second program of superstars and their superstardom. Featured in the current episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera are Karita Mattila, Rolando Villazon, Renee Fleming, Dorothy Kirsten, Renata Scotto, Elena Obratszova, David Daniels, Ruth Ann Swenson, Renata Tebaldi, Giuseppe diStefano, Marilyn Horne, Montserrat Caballe, Kostas Paskalis, Alain Vanzo, Krassimira Stoyanova, Marcello Giordani and Aprile Millo.

And don't forget Part One, starring Maria Callas, Cesare Valletti, Rosanna Carteri, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Tito Gobbi, Birgit Nilsson, Leonie Rysanek, Alfredo Kraus, Jeannette Pilou, Cesare Siepi, Jessye Norman, Joan Sutherland and Leontyne Price.

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24 March 2007


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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05 March 2007

Event horizon

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

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

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

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28 February 2007

Auteur! Auteur!

While I waste these precious showers

26 February 2007

Hello, Mister Wilson!

The most startling news from tomorrow's press conference at the Met (as released early to the New York Times) -- in 2011, a new production of Bellini's Norma, starring Renee Fleming and directed by Robert Wilson. The casting of Cecilia Bartoli as Adaligisa is La Cieca's own whimsy, but, hey, stranger things have happened. (For example, a Wilson/Fleming Norma...)

UPDATE: The role of Adalgisa in the Fleming/Wilson Norma scheduled for 2011 will not, as La Cieca puckishly suggested, be sung by Cecilia Bartoli. In fact she has just been informed by one of her most impeccable sources that the part will go to Elīna Garanča.

And in other exclusive Decca recording artist/avant-garde legend related news, the Schwartz gallery at the Met is awaiting installation of a Robert Wilson "video portrait" of La Fleming. La Cieca will inform you when the Wilson film makes it on to YouTube.

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26 January 2007

The Verdi is always greener

La Cieca's cher public are, as in so many aspects of their existence, well ahead of the curve on foreknowledge of casting at the Met in the bel canto and German wings. Perhaps this wintry Friday is a good time to move on to a more semi-substantiated gossip, now on the subject of the operas of Giuseppe Verdi. (Do keep in mind that none of this is set in stone. In fact, given the Gelb administration's penchant for last minute switcheroos, one should probably hold off on booking tickets for 2012 until, oh, 2011 at the earliest.) But, anyway, herewith a few possible highlights of the next five years:

Next season's hot ticket will surely be a rare revival of Ernani starring Marcello Giordani, Sondra Radvanovsky, Thomas Hampson and Ferruccio Furlanetto. That certainly sounds more fun than the new Macbeth "starring" Andrea Gruber, Leo Nucci. Carlos Alvarez, Marco Berti and Roberto Aronica. Will anyone be surprised at massive audience attrition following the second-act demise of Banco (John Relyea/Rene Pape)? Fans of Mr. Berti (if such there be) may expect to hear him as well in revivals of Ballo (shared with Salvatore Licitra, and featuring Dmitri Hvorostovsky's first local Renato) and Aida (alternating with debutant Nicola Rossi-Giordano in an otherwise dismal cast). Renee Fleming offers repeat engagements of La traviata and Otello, with Ruth Ann Swenson optimistically double-cast as Violetta and Johan Botha as the Moor.

Rumors of Ms. Radvanovsky's "buyout" should be dismissed once and for all since she is on the books for two high-profile assignments in 2008-2009, a new Trovatore (opposite Mr. Lictira) and her first in-house Traviata (alternating with Anja Harteros). Those two up-and-coming tenors Giuseppe Filianoti and Joseph Calleja share Duca duties in a Rigoletto otherwise notable only for Diana Damrau's Gilda. And speaking of tenors, Placido Domingo is supposed to cross over to the bass clef for the title role in Simon Boccanegra, but La Cieca will believe that when she hears it.

The big news of '09-'10 is the Met debut of Riccardo Muti leading the company premiere of Attila. There will be singers as well in this production, notably Violeta Urmana and less notably Ramon Vargas, C. Alvarez and Ildar Abdrazakov. Mme. Urmana will also join two other golden-age physiques, Dolora Zajick and Mr. Botha, for Aida. La Radvanovsky's career continues full-tilt in a revival of Stiffelio heavy on hunk-appeal (Jose Cura and Mr. Hvorostovsky), and the Gruber doesn't seem to be going away either: she's up for a repeat of Nabucco.

As we move into the twenty-teens, we can foresee new productions of La traviata (with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon in the Willy Decker update) and Don Carlo (probably not with Angela Gheorghiu, though the rest of the cast seems firm enough: Mr. Villazon, plus Luciana D'Intino, Simon Keenlyside/Anthony Michaels-Moore, Rene Pape. Antonio Pappano and Nicholas Hytner will reprise their Covent Garden duties. Also: revivals of I Lombardi (Giordani) and Il trovatore (Fleming). That year may also see Mr. Hvorostovsky's Boccanegra.

The "jackpot" year of 2012 is still pretty much up for grabs, La Cieca hears, with only Falstaff (Bryn Terfel, James Levine) a definite maybe.

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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.

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26 December 2006

Soon and later

UPDATE: Gregory Kunde is now listed on the Met's site for the prima of Puritani.

La Cieca hears that Eric Cutler did not sing the dress rehearsal of Puritani (anyone there to confirm/deny?) and, though his name's still on the Met's site, he won't go on for the prima Wednesday. Thoughts?

And the tittle-tattle about (of all things) the 2012 Met season continues to filter in. The latest: the Donizetti "Tudor cycle" shared amongst Angela Gheorghiu (Anna Bolena), Anna Netrebko (Maria Stuarda) and Renee Fleming (Roberto Devereux [??!!]). All that, plus new productions of Guilliame Tell and Rienzi. Or, on the other hand, Earth may collide with a giant comet, so hold off on locking in the dates quite yet.

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It's a dessert topping, you cow!

The miraculous properties of the Gelb-era Met begin to rival those of the legendary aerosol product Shimmer. In the future, it seems, the Met will be both a floor wax and a dessert topping. For example, it has been rumored that a new production of Il trovatore would star (depending on who was telling the tale) Sondra Radvanovksy or Renee Fleming. Ha, ha, you're both right! If the information La Cieca hears is accurate (and when is it not?), Radvanovsky will sing the prima of the new production; then Fleming will star in the first major revival, perhaps with a telecast thrown in.

The same informant who tossed La Cieca this tidbit went on to say that the reports of la Radvanovsky's "buyout" at the Met were greatly exaggerated: the soprano, we are told, will perform revivals of Stiffelio and Traviata in coming seasons.

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21 December 2006

Not the type at all

At last La Cieca has discovered Renee Fleming's muse, or at least, as we have so often wondered "who the hell it was who taught her to sing that way."

Meet the divine Naoko Maeda, asking the musical question . . .

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19 December 2006

La Cieca non mente

Remember that prediction that La Cieca made about how Renee Fleming would bring her Norma into New York? Turns out that may have been inaccurate. (Yes, you have every right to be shocked and amazed. This is surely a first.) Yes, La Cieca hears, the Met is planning a production of the Bellini masterpiece, but with a different Druidess-in-chief, Anna Netrebko.

Yeah, that sounds pretty unlikely to La Cieca too: surely if Fleming is singing Norma by that faraway date she would invoke "dibs" at the Met. Or maybe once the new Norma is in the repertoire, Netrebko would sweep triumphantly into the first revival, the way Montserrat Caballe followed Joan Sutherland.

Or, on the other hand, Netrebko would make a pretty adorable Adalgisa, and boy, would that DVD fly off the shelves!

Ah, well, La Cieca will just keep throwing gossip at the wall until something sticks. Something always does.

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17 December 2006

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

Panic at the disco

You asked for it, cher public: the Renee Fleming dance remix.

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13 December 2006


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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23 November 2006

Gloomy Thursday

On this day of Thanksgiving, there are so many things for which La Cieca would like to give thanks. But enough about that. Here's one thing for which La Cieca would like to say, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Among the participants in this year's Macy's Thanksgiving parade: none other than The Beautiful Voice, or, as she is identified on NBC.com, "Renee Fleming, Grandma from the Big Apple Circus." Fleming will lip-synch "America the Beautiful," backed by an Army chorus and band. Also on hand will be Super Grover, SpongeBob SquarePants and Healthy Mr. Potato Head, who will perform scenes from Massenet's Cleopatre.

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08 November 2006

Midweek midtacular

Where else would La Cieca be this Sunday but basking the the star radiance of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation's annual gala? Now! With 100% more Met artists, including Elizabeth Futral, Samuel Ramey, José Cura, René Pape, James Morris, Marcello Giordani, Patricia Racette, Joseph Calleja, Angela Marambio, Sandra Radvanovsky and Aprile Millo. The galalicious fun begins at 6:00 PM at Avery Fisher Hall.

At least one former winner of the Tucker award won't be appearing, darn it, because she's just finished a gala benefit of her own at La Scala. It's Renaaay, of course, and the new (to La Cieca) blog Opera Chic describes the scene:
Interestingly, La Fleming had arranged to be basked in the glow of a peachy, pinkish spotlight. Hartmut Höll instead was replete in the flat, sterile, blue/white light, which by default, is implemented for every other normal recital. I mean, homegirl looked good, but it was like Liz Taylor and her vaseline filters.
La Cieca feels like she was there, I tell you, and wait until you read the breathless paragraphs detailing The Frock (by Gianfranco Ferré, of course.)

And did La Cieca mention that they're bringing back Big Gay Date Night at the Met? For just $95 you get an orchestra seat, pre-performance hors d’oeuvres, intermission champagne and dessert, and, just possibly, some post-performance nooky. Boheme is on November 21, but La Cieca thinks that the best husband material will be found at the February 2 Jenufa. (For that matter, surely the combination of Karita Mattila and Anja Silja will attract an upscale lesbian crowd as well.)

Plus: don't forget the Smart Singer Tricks on The Late Show With David Letterman tonight, beginning at 11:35 pm (US Eastern and Pacific time) on CBS-TV.

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08 October 2006

Io ne' volumi arcani leggo del cielo

To paraphrase only slightly La Cieca's dear friend Mrs. Lloyd Richards, "This beats all world's records for running, standing and jumping Gaul!"

Yes, cher public, that day we have all dreaded will soon arrive, because, so La Cieca hears, the contracts have been signed for a new production of Norma in Zurich, to be televised and released on DVD. And it stars -- oh, all right, La Cieca has put it off long enough -- it stars Renee Fleming as The Beautiful Druid.

If you'll excuse her, La Cieca is going to start drinking now, so she'll be good and unconscious in time for the first interview using the angle "as a single mother with a demanding career, I can identify with Norma's dilemma."

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28 September 2006

Cream of the crop

Announced today: highlights of the archival Met broadcasts to be featured on Sirius during the month of October:

Carmen (1/9/37) Papi; Ponselle, Bodanya, Rayner, Huehn

Lucia di Lammermoor (2/27/37) Papi; Pons, Jagel, Brownlee, Pinza

Die Walküre (12/2/44) Szell; Traubel, Bampton, Thorborg, Melchior, Janssen, Kipnis

Roméo et Juliette (2/1/47) Cooper; Sayão, Benzell, Turner, Björling, Brownlee, Moscona

Aida (2/20/54) Cleva; Milanov, Barbieri, Baum, Warren, Hines

I Vespri Siciliani (3/9/74) Levine; Caballé, Gedda, Milnes, Díaz

Aida (3/6/76) Levine; Price, Horne, Domingo, MacNeil, Giaiotti

Parsifal (4/7/01) Levine; Urmana, Domingo, Ketelsen, Wlaschiha, Tomlinson

Die Meistersinger (12/8/01) Levine; Mattila, Grove, Heppner, Polenzani, Morris, Allen, Pape

La Traviata (3/6/04) Gergiev; Fleming, Vargas, Hvorostovsky

And La Cieca reminds you that the complete schedule of live broadcasts may be found here.

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20 September 2006

Sirius fun

As La Cieca predicted a fortnight ago, the Met Opera today announced a partnership with SIRIUS Satellite Radio to broadcast live and archival Met performances. The series will begin on Monday, September 25th, with a live broadcast of the Met's opening night gala performance of Madama Butterfly, conducted by Music Director James Levine and directed by Anthony Minghella.

The format for the new Sirius channel, 85, will include four live broadcasts a week during the season plus 10 archival saturday matinee broadcasts. Amusingly, the NYT piece announcing the new channel says the programming "will range widely, including the likes of a 1937 performance of Carmen, starring Rosa Ponselle, and a performance of La Traviata in 2004 with Renée Fleming." Yes, "widely" is definitely the operative word here.

La Cieca must admit that she is not an early adopter of satellite radio. So clue her in, cher public, what are your experiences with Sirius? (And for those of you who are as clueless about Sirius as she is, here's a video that is obviously targeted precisely at La Cieca's core audience.)

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11 September 2006

Artificial flower

That "Age of the Diva" soprano, Renee Fleming, swept into Los Angeles last weekend to lay down video tracks for her upcoming DVD of Traviata. Los Angeles Opera cleverly captialized on the public's interest in America's Sweetheart by selling high-priced tickets to the taping, calling the event a "gala opera performance." We will of course have to wait for the DVD to see how it all turned out (and La Cieca's breath is already bated!), but at least one critic was less than bowled over. Muses the LA Times' Mark Swed,
. . . what's to be done about Fleming? She is renowned for her beauty — of voice, of appearance. At 47, she retains both. She gives a lot, yet the audience receives little. Her every move onstage feels overly motivated. Portraying a courtesan, she wears 19th century gowns with grace, but she seems to hide behind them . . . . ultimately, Fleming seemed slave to her glossy beauty of tone and confined by her corsets. What would happen if she put herself in the hands of a powerful director who cut through the plastic?
Oh my! Well, at least Fleming had the wit (and the clout) to veto the company's 1920s update of the Verdi classic, insisting on traditional hoopskirted garb. After all, those jazz age frocks might have looked a little unflattering, unlike, well...

But Placido always does things in such a big way! I mean, how many other impresarios could convince Ruth Ann Swenson and Nia Vardalos to alternate as Flora?

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06 September 2006

Tech talk

As La Cieca rather broadly hinted yesterday, the Met Opera will indeed bump up their number of broadcasts (and telecasts) this season. Six simulcast video performances (to be viewed in movie theaters) and "more than 100" audio-only Web and satellite radio presentations are promised according to a press release on the Met's website.

The first season of high-definition videocasts will include "the new English-language adaptation of Julie Taymor’s Magic Flute, conducted by James Levine, on December 30; I Puritani starring Anna Netrebko on January 6; the world premiere production of Tan Dun’s The First Emperor with Plácido Domingo in the title role on January 13; Eugene Onegin with Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, conducted by Valery Gergiev, on February 24; the new production of The Barber of Seville with Juan Diego Flórez on March 24; and the new production of Il Trittico, conducted by Maestro Levine and directed by Jack O’Brien, on April 28."

All these telecasts will later be made available to PBS in the United States and various international networks for conventional telecast.

What's more, over 500 historical broadcasts from the Met will be made available for purchased download through the Rhapsody online music service. Another 1,000 archival broadcasts should be made available in coming seasons. (The loyal public of parterre.com of course knew about this innovation as long ago as August 14!)

And now La Cieca is off to invest in Sendrax.

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23 August 2006

Night, Mother

Among the celebs at the opening of Brecht's Mother Courage presented by the Public Theater, glimpsed were Renee Fleming (who perhaps should have been reminded that she was on hand to see Mother Courage, not to be Mother Courage) , and the perennial Jessye Norman, whose transformation into Star Jones is now complete.

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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:

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11 July 2006

La publicité!

Well, who says that the summer is a slow news season for opera? The top story this week is that the Royal Opera Covent Garden is living up to it name (the royal part I mean) by casting Deborah Voigt as Ariadne for their 2007-08 season. And bravi to La Voigt herself and her publicity team for handling the story so well -- it was everywhere on the net yesterday, including even Fox News.

An interesting detail in the story is that currently Voigt is 135 pounds lighter than her peak weight, presurgery, which was two years ago, or in other words she has lost an entire soubrette. What a shock it will be when the Met's video of Ariadne finally emerges from the vaults -- this was taped back when Voigt was still X-large, and to tell the truth, La Cieca think she's beginning to forget what Debbie looked like back then, since she seems so comfortable in her new skin.

Well, at least the Ariadne made it to the taping stage; the latest big opera video project might not even do that. You may recall that La Cieca revealed last week that Los Angeles Opera will present a short revival of Traviata in the fall so that Renee Fleming's Violetta can be documented for a Decca DVD release. (Part of the deal as that Fleming should appear in a "traditional" production, as opposed to the flapper updating Los Angeles did this summer.)

Well, now it turns out that LAO will have to pony up an additional $600K to refurbish their old Traviata production to bring it up to acceptable standards for video. (I guess if Renee Fleming is your Violetta, you should make sure the physical production is as interesting as possible.) What makes this story so odd is that both the Traviata stagings in question are devised by the same director, and that this director is the wife of the company's general director. And what I think should have Decca worried is that they are putting so much money into a Traviata with a soprano who is not exactly a reliable self-starter as an actress, and then giving her Marta Domingo as a director. No wonder Dimitri Hvorostovsky bailed from this one.

And another thing that struck me as odd is that since the news about this DVD broke first as a rumor and now it's been confirmed, there has been no reaction, even from the big Fleming fans, no cries of, "Oh thank heaven the divine Renee's Violetta will be preserved for posterity!" I mean, it's no skin off La Cieca's Roman nose whether Renaaay films it or not: I'm not going to watch it anyway, but you'd think the hardcore Fleming Flappers would be making a bit more of a stir over so important a project for their goddess. Oh well, probably a lot of the Fleming fans were out in their quarter shares in the Pines this past weekend, and just haven't caught up with the good news yet.

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26 June 2006

Fleming: I'm no flapper!

Those of you cher public who frequent the left coast have probably seen the new Los Angeles Opera production of La traviata, the one that bumps the period of the action forward from the epoch of Alexandre Dumas fils to that of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Well, of course the svelte and lovely Elizabeth Futral looks charming in Jazz Age garb -- enough so that one would wish to see her in a revival of Harbison's The Great Gatsby -- that is, with different music. But anyway, just like everyone else, La Cieca thought that this new mise-en-scene by Marta Domingo was intended to become the LA Opera's "standard" Traviata. And, just like very nearly everyone your faithful scribe wondered just how well the modernistic lines of bugle-beaded cocktail dresses would drape over the curves of Renee Fleming, who is skedded to sing Violetta in LA this fall. Well, stop wondering, chickens, because La Cieca has just heard that la Fleming's contract for the production specifies that she will not do the "Art Deco" staging; rather, she insists on wearing the traditional crinoline. And she is arguing from a position of power, since Decca has also contracted to tape the fall performances for DVD release. Fortunately LA already has a conventional Marta-helmed Traviata in storage, awaiting only the arrival of la Fleming to be demothballed. The "Flapper Traviata?" Junked after only the one season, La Cieca hears.

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20 May 2006

Liveblogging the Volpethon

11:40: Then Rene Pape matched Hvorostovsky, then Zajick matched (topped?) them both, then who the hell had the idiotic idea of doing the Easter Hymn with a mezzo who can't sing it and the chorus apparently stoned or else in another city? (Oh, and did you notice the long, noisy scene change afterward? Vintage Volpe.)

11:05: Finally, SOMETHING that sounds like it belongs on a gala. Hvorostovsky may not sound quite that huge in the house, but it's a star voice performing like a star. Stunning breath control (and a fine sense of line) in the first phrase of the "Io morro!"

10:15: Admittedly only the first half . . . but a $3,000 top for this? Yes, La Cieca admits you don't get to hear Kiri te Kanawa all that often, but the only novelty rep thus far was Fleming's Trovatore ... which is one of her current concert pieces. It really sounds like nobody is really trying to make the evening special. Or, dare La Cieca say it, like they are doing what they are required to do, and not any more -- perhaps since nobody can be accused of loving Joe Volpe?

9:30: Fleming singing Trovatore on Milanov's centenary? And, folks, the action in the chat room is so frantic, I'm going to wait until the interval to blog more. BTW, who sings Dutchman at a gala? Isn't it a bit, I don't know, GRIM?

9:00: Natalie Dessay starts at the beginning of the recit. for Sonnambula. I think she actually sounds more interesting now with the slight wear and tear on the voice -- at least in this plaintive music. We'll see what the cabaletta is like.

Maybe she is making more space for the "Credea" than she should. I don't think it should be quite this much work. And of course running out of breath isn't such a good idea.

Well, she seems to know how the cabaletta is supposed to go, but boy the voice is sketchy except at the very top. And not much of a B-flat to finish.

8:45: Placido Domingo in a zarzuela about a fisherman. Oh, it's "No puede ser" -- d'oh! And now Frederica von Stade sings with an untuned piano. If only Voigt's novelty song were of this quality...

When I think of Yevgeny Onegin, the first name that comes to mind is Bill Irwin.

8:30: Half an hour in, and finally some opera singing. Jesus Christ, three conductors for the first three numbers!

Wow, Florez is close miked! A little tight to start with, but after the first cadenza he sounds warmed up. If only that ghastly chorus weren't yowling behind him.

8: 20 PM: Remember, it's NOT a contest. Except to see which first soprano sounds oldest.

8:10 PM: Voigt's special material song is pretty damn awful. She sounds fine, but the song is crap.

Better stream at http://wuot.sunsite.utk.edu:8080/ramgen/broadcast/wuot.rm. Ah, the stunning set for the Ariadne. How appropriate for the ex-carpenter.

For an encore, Debbie will sing, "After You've Gone."

Here comes Debbie.

8:00 PM: Sigh, if Renee really wants to save the Met broadcasts, she would start singing better in Rodelinda. Meanwhile, I'm off to test-drive a Lexus.

7:45 PM: La Cieca's live-on-tape coverage of the Volpe Farewell Gala begins!

Note that the broadcast is available on WQXR's website. The live chat has already begun; you can join by clicking the "chat now" button to the right.

Most recent news: Mirella Freni will make only a "tribute" (nonsinging) appearance, and Ruth Ann Swenson bagged this afternoon's Elisir, so don't expect her tonight.

At the moment, we have a violinist playing Rachmaninoff on WQXR. Not part of the gala...

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12 May 2006


Well, it looks like yet another cliche turns out to be true: there really is no such thing as bad publicity. La Cieca hears that since his arrest two nights ago for DWI, Jerry Hadley has been fielding calls and emails from practically everyone he ever met in the business -- most of them asking "so what are you doing now?" In other words, what might have been a scandale has morphed into a networking opportunity. LC hears further that Hadley, who went through a rocky patch vocally over the last few years, is now reworking the voice with one of New York's most-respected pedagogues. (And don't you suppose that somewhere, Renee Fleming is thinking, "What do I have to do to get arrested in this town?")


05 May 2006

The long and winding Rodelinda

Point/Counterpoint from the wellsung twins:

Jonathan: "Renee Fleming is a disaster as Rodelinda. What the hell is going on? WHY does she sing this rep? It was like one big slur that lasted for four hours. I did not hear one consonant, and there was no sense whatsoever of where one note ended and another began. It was just this sort of formless, free-flowing sound that sort of skated over Handel's music--the music that was hiding somewhere under this drool-bag of vocal drivel . . . . Also, I resent that somehow people have convinced themselves that it is good--or even that it is vaguely acceptable. The crowd of deaf (evidently), bravo-screeching Renee devotees were really pissing me off."

Alex: ". . . she sounded like ass last night. It was like all of her most infuriating qualities on steroids. The most weak, contrived, covered sound you can imagine. Utter, baffling lack of precision (which is doubly inexcusable in Handel). Total sacrifice of any phrasing or larger line to trying, and failing, to make everything precious. Diction so wretched and lazy I spent the whole evening annoyed that I couldn't understand what she was saying. And I don't know a lick of Italian. And she seems to think the obligatory Beautiful Voice™ moment at the end of each aria makes up for the ten minutes of dreck that came before. I'm not buying it, lady."

Please excuse La Cieca, but she's totally farklempt. They grow up so fast!

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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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01 April 2006

Three Tenors, approximately

At last night's Don Pasquale prima, Juan Diego Florez was "souffrant" but sang the first two acts, then ceded the role to Barry Banks, who apparently rose to the occasion beautifully. Eduardo Villa sings the final Luisa Miller tonight, theoretically opposite Veronica Villaroel, who did sing the performance on the 29th (was anyone there?) Neil Shicoff is still on the roster for next season's Peter Grimes, but you can be sure the Met is lining up the most solid covers imaginable.

Oh, and if Massimo Giordano sounds a little tired on the occasion of his Met debut (April 5), cut him a little slack. Due to the demanding itinerary of the tenor's diva/mother/author/reading advocate co-star, the only time a full day of rehearsals for the Manon revival could be set was on Tuesday the 4th, i.e., the day before Giordano makes his bow. (Actually, this one's not Fleming's fault: she doesn't schedule the repertory and the rehearsals at the Met. But who had the brainstorm of scheduling a two-performance "revival" of this opera with only Fleming repeating her role from the fall, and knowing that she would not be in town until three days before Giordano's first night?)

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14 March 2006

"The truth is on the march and I will stop it"

Do any of you out there ever wonder exactly what it is an "Artistic Administrator" does -- I mean, besides collecting an annual salary and refusing to hear auditions? Well, finally La Cieca has uncovered at least part of the job description. An Artistic Administrator (for example, Diane Zola of the Houston Grand Opera) is a sort of lackey to the lawyers who run the opera company, assigned to such busywork as writing threatening letters to poor powerless bloggers like La Cieca:

Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2006 10:05:18
From: Diane Zola
To: [email protected], [email protected]
Cc: [redacted]
Subject: Copyright Infringement

This e-mail serves written notice of copyright infringement regarding the video entitled "Sempre Fleming" located on your site at the following URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5Ix9vDQyt8&search=Traviata. Houston Grand Opera demands that the video be removed from this site immediately, and that the User, La Cieca, cease and desist from all current and future unauthorized use of this video in perpetuity. Houston Grand Opera asserts in good faith that it is the owner of the copyright to this video excerpt of its live performance of LA TRAVIATA, and that it has not authorized the offending party to display this video in any format. Legal action against your site and the offending party will be taken if the video is not immediately removed. The above information is accurate, and I aver that I am authorized to act on behalf of Houston Grand Opera to protect its copyright against such infringement.

Sincerely, Diane Zola
Artistic Administrator
Houston Grand Opera
E-mail: [email protected]
Ph: 713-546-0293

Naturally La Cieca has removed the video, if only so that Ms. Zola can get back to planning the 2011-12 season.

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11 March 2006

Pult muscle

According to an article in the New York Times, James Levine will cancel all his remaining Met performances this season, including a tour to Japan. He is scheduled to have surgery to repair and injured rotator cuff on March 20. House management is currently scrambling to find replacements for Levine's characteristically heavy workload: preparation of a new production and nine performances of Don Pasquale, six performances each of Lohengrin and Fidelio, and three of Parsifal. His Japan performances included four each of Don Giovanni and Die Walkuere, plus a Renee Fleming concert. Joe Volpe's reaction to the news: "My hope is that it won't affect ticket sales."

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27 January 2006

All we like sheep

"Pampered" Australian sheep who listen to opera have (once again!) produced the world's finest wool.

Rumors from Salzburg suggest the parting of the ways with Renee Fleming was not so amicable as we are led to believe: the word La Cieca keeps hearing is "Scheissdosende." (Well, actually, she just invented that word, but it sums up the feeling at the Mozarteum.)

Oh, and latest word from backstage is: Domingo "wants" to sing the broadcast of Cyrano, but nobody's betting on it.


25 January 2006

Surprise "silk purse" for Salzburg!

According to playbill.com, Cecilia Bartoli is replacing Renée Fleming in Salzburg's all-star concert celebrating the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth on January 27. It seems Renaaay demurred from singing the concert aria "Ch’io mi scordi di te" for "vocal reasons." (Good to hear it wasn't because she had objections to the text or anything.) Bartoli will also sing the rest of Fleming's program (Oh, snap!) consisting of "Exsultate, jubilate" and "Là ci darem la mano." (Unfortunately, this turn of events means that Ms. Bartoli will not be available to substitute for Placido Domingo in the Met's Cyrano.)


20 January 2006

The Inner Bark

"Her quirky personality shines through once she gets to know you . . . . In the home, she is very sweet and quite affectionate, however she is not clingy or needy for your undivided attention at all times . . . . She's not a hyper or noisy girl, but she has a wealth of energy and stamina and she loves to go for long walks in the park . . . . All she needs now is someone to whom she can give all that love and devotion. All she wants is someone to love her and spend time with her." Oh, and her singing voice "could rival Renee Fleming," which is pretty impressive, since this bitch seems to have it all over Renaay in the personality department.

Update: on the other hand, maybe I'm misreading this. What if the dog sounds like this?

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08 January 2006

Magic time

La Cieca hears that the Met has promised Renee Fleming a production of Rossini's Armida in 2010-2011. The five years advance notice should allow plenty of time to complete all the necessary tranpositions to the score, and no doubt the ultra-busy diva is already figuring out how she will balance rehearsals against quality time with her grandchildren.

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17 December 2005

First Met broadcast of the season

Rolando Villazon not apparently in his very best form but La Cieca is very impressed with a) his willingness to sing out and take chances even when he is less than 100% and b) his well-supported legato that is the basis of even his most vehement singing. Anna Netrebko found a way to interpret Gilda as a lyric. The sound a little glassy when close-miked, but the singing always has meaning. Very interesting how she slowly straightened out the tone as the character died, a little less vibrato on each phrase. If Joe Volpe is wondering why more people aren't willing to spend $250 at the opera, he can take a hard look at Carlo Guelfi. No voice! (as Charlie Handelman would say) and so he (Guelfi, not Handelman) tricks out the performance with whoops and gasps and the whole Benoit shtik. Ascher Fisch knows how to make Verdi go; La Cieca would quibble only with his eclectic choice of cuts. Though goodness knows no one would want to hear Guelfi faking yet another verse of "Ah veglia o donna." It warmed the cockles of this old heart to hear such campery on the Quiz; Stephen Blier is such a dear mad old thing. And if the rest of Volpe's book is anything like the pap he read today, they're going to have to give away insulin with every copy. And what's the deal with him sucking up to Renee Fleming -- is she supposed to serve as an example of his masterful casting abilities? (La Cieca was at that Pirata and the poor dear was pretty damn near inaudible, and that hysterical Susannah you all saw!) Was that business about the "heart shaped face and melting eyes" creepy or what? La Cieca was totally ready to hear Uncle Joe go on about Renaay's "pert pouting breasts" and "firm supple thighs!" Oh, and listen for the claque next week during American Tragedy: they sure know when those arias dribble to an end!

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14 October 2005

Miss Fleming's wooden performance...

Early reports from the Ann Arbor edition of the Renee Fleming Daphne Show (additional music by R. Strauss) might have been written by La Cieca herself: ""two hours of excruciating agony," and "a snooze . . . . high register from back in throat, spread notes."

Well, at least La Fleming won't the the only one getting wood that night. (via Sieglinde's Diaries)

Update: The guy proffering the Fleming/fellatio gift pack has updated his ad a couple of times today -- his latest effort ("Free Opera at Carnegie + Sex!") ups the ante by including photos of frontal nudity (warning NSFW!) to go along with the million-dollar gams we all saw earlier today. La Cieca is frankly surprised nobody in classical music has thought of this before -- counteracting soft ticket sales by throwing in a free blowjob. (And it certainly suggests a new punchline to the old joke about "how do you get to Carnegie Hall?)

Another update: La Cieca's mentions of "wood" in this item should not by any means be construed as a veiled allusion to her dear little sister ("I call her little, even though she is somewhat older than myself...") the NYC Opera Fanatic. Everyone knows NYCOF is a natural strawberry blonde!


30 September 2005

Nothing Sacred

You know, it's one thing to flounce around dusting the floor of a church with your silken train, the meantime flaunting your bosom to the Blessed Virgin, but it's another thing altogether to take a heartfelt hymn like "Amazing Grace" and transform it into cheap soundtrack music. Can't someone stop this woman?

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23 September 2005

The rumor Millo

Sister Sieglinde summarizes the roiling controversy so far in her Diary, and the most recent whisper La Cieca has heard is, "if that rock promoter wanted Avril Lavigne, he should have hired Avril Lavigne; Aprile is an opera singer."

Among the rumors La Cieca doesn't believe:

Now, La Cieca knows she would be a hypocrite to lecture other people on the perils of Schadenfreude; she recalls, for example, practically peeing herself with delight when she heard about the dogs yapping at Cours-la-Reine in Renaaay's previous Met Manon. However, she will say she just doesn't quite grasp the glee with which some of those online greet the news that an admired and important artists is not going to sing.

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21 August 2005

Aprile's really jumpin' ...

... down at Carnegie Hall. Or will be, on October 14, when the soprano performs a solo recital at the venerated venue. Details are sketchy at the moment, but La Millo is always good for golden-age tone and demeanor. Diva-fanciers should find themselves either run ragged or in heaven that week (depending on the quality of their disco naps), since Carnegie also plays host to Renee Fleming (singing Daphne October 15) and Cecilia Bartoli (an all-baroque chamber music program on the 19th).

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31 July 2005

Strapping, brawny corrections

This week it seems Tony Tommasini can't do anything right. First he cooed over Renee Fleming's impossibly arch performance at a Mostly Mozart concert. Well, subjectivity and all that; still, you have to wonder where bad taste ends and starfucking begins. Then, in this morning's paper, ironically in a piece about the Met's archives, Tony misstates a widely-known and easily checkable fact. No, Maria Jeritza did not create the role of Turandot at the La Scala premiere; that would be Rosa Raisa. (As everyone knows, Arturo Toscanini fired Jeritza from that first production when he caught her flushing a copy of the Q'uran down a toilet.)

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11 June 2005

Vissi d'arte

"This week, I'm using Crème de la Mer for my skin, and products from Scott Barnes, the make-up artist who was responsible for J.Lo's glow. His trio of pink geisha-inspired blushers make my day. I have my hair cut by Vartan Vartali and coloured by Michael Stinchcomb, who's a fan and travels all round the world looking after me. And twice a year I go clothes-shopping. My wardrobe has become very streamlined. I buy from a handful of designers — Gianfranco Ferré, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto." Who else but Renaaay, talking to the Sunday Times? (And did I mention she has two daughters?)


01 June 2005

Ah chi mi dice mai...

La Cieca is as puzzled as everyone else about the mysterious disappearance of the DGG DVD of Don Giovanni (Met telecast with Terfel, Fleming, Levine - you know the one). The disc was released on May 10, then only days later DGG recalled it. Now there's not a copy to be bought anywhere, and early adopters are carefully hoarding what promises to be a major collector's item. So what happened? Is there a glitch in the subtitles? Was Terfel's incessant cooch-grabbing considered too TV-14 for wide release? Does Jimmy want to go back and do it over with slower tempi? Or is this some clever marketing ploy to motivate operalovers to inflate opening weekend numbers?

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22 May 2005

Fleming cops to crooning "Manon"

Finally Renaaay has admitted what so many of us have insisted for so long: she croons, and, what's more, her Manon might sound better with electronic amplification. Oh, guess what, she yaks interminably about her jazz obsession, too, in this story.


22 February 2005

Jazzed up

In response to a very official-looking email from the Business and Legal Affairs department of the Universal Music Group, La Cieca reluctantly must now reveal that the mp3 she mischievously identified as "a track from Renee Fleming's new jazz album" is in fact nothing of the kind. The clip was meant as a travesty of Fleming's attempts at jazz. Believe me, it was the farthest thing from my mind that anyone who reads La Cieca could have such a tin ear as to think the breathy cooing on this clip could possibly have anything to do with "The Beautiful Voice." To recap: for the irony-impaired among you, this clip is not the real Renee Fleming.

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