18 January 2008

This is my belief, in brief


That grand old man of music André Previn is writing another opera, following up on the clamorous success of 1998's A Streetcar Named Desire. The commission for Houston Grand Opera is Brief Encounter, based on Noel Coward's one-act play Still Life as well as the screenplay for the eponymous film. (First Tennessee Williams, then Noel Coward ... surely a collaboration with Jean Genet is the next logical step!) Well, anyway, the premiere of Brief Encounter, most likely omitting the above imagery, is set for May of 2009. Too long a wait, you say? Well, in the meantime, sit back and enjoy an excerpt from Previn's one universally recognized masterpiece.

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17 November 2007

"Today is dedicated to Uranus"

You know that Vivaldi opera everyone's been talking about? (Yeah, La Cieca realizes that sentence looks absurd, but read on.) Anyway, here's the already infamous nude scene for tenor Zachary Stains from the opera Ercole sul Termodonte, or, as it is more generally known in this country, "Hercules versus the Dental Hygienist." (NSFW, obviously, since Mr. Stains' "original instrument" is clearly visible.)

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07 November 2007

Or was it... MURDER?

The death of Ludwig II of Bavaria has been considered a suicide for over a century, ever since the meshugeneh monarch's body was found in Lake Starnberg near Munich on June 13, 1886.

But did the kooky king really take his own life -- or was it TAKEN FROM HIM? [sfx: music sting]

An article from Spiegel Online posits "fresh doubts," based on, well, not much of anything, but the story involves a mysterious countess, so you can hardly expect La Cieca to forego repeating it.

There's this Munich banker named Detlev Utermöhle, see, who is now 60 years old. Herr Utermöhle "has made a sworn deposition in which he recalls an interesting incident from his childhood."

He was 10 years old at the time [the Spiegel's gripping account continues] and had been taken by his mother, Gertrud Utermöhle, to a tea party hosted by her friend Josephine Gräfin von Wrbna-Kaunitz, a countess who had managed the assets of a line of the royal House of Wittelsbach, King Ludwig's family.

Detlev recalls that after the coffee and cakes the countess drew her guests together and said in a whispered tone: "Now, without the knowledge of the descendants of the former King Ludwig II, you can all find out the truth about the circumstances of his death. I will now show you the coat he wore on the day of his death."

The party walked to a chest and the countess took out a gray woollen coat and held it up against the light. Detlev Utermöhle says he saw the coat "with two bullet holes in the back."
So, are we about to learn the truth about the Campy König? Well, actually, probably not. Ludwig's descendants, the Wittlesbach-von-und-zu-Spoilsports, "steadfastly refuse to allow the king's corpse to be exhumed from its tomb in Munich's St. Michael's church to be examined." And it gets even worse, you see, because
unfortunately, the mysterious coat [Geheimnismantel] has disappeared as well. Countess Wrbna-Kaunitz and her husband died in 1973 in a house fire and the coat was lost in the aftermath of their deaths.

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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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04 October 2007

Whatever happened to Marwdew Czgowchwz?

Ever since everyone's favorite apocryphal diva (with the possible minority exception of Lena Geyer), the oracular Oltrano herself, Marwdew Czgowchwz, vanished across the ocean at a time (time out of mind) that was somehow both 1956 and 1975 and yet neither, La Cieca, like all the rest of you, has reread her first copy of James McCourt's novel to tatters, purchased the sempiternally-awaited reissue, and wondered, wondered... well, after all, what's left for her?

Cher public, we're about to find out. This month, Turtle Point Press releases Now Voyagers: Some Divisions of the Saga of Mawrdew Czgowchwz, Oltrano, Authenticated by Persons Represented Therein, Book One: The Night Sea Journey. This flamboyant followup tells the story of the charged atmosphere surrounding the legendary diva (and possible CIA agent) turned psychoanalyst. According to Publishers Weekly, the novel
resurrects the literary, musical and gay scene of 1950s New York. About half relates to Czgowchwz's 1956 trip across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary with her consort, Jacob Beltane, to Ireland, where she is to star in Pilgrim Soul, a Douglas Sirk–like movie about the Irish revolt of 1916. Much of the rest relates to the Gotham-centered peregrinations of Mawrdew's friend, the gay poet S.D.J. Fitzjames O'Maurigan .... The most stylistically astonishing chapters are intermezzos of conversation caught on the wing at Everard's Bath house, the book's pre-Stonewall place to meet and greet in gay New York.
This fall's must-read is now on sale at Amazon.com.

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10 May 2007

Morris is less

"No one could doubt the sincerity of Mark Morris' admiration for the late mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who was to have collaborated with him on the Metropolitan Opera's new staging of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice. However, the opening night performance of this production (May 2) did not convince me that the choreographer can channel this sincerity into meaningful stage direction." JJ's take is in Gay City News.

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09 April 2006

We're here, we're mainstream, get used to it

So, who said this?
"... all opera hovers on the border of parody. No other performing art — except possibly dance — so exposes its practitioners to ridicule. Part of the thrill of opera is pitting sheer volume against human limitations, the constant awareness of the possibility of failure."

Was it James McCourt? Ethan Mordden? Wayne Koestenbaum? Enzo Bordello?None of the above, actually. Would you believe it's Anne Midgette, writing in the New York Times? Can it be that the queer opera aesthetic has gone utterly mainstream? Or is it simply that (as La Cieca has so long suspected) Ms. Midgette is a gay man trapped in a woman's body?

Well, either way, AM has some intriguing points to make about Olive Middleton (recently the subject of a Donald Collup retrospective) and Vera Galupe-Borszkh (whose entire career is a retrospective of sorts). Midgette certainly makes La Cieca eager to delved into the delights of Collup's Middleton CDs, produced with all the loving care so celebrated a camp diva deserves.

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