24 January 2008


Don't expect Met HD telecasts to show up on your pay-per-view channel anytime soon. According to the Associated Press, theater owners protested that the release of the telecasts to the In Demand service only 30 days after theatrical release would take revenue away from their broadcasts.

"At least five of the Met's operas this season are to be released on DVD under an agreement with EMI Classics," the story goes on to note. Which five, La Cieca wonders?

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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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08 November 2007

Time to say hello?

La Cieca hears that Andrea Bocelli dropped by the Met yesterday to audition for Peter Gelb. The accompanist, on dit, was none other than James Levine!

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11 September 2007

"TBA" about to be announced?

A source close to the Met whispers to La Cieca that Maria Guleghina will step into the TBA performances of Macbeth in January 2008 including the HD transmission on the 12th. Your doyenne also hears that la Guleghina has been approached to take over the May performances of the Verdi thriller, currently announced for Andrea Gruber. "The word is that Gelb felt Guleghina was exceptional in the broadcast of Trittico and wants her to build on her prominence at the opera house," our source concludes.

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07 September 2007

Not a comeback, a return!

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

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

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09 April 2007

Optional cuts

Which Metropolitan Opera diva has eased her transition into the visual-intensive Gelb era with the assistance of a plastic surgeon recently featured in W magazine and the New York Post? This Park Avenue doctor's "short scar" facelifts promise a dramatically rejuvenated jawline with shorter recovery time and minimal scarring -- just the thing for those high-definition closeups!

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05 April 2007

Ruth's no stranger to friction

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

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

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

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27 February 2007

To infinity, and beyond!

The delectable details of the 2007-2008 season at the Metropolitan (discussed this morning in a press conference with Peter Gelb, James Levine and representatives of the new season's production teams) may be found on the Met's web site. Our publisher JJ was there in the flesh, and he forwards his impressions:

The biggest news this morning was something unspoken. Instead, it was Levine's body language, which (in contrast to previous years) suggested he is both comfortable and secure working with Gelb. Levine stayed for the entire press conference and was particularly attentive when Phillip Glass was speaking.

The press conference was as carefully staged as a Met performance. In fact, a lot more carefully than Simon Boccanegra. The meeting began at exactly seven minutes after 11 a.m.

Mr. Gelb reflected on the successes of the current season, which include:

  • An increased audience for the HD simulcasts, now up to 250 screens for Eugene Onegin
  • The box office (though "not necessarily a thermometer") is running nine percentage points higher than this point last season
  • This season so far 61 performances have sold out, in contrast to 20 sellouts for the entire 2006-2006 season
  • Eight HD presentations are booked for next year
  • Opening night 2007 (new production of Lucia di Lammermoor) will be simulcast in the plaza, and the Met is in negotiations with NYC to show it in Times Square as well.
James Levine chimed in that what he finds "even more exciting" than the many innovations this year is that he sees a strong sense of follow-through. It is one thing to get new audiences into the theater the first time, but to sustain that audience you must offer them quality. He adds that he is pleased with how Gelb works with him on a day-to-day basis on solving problems. Levine will conduct the new productions of Lucia and Macbeth next season, plus revivals of Manon Lescaut and Tristan und Isolde, as well as the Met Orchestra's Carnegie Hall series.

Tweaks to next season include revival of the Anthony Minghella Butterfly with Patricia Racette and Roberto Alagna, Barbiere and (as reported by La Cieca a while ago) The First Emperor.

Mary Zimmerman (funny, unpretentious and smart) talked about her production of Lucia. Scene changes in this staging will be done "a vista."

Glass and associate director and designer Julian Crouch introduced Satyagraha. The composer stressed the political and social content of the work, and Crouch talked about how the set materials of corrugated iron and newspaper were suggested by the themes of the opera.

Stephen Wadsworth waxed un peu teachy-teachy on the subject of Iphigénie en Tauride ("Gluck was an ethnic Czech, did you know that?"), but, as Dawn Fatale pointed out, at least the set does not include a built-in shower. The edition of the score will be based on Gluck's Vienna revision, in which Oreste is a tenor, presumably in order to facilitate the participation of Placido Domingo.

The other producers appeared on video. The most buzzworthy statement from this segment was from Adrian Noble, who says the design of his Macbeth is suggested by photographs by Diane Arbus.

The cutest stage director of the whole group was Laurent Pelly (La Fille du Régiment), with Crouch and Richard Jones (Hansel and Gretel) tied for second.

Zoe Caldwell will the the Duchesse de Krakenthorp.

In response to reporters' questions, Gelb said that the Met has negotiated rights to release all its archival performances on CD, DVD, download on demand and "media not yet invented." Anne Midgette asked if there were updates on new commissions by the Met, but Gelb declined to comment, saying that the Met would have a statement later this season.

And then, finger sandwiches and coffee on the Bass Grand Tier, where yet another of parterre.com's web of reliable sources noted that the Gérard Mortier/NYCO deal is all but signed on the dotted line.

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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.

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

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26 December 2006

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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27 October 2006


Peter Gelb's motto for the week: "Those Swarovski crystals are going on with or without you." Maria Guleghina sings the first Tosca of the season tomorrow night, jumping in for Andrea Gruber who is under the weather. A report from the dress rehearsal notes that "Gruber had nothing above about an A, Cura was rushing the conductor the entire time, and they both ended the opera by marking the 3rd act down an octave." Gruber was wheezing and sneezing all over Margaret Juntwait last night during the broadcast intermission, too. She's supposed to go on for the next performances November 1 and 4. Aprile Millo dons the tiara beginning on the 25th.

Oh, and if you're wondering what the proper term is for the matched set of tiara, necklace, earrings and whatever other sparkly baubles the well-dressed Floria flaunts, it's called a "garniture."

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17 October 2006

Casting and recasting

La Cieca's (of course) impeccably reliable sources are suggesting major casting changes afoot among the Met's dramatic soprano roster. La Cieca hears that Deborah Voigt has expressed a strong preference for Italian roles in future seasons instead of the German vehicles she has mostly sung so far. Since Voigt's rumored future engagements include a revival of Frau ohne Schatten and her first local Tristan, La Cieca wonders if the Italian parts are meant to be "in addition to" or "instead of." La Cieca would sorely mourn the loss of a Voigt Isolde, though presumably Christine Brewer would be easy to slot into a production designed for Jane Eaglen.

Voigt is already rumored for a revival of Gioconda two seasons hence, and she has sung Lady Macbeth several times before. However, the Italian role most discussed for Voigt is the Italian role, Norma. Voigt would, according to speculation, replace the currently skedded Maria Guleghina during the 2007-2008 season. (Of course, La Cieca has said all along that a Guleghina Norma was wildly unlikely to happen.)

Meanwhile, our spy whispers that Andrea Gruber is as good as bought out of next season's Fanciulla revival, with no replacement currently lined up. (Though right off the top of her head La Cieca can think of someone already who knows the role. You know, just saying.)

Rumors continue to swirl that Peter Gelb is divesting the Met of 14 leading singers he believes have no future there. The group reportedly includes such obvious candidates as Ruth Ann Swenson, Hei-Kyung Hong, Heidi Grant Murphy and La Gruber, plus a fresher face, Isabel Bayrakdarian.

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11 September 2006

Ich kann nicht sitzen

The first donnybrook of the Gelb era may well be the Revolt of the Standees. As most of you know, the Met's Standing Room policy for the past 20 years or so has been to sell tickets for each week's performances on Saturday morning. The queue that formed early in the a.m. has been under the unofficial but unquestioned authority of Josephine Rowe.

For the upcoming season, however, a change of rules will be put into place. Standing room tickets will go on sale daily, for that night's performance only, and the "Upstairs" (Family Circle) standing places will not be available unless the entire Family Circle seating section is sold out. Effectively, the Saturday morning "line" would cease to exist.

Now, La Cieca is of the offhand opinion that these changes would make little effective difference to most operagoers, even most standees, since only on rare occasions are Family Circle and both standing areas sold 100%. On the other hand, the diehard standees, those who attend multiple times weekly, would probably find it at least cumbersome to buy tickets daily. So there's a tradeoff here, with the longtime standees getting something less than the best end of the bargain.

Well, this morning, La Cieca got an email from Ms. Rowe (She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed) laying out her side of the story:

Madame La Cieca:

Please allow me to enlighten your good self as to standing room and standees. We are a loyal bunch who have risen since the 80's when the late Helen Quinn successfully submitted a petition to allow standees to purchase their tickets one week in advance. The family circle nonsense is not as liberal as it would seem and the few available seats are in really bad locations, if at all. . . . As to Orchestra standing room 100 numbered positions, that is either sold out or not, depending on the opera and with the exception of a few hard boiled old well dressed and well heeled and financially secure old biddys who race to seats (3 or 4 of these) everyone observes the rules. If some departing patron chooses to offer his/her ticket stubs then, of course, the standee is more than grateful and delighted to accept a seat for the remainder of the performance.

To have changed their policy imposes MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE A BIG HARDSHIP in many people who work for a living at jobs that they cannot show up to late in the day. Many of us like to attend 3/4 times a week and no employer would tolerate the absences that this would entail if the opera lover had to feed his/her addiction. With so many jobs low level, midlevel, computer, manufacturing, etc. being 'OUTSOURCED" with the blessing of our government (never to return) people who depend on their jobs cannot risk them.

The Met is the envy of opera lovers from all over the world because of its civilized arrangements for standees. Saturday morning purchases for the upcoming week (most of us are free to stand in line on Saturdays) and the numbered positions that allow us to dress decently for the opera instead of wearing bullet proof vests and combat boots in order to be successful in the stampede for tickets and thence for places. Only the bullies and the supremely fit would be successful. I would not attend many operas if I had to endure this madness because I would be at home nursing my injuries as I am only five feet nothing in my shoes!!!! Your good self would not like
to have her silks and satins and Armani clothing rent and stained in this horror.

Now if you would like to help us persuade Broadway Pete to reinstate the policy and use your not inconsiderable influence we would be most grateful Mama.

We had an extraordinary meeting to this end on last Saturday and hand delivered a letter with 20 signatures (Helen had 300) to backstage security at the Met. We hope that everyone we know will write letters immediately to Mr. Gelb to reverse this draconian act. Please send copies to me so that I may attach them to the Petition proper that I hope to hand in on or before next Thursday.

Yes, attendances and purchases of both seats and standing room have dropped dramatically since 9/11 sad to say and have never really recovered so all the more reason to encourage patrons from whatever station in life they come from an opera lover is a precious commodity in this day and age when audiences are shrinking. Gelb is all out, he says, to encourage new audiences especially young people. Well, young people cannot afford $350 seats or more and the standees of today may be the benefactors and expensive seat buyers of tomorrow. Some corporate and professional gentlemen have oft recounted to me their student days on the line and now they donate sizeable amounts of money from their own pockets and large sums from corporate funding to the arts. All this because of their good experiences as standees. One can never afford to insult people or be unkind in this manner it is short sighted and does not account for future developments. Someone once ... reminded me that 'THE PEOPLE YOU MEET ON THE WAY UP ARE THE SAME PEOPLE THAT YOU WILL MEET ON YOUR WAY DOWN" AND IT IS SO TRUE.

Madame, any assistance you may be able to give us will be greatly appreciated. Your wisdom and influence reaches far and wide so I am hoping for great results.

Thank you and Good night.

Sincerely, Josephine Rowe

So let's throw the controvery open for discussion, shall we?

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05 September 2006

Opera quiz

If you call yourself a "serious" Met fan -- in other words, if your existence literally revolves around opera, you will be delighted to hear that in the very near future the Gelb-era Met Opera is planning to increase its number of radio broadcasts by as much as 500%. Yes, that's right, four or five broadcasts per week during the season! And how is this possible, you ask? Oh, cher public, La Cieca may have to get stern with you -- because she's given you three hints already!

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14 August 2006


La Cieca hears that the new regime at the Metropolitan Opera (or the MET Opera, as it will henceforth be called) is moving forward with the recording of selected 2006-2007 live performances, to be sold via download on the "iTunes" model. An agreement reached a couple of weeks ago with the American Federation of Musicians specifically facilitates this sort of recording, and it appears that Peter Gelb's MET will be among the first American opera companies to move into this (one hopes) lucrative field. Ironically, this bonanza may not be shared by some of opera's biggest stars who have exclusive recording contracts, e.g., Angela Gheorghiu and Denyce Graves.

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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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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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02 January 2006


Scuttlebutt from the Met says that Angela Gheorghiu hankers to sing Strauss's Salome -- though presumably she would workshop the role in a more friendly venue first. In other whisperings, La Cieca has heard that Peter Gelb is currently ensconced in the office once occupied by Beverly Sills. Apparently he's to remain there until the General Manager's office can be pried from Joe Volpe's cold dead hands. (Something tells La Cieca that Uncle Joe's exit from the Met will be as protracted as that of Nancy Reagan from the White House -- as played by Jan Hooks in the classic SNL sketch.)

Here's a game to brighten up the first chilly days of 2006 for you. Using Brad Wilber's Met Futures Page and your own insider knowledge, can you suggest to La Cieca which artists' contracts Gelb most needs to buy out? La Cieca's nomination: the threatened 2007-2008 performances of Norma by Maria Guleghina.

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26 December 2005

Middle aged blues

Peter Gelb's new broom continues to sweep at the Met. Perhaps to make room for the Gheorghiu/Netrebko/Damrau generation, the incoming General Manager is buying out contracts. Two Met artists in particular are targeted, and, oddly enough, these two ladies have quite a bit in common. Both are 40-something light lyric sopranos, and they have three names (each, La Cieca means.) Oh, and did we mention the red hair?

In the latest shipment from Berkshire, La Cieca has found a dazzler of a DVD: Lucrezia Borgia (Encore DVD 2087) from Milan, 2003, starring Mariella Devia, Marcello Alvarez, Daniela Barcellona and (Encore DVD 2087) Michele Pertusi. Renato Palumbo is the conductor. Excellent video of the stylish traditional production, and superb sound -- which is a particular plus since all the leads are in excellent voice. (This is the same staging that was so famously booed when Renaay appeared in it, and La Cieca has a better idea now why that demonstration was so vehement. Devia's Donizetti is elegance itself, with a pure line and imaginative but always idiomatic ornamentation. This, obviously, is the way the Milanese want to hear bel canto.) Look for the soundtrack to this production on "Unnatural Acts of Opera" within the next few weeks.

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16 November 2005

Previewing the Gelb era

La Cieca, ear to ground as always, has picked up some reliable-sounding scuttlebutt about the incoming Peter Gelb regime at the Met. The first decade will probably be known as "All Villazon All the Time" since (per our source), Rolando Villazon has inked a pledge to sing two operas a year at the Met for the next ten years. A major highlight of this package will be a new Contes d'Hoffmann in '09, with RV opposite Anna Netrebko, Diana Damrau and Rene Pape. Gelb is ready to put his mark on the house as early as opening night of next season, which he hopes will showcase the new Anthony Minghella production of Madama Butterfly in lieu of the "Tenors" gala currently skedded. (Gueswork on La Cieca's part: Cristina Gallardo-Domas as Cio-Cio-San opposite Marcello Giordani or Salvatore Licitra?) This project is supposed to inagurate a new policy of unveiling a new production each opening night, e.g., Lucia for Natalie Dessay in 2007 (assuming she pulls Romeo off this year, we guess) and Tosca for Karita Mattila in 2009. In the nearer future? Aprile Millo's first staged Gioconda next season, alternating with Violeta Urmana.

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02 November 2005

New broom

Another one of those talkative "Met insiders" has spilled a whole canful of beans regarding the upcoming Peter Gelb regime at the Met. The new GM, we are told, plans to import "alternative" productions of the warhorse operas (e.g., Boheme, Tosca, Traviata) to serve as a kind of artistic counterpoint to the ultra-traditional Zeffirelli & Co. stagings currently in the repertoire. According to La Cieca's source, the old stagings will not be junked, just shelved for a season or two and then dusted off again. One point of the exercise seems to be to tempt megastars to sing standard rep at the Met. For example, Gelb is reportedly shopping around for an innovative production of Tosca for the Karita Mattila's first Met performances of the Roman diva in the 2010-2011 season. La Mattila, we are told, is now turning up her nose at revivals of productions that were not "built around her." (One can almost hear the Finnish soprano sniffing, "Like here in little Dallas, my God!") The problem, our confidant continues, is that Mattila has been less than pleased with "her" productions thus far at the Met, to the point that she refuses to reprise her smash-hit Salome here in New York.

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21 October 2005

Morir, si pura e bella?

UPDATE: Not only are Gli Alagni scheduled for Aida at La Scala in 2006 (as noted yesterday), La Cieca has just heard that Peter Gelb has promised them a new production of Carmen at the Met in 2009-10. And, yes, Gheorghiu is the Carmen, not the Micaela. This is all at least four years in the future, so don't book your tickets yet. Actually, this tidbit could have waited a few days (or years) but La Cieca wanted an excuse to post the scrummy photo of Bobby as Radames. Doesn't he look like he's about to say, "My father rules many lands and peoples, and that is why they call me Prince?"

La Cieca has just heard that the honor of opening the 2006 La Scala season will go to Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna, who will grace a new production of Aida. Please let La Cieca be the first to congratulate maestro Riccardo Chailly for persuading these two megastars to take on the roles of the Priestess and the Messenger -- now, who do you think he will get for the leads?

The most reliable source of all (i.e., himself) states that a long-term career goal for Rolando Villazon is ... Wagner. Don't panic yet; he's talking Lohengrin sometime around 2015, as reported at Mouvement Nouveau.

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16 July 2005

New broom

La Cieca hears (from very reliable sources indeed) that one of the first initiatives of the new Peter Gelb regime at the Met will be to build up Angela Gheorghiu into "house diva." Apparently the new attitude will be "you're going on, with or without that wig." Another top-priority item on the Met's agenda: a debut (Merry Widow?) and follow-up roles for Andrea Bocelli.

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