28 January 2008

A Star is Reborn

That superstar of the podosphere, Miss Frances Gumm, is back after six months of laying fallow. Or is La Cieca thinking of Frank Sinatra? Anyway, one of our absolute favorite online destinations, JudyCast, has returned with its distinctive mélange of entertainment gossip and otherworldy warbling as gaily subversive as ever. (No explanation is given for the hiatus, but La Cieca suspects that the recent TCM screening of the bizarre 1968 flick Skiddoo dislodged whatever was creatively blocking Carol Channing and the other JudyCast partipants.)

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14 January 2008

Separated at death?

Joan Ingpen and Rosina Lickspittle

In related macabre news, (reportedly) gay tenor Sergej Larin died this weekend, and La Cieca has just heard an unconfirmed report that another gay tenor, Giuliano Ciannella, has also passed away.

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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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12 November 2007

Gaia, isolata, bianca

Legendary opera diva Anna Moffo spreads her wings in a straight film role -- but as a gay character. La Moffo plays the lesbian "Lia" in Das Mädchen Julius. The film concerns the heroine Jules (a girl with a boy's name) who, according to the plot synopsis, as a teenager had a lesbian experience with her governess, Lia, who has taught her to hate men, whom she considers beasts who can bring nothing but harm to a woman.

So, if you ever wondered what a Moffo performance of Gräfin Geschwitz might be like (especially in a production set in the minimalist late 1960s) here's a scene from Das Mädchen Julius.

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09 November 2007

Night of the Living Dead

La Cieca's spiritual godmother Tessi Tura (or, more accurately, Ms. Tura's alter ego George Heymont) has finally emerged from a "retirement" of over a decade. George has turned to the blog format to complete a project he's had on the back burner since 1990 or so, "a murder mystery set at the Metropolitan Opera House." La Cieca is sure her cher public will want to follow the progress of this latest Heymontiana (Heymontade?) at A Dying Art Form.

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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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11 October 2007

Don't let's ask for the moon

La Cieca performs a dramatic reading from The Greatest Opera Novel Ever Written -- and that's merely a curtain-raiser to the second act of Verdi's Ernani, starring Anita Cerquetti, Mario del Monaco, Ettore Bastianini and Boris Christoff, under the baton of that icon of gaiety Dimitri Mitropoulos. Well, what are you waiting for? Go directly to Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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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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01 May 2007

Sweet and low

Gender-bending diseuse Zarah Leander crosses over into opera to sing "Che farò senza Euridice" in this scene the 1938 film Heimat.

It may be noted that the sub-contralto Leander chooses a lower key for this aria than the written C major David Daniels will sing tomorrow night! For more about the iconic Zarah, see Ben Letzler's appreciation of the androgyne goddess.

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23 April 2007

But enough about me

Our editor JJ chats with the lovely and talented Mona de Crinis in an interview for the Palm Springs Bottom Line, a publication whose title contains so many double entendres La Cieca lost count. Thrill yet once again to the saga of parterre box, the little zine that could, and JJ, the editor who would. And did. (Frequently.)

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30 March 2007


These two gentlemen (Craig Ramsay and Timothy John Mandala) are among the players in Matthew Passion: A New Play (with music) by La Cieca's erstwhile colleague Phil Hall. The show opens Monday, April 2, 2007 at 8:00 pm for a limited engagement.

Per the show's press notes, "Matthew Passion tells the story of the passion of Christ; the story of Matthew Shepard being picked up at a bar in Laramie, Wyoming, beaten and left for dead on a hillside; and the story of a middle-aged HIV positive survivor who has outlived his life expectancy. Although the three stories take place in three different locations, and are thousands of years apart, they all reflect one another and converge in the final scene."

Tickets for Matthew Passion (only $18!) are available through SmartTix: (212) 868-4444. Visit

www.matthewpassion.com for more information.


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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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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04 February 2007

Le nozze di Basilio

Tenor Hugues Cuenod will get married early this year, La Cieca hears. Under a a new law legalizing same-sex unions in Switzerland, the veteran artist (age 104) and his long-time partner, a retired diplomat, have decided to tie the knot. Date and location are undisclosed at the moment.

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Weekend roundup

Future plans for ur-diva Ewa Podles include Azucena in Il trovatore at Caramoor (July 2007) with Julianna D’Giacomo, Simon Neill, Daniel Sutin and Daniel Mobbs; then Orsini in Lucrezia Borgia in the spring of 2008 opposite Edita Gruberoba, Jose Bros and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo.

A company debuts in Manhattan when Ottocento Opera presents a concert of arias and songs by Giovanni Pacini and Saverio Mercadante on Sunday, February 11 at 7:00 PM. The venue is Christ & St. Stephen's Episcopal Church at 120 West 69th Street. For more information, email [email protected].

A propos of the death of Gian Carlo Menotti, an essay from the G. Schirmer web site by Paul Wittke. Actually it's specifically about Samuel Barber, but it does dwell at some length on the composers' romantic relationship.

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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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30 October 2006

Dame Joan will be so proud

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, "The male toilets of Australia’s most famous landmark, the Sydney Opera House, has been listed among hot spots for a hook up point for men cruising sex with other men."

Jane Eaglen is going to teach young people how to sing.

"By the time her stepfather Herodes starts sucking Salome's naked breasts, it is clear that nothing will save William Friedkin's Munich staging of the 1905 Richard Strauss opera about the petulant veiled princess."

Oh, and one more thing. If you insist on casting Franco Farina, you really must tell Margaret Juntwait that when she announces the end of Cavalleria, she can't say, "That horrible scream tells everyone that Turiddu is dead." (Margaret, we all heard the "Addio alla madre." After that, the shrieks of damned souls in hell sound like young di Stefano.)