23 January 2008

Jerry duty

Perhaps the last people in the world still interested in Jerry Springer: the Opera are trying to get together a protest against the January 29 Carnegie Hall concert performance of the "patently obscene and viciously anti-Christian musical." Our own JJ, you know, saw the show in London way back when Jenny Larmore was still fat, and this is some of what he had to say:
... the level of wit rarely rose to that of a “Saturday Night Live” skit. The one-joke concept is tipped off in the title: we hear, for example, a countertenor “chick with a dick” shrieking “Talk to the hand!” in mock-Wagnerian hysteria .... Oh, how the audience roared every time anyone said the f-word, which added up to about 500 laughs in the course of the evening. Among the huge cast, the clear standout was David Bedella (Warm Up Man/Satan), a triple-threat star personality with a seemingly limitless vocal range.
Bedella reprises his role at Carnegie, which is the only reason La Cieca would recommend the show. Well, the only reason besides pissing off Bill Donohue, who apparently has free time on his hands when he's not taking on Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Kathy Griffin, Mike Huckabee and Chocolate Jesus.

La Cieca gives major props to the editor of catholicleague.org, though, for hed writing skillz: "CHRISTIANS SAVAGED AT CARNEGIE HALL" is a grabber!

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17 January 2008

Winter storms

"The presence of the voiceless Rosalind Plowright in the supporting role of Gertrude demonstrates the folly of the Met's notoriously Britcentric artistic administration. Surely there are dozens of equally over-the-hill American mezzos who could have shrieked the role just as atonally."

Our own JJ reviews the Met's productions of Hansel and Gretel, Die Walküre and Un ballo in maschera in Gay City News. JJ's previous scribblings in the queer rag be found in the archives for 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2004.

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20 December 2007


Last month our own JJ took in a trio of less than standard operas: Giulio Cesare and Die Frau ohne Schatten in Chicago, and Iphigénie en Tauride right here in New York. The review is in Gay City News, of course.

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13 December 2007

The Kid Stays in the Picture

The newest member of the gaggle of Gay City News opera critic, Eli Jacobson, critiques recent NYC performances by Opera Grattacielo and Collegiate Chorale.

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29 November 2007

Running, standing and jumping Gaul

"Legendary maestro Tullio Serafin once said that trying to perform Bellini's Norma without a great soprano is as futile as attempting to cook risotto without rice. This month, the Metropolitan Opera experimented with such a recipe with less than palatable results."

Our Own JJ reviews Hasmik Papian's Druidess in Gay City News.

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15 November 2007

JJ and the City

"Soprano Lauren Flanigan turned her vaunted acting skills to the task of portraying the sophisticated allure of Vanessa, hampered more than a little by a stiff auburn wig and dowdy costumes that left her looking like Nellie Oleson's mother. Happily, on November 8, Flanigan was in superb voice, sailing fearlessly up to fiery high B's and C's and plunging into a well-projected chest register." Our Own JJ reviews NYCO's Vanessa and Cendrillion for Gay City News.

Please do try to forgive the weird é characters that somehow crept into the text; the editors at GCN are working on transforming them back into their original e aigu (é) state.

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02 November 2007


Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera"When the Met last offered Verdi's Macbeth a quarter century ago, the New York Times slammed Sir Peter Hall's staging as 'the worst new production to struggle onto the Metropolitan Opera's stage in modern history' and the opening night audience greeted the curtain calls with some of the loudest boos in the theater's history. On October 22, the company neatly avoided a reprise of this notorious fiasco when they offered a bland take on the opera unlikely to rouse much strong feeling at all. "

Our Own JJ reviews Macbeth in Gay City News.

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13 October 2007

The season begins. Finally.

"The Metropolitan Opera's opening week offered two super-starry nights that more than offset a misfired new production across the plaza at the New York City Opera." After some rather frustrating technical delays, our JJ's reviews of the Met's Roméo and Lucia, plus the NYCO's Cav/Pag, are at last online at Gay City News. (Perhaps at this point they can be read for historical significance, if nothing else.)

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26 July 2007

All about Ewa

Our editor JJ's review of the Caramoor concert performance of Il trovatore (featuring Ewa Podlés as Azucena) is in the current issue of Gay City News. And for those of you who long for the gay stereotypes of yore, please note that this opera review is currently the most popular story on GCN's site, beating out items on Ben Affleck, Adam Sandler, Barack Obama, and even Jim Naugle, the mayor of Fort Lauderdale!

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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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26 April 2007

Length matters

"The Met's lavish new production of Giacomo Puccini's operatic trilogy Il trittico (heard April 20) was almost as enjoyable as it was long." Our editor JJ's somewhat contrarian position may be read in Gay City News.

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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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08 March 2007

Bigger than the Empire State Building

La Cieca is delighted to divulge that our publisher JJ has been asked to participate in the panel discussion "On Opera and Technology" at Columbia University on March 23. The discussion is one event of the two-day conference "Technologies of the Diva" presented by The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America. The identities of the other participants of JJ's panel have not been revealed to him yet, but, perhaps in tribute to the blind-item style of La Cieca, the organizers of the conference promise "a well-known soprano," a writer for the New York Times, and "representatives of the Met and NYCO." Mysterious, is it not? For more information on the panel and the conference in general (both are free and open to the public), there's a website.

"There's a reason so many operas are named after their protagonists-- you need a great performer to play a great person. The Metropolitan Opera's current revival of Simon Boccanegra fails mainly because there's a gaping hole where the Boccanegra ought to be." More JJ, this time in Gay City News.

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09 February 2007

Not only connect...

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

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

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04 January 2007

None dare call it twaddle

"In Leonard Bernstein's clever one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti, the heroine describes a gaudy movie musical as so much 'Technicolor twaddle.' If Tan Dun's new work The First Emperor (heard at the Metropolitan Opera on December 29) can hardly be dismissed as twaddle, it never attains the epic status to which it aspires." Our publisher JJ passes judgment, as usual, in Gay City News.

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29 December 2006

Roundhead roundup

Five newspaper reviews are in for Anna Netrebko's Met Puritani, and the score stands at four postive, one mixed:

"With the smoky colorings and throbbing richness of her sumptuous voice, Ms. Netrebko was an unusually vulnerable Elvira. Bel Canto purists may find fault with her sometimes imprecise execution of coloratura runs and roulades. But I admired her way of treating florid passagework as organic extensions of an arching vocal line, not as a series of fast notes to be nailed with cool accuracy." Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

"She has that bel canto gift of singing like a windswept lark on a bright day, and an acting style combining the natural with the daring." Clive Barnes, New York Post

"Elvira should be beautiful; Netrebko is. Elvira should be so delicate of brain that the shock of being abandoned on her wedding day unhinges her completely. Netrebko raved gorgeously, but she also expertly controlled the whipping spray of notes and the rainbow colors of her voice. She proved herself a master of extreme opera, that volatile mixture of emotional distress and consummate technique. That's what we need divas for." Justin Davidson, Newsday

"And how about the mad scene, one of the greatest stretches in all bel canto opera? From Ms. Netrebko, it was an unshowy tour de force. What I mean is this: It was a tour de force, all right —but it had complete musical and theatrical poise. Ms. Netrebko displayed phenomenal control. And she was pathetic in the original sense — evoking great pity, sadness, and even wonder. This is simply a smart singer." Jay Nordlinger, New York Sun

"She didn't sing a false note, but she struck one. It was as if this charismatic performer, whose stage instincts are usually flawless, was overcompensating for the fact that she simply couldn't conquer all the vocal challenges of one of the most demanding bel canto roles in the repertory." Mike Silverman, Associated Press

Our publisher JJ hears the production on Saturday night; look for his review in Gay City News next week.

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01 December 2006

E cento strappole, prima di cedere...

"Peter Mattei plays Figaro as a lusty bachelor, something like Warren Beatty's character in the movie Shampoo. While this angle isn't particularly relevant to the plot, it's ideally suited to Mattei, a tall and sexy singer for whom the overused adjective 'strapping' might have been coined." Our publisher JJ reviews the Met's new Barbiere di Siviglia in Gay City News.

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12 October 2006


JJ's take on the Met's current productions of Faust and La Gioconda is now on the web at Gay City News.

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06 October 2006

Model of taste

Our own JJ reacts to his recent "maple syrup enema" in Gay City News.

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21 September 2006

Auspicious flashes

photo: Carol RoseggAccording to our editor JJ, the current NYCO production of Semele "provided a luxe vehicle for the talents of soprano Elizabeth Futral as the mortal princess Semele who becomes the mistress of Jove. Futral is gorgeous enough to tempt the king of the gods, feminine and curvaceous, and she has the personality and wit to put over her director’s concept of Semele as a superstar sex kitten." Gay City News.

"The first thing you need to know is that Carol Vaness bears the most uncanny resemblance, in terms of the placement of her speaking voice and her speech cadences, to Shelly Long in the role of Diane Chambers on Cheers. I mean, that's pretty important, right? Also, she seems high." Maury D'Annato turns his gimlet eye to the Tuesday night's NYCO gala.

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28 July 2006

Weekend roundup

Our publisher JJ (so recently browned out in Queens) expresses his thoughts on the Lincoln Center Festival's Grendel in his Gay City News review. La Cieca herself picks up the slack on the podcast desk with her presentation of the second act of Maria Stuarda on Unnatural Acts of Opera. Meanwhile, the endlessly inventive Billyboy ups the ante of gay sensibility when he imagines Judy Garland, Bernadette Peters, Carol Channing, Gollum and darling Roger Darling as the cast of an iconic 1980s sitcom -- part of the most recent episode of The Entertainment Beat with Frances Gumm.

Oh, and this is something La Cieca just discovered on YouTube. When you think "adorably cute Rossini tenor," your first thought is Juan Diego Florez, of course. But here's someone to give you second thoughts: Maxim Mironov!

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09 March 2006

Lend me a tenor (or two)

La Cieca has just heard that Neil Shicoff has canceled the dress rehearsal of Luisa Miller at the Met; Eduardo Villa (cover for the run) will do it. And La Cieca has heard further that Sergio Blazquez, scheduled to make his NYCO debut in La boheme in April, is having visa problems, so Gerard Powers will likely do all nine performances.

In less Rodolfocentric news, our own JJ's review of the Met's Forza is online at Gay City News: "On May 20, Joseph Volpe will celebrate his retirement as general manager of the Metropolitan Opera with a lavish gala performance. On February 24, a disastrous revival of Verdi’s La Forza del Destino demonstrated why this retirement is long overdue." And do lend an ear to the "Jambalaya" show on Unnatural Acts of Opera, a potpourri of outtakes from this year's podcasts.

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16 February 2006

Ghay for Gheorghiu

According to Gay City News, our editor JJ loved Angela Gheorghiu's Violetta, and he was more than a little enthused about Herr Jonas Kaufmann.

Le public have spoken, and they want their video to stream quickly and reliably. So save this bookmark and visit frequently: it's the parterre box page at Google Video. Here's a sample of the new content:

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08 February 2006

Starry night

Alas, La Cieca can't comment regarding onstage goings on at last night's Traviata at the Met (her evil twin JJ is writing about the event for Gay City News), but things were pretty gala in the auditorium as well. Representing the Blogosphere was one of the Wellsungs, Jonathan Ferrantelli, a deux with the always charming Greg Freed. Down on orchestra level, La Cieca noted Anna Netrebko deep in conversation with scribe Matthew Gurewitsch. (La Netrebko, it is rumored, will be singing her own Violetta in New York a few seasons hence, though not, perhaps, in the Franco Zeffirelli staging she saw last night. On dit that Peter Gelb plans to import the Willy Decker production from Salzburg.) Aprile Millo, swathed in mink, held court at the base of the pole that bears her name. Noted in her orbit were ten-percenter Neil Funkhouser, NYCO tenor Andrew Drost and Premiere Opera's Ed Rosen. And everywhere La Cieca looked, boys, boys, boys, on a cuteness level to rival that of a David Daniels audience. Were they there for Angela Gheorghiu in the title role, or, could scrummy tenor Jonas Kaufmann (left) have something to do with it?

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23 December 2005

An American Thorax

"It’s not like there’s anyone who wants new operas to fail. In fact, audiences, critics, and opera companies alike have huge stakes in seeing new works succeed. And goodness knows the Metropolitan Opera, like any reputable opera company, has a responsibility to present recent compositions. However, reviews are not for good intentions; I have to write about results." Our editor JJ reviews the Met's recent world premiere An American Tragedy (starring Nathan "Headlights" Gunn) in Gay City News. Just the thing to read as you listen to the Toll House Cookie/Metropolitan Opera Radio Network Broadcast tomorrow afternoon.

Oh, and when JJ says, "increasingly unflattering," this is what he means:

"I'm supposed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, but I think I look more like Tugboat Annie."

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29 November 2005

Late November Linkerei

Our publisher JJ sounds off on recent productions of Romeo et Juliette, Zaza and Giulliame Tell (which sounds like a very full king-sized bed indeed!) in the latest installment of Gay City News. Meanwhile, La Cieca presents Il trittico on Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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27 October 2005

Knock me over with a feather

"Newcomers to opera sometimes don’t get the appeal of a dramatic form with so few surprises. Audiences know how Tosca ends before the performance even begins. Earlier this month, though, two operas provided some measure of suspense." JJ's latest reviews in Gay City News.

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13 October 2005

Curtain up!

"It’s always a treat to start the season with a pleasant surprise, and an exciting new dramatic soprano is one of the nicest discoveries of all—particularly when she heads up one of the strongest ensemble casts the Metropolitan Opera has fielded in years." That's our editor James beginning his 2005-06 season as a reviewer in Gay City News with critiques of Ariadne auf Naxos and Ariane et Barbe-bleu.

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