30 December 2007

Fun with subtitles

From the 1978 film of Götz Friedrich's production of Tannhäuser -- alas, not currently available on DVD. Dame Gwyneth Jones is the lady asking the rather personal question.

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23 July 2007

Don't ax, don't tell

"...the veteran dramatic soprano Gwyneth Jones, who, at the age of seventy, has lost remarkably little of her decibel capacity, made a comic tour de force of the Queen of Hearts. Memories of Jones’s Elektra at the Met added an aura of menace to her antics; when she sings, 'Off with their heads!,' you stroke your own neck a bit nervously." Alluring Alex Ross reviews Unsuk Chin’s opera Alice in Wonderland in the current New Yorker.

Dame Gwyneth and underling in Alice in Wonderland. Photo by Wilfried Hoesl.

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30 June 2007

Curiouser and curiouser

Sempiternal soprano Gwyneth Jones creates a role in a world premiere later today! The veteran singing actress performs the role of the Queen of Hearts in Unsuk Chin's opera Alice in Wonderland, to an English-language libretto by David Henry Hwang after the novel by Lewis Carroll.

The production, conducted by Kent Nagano, will be broadcast live from the Bayerische Staatsoper at 1:30 p.m. New York time today over RealPlayer and Windows Media. (As always, La Cieca gets her latest scoops on all things internet radio from the indispensable OperaCast.)

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07 November 2006

More happy returns

parterre box fave Dame Gwyneth Jones is 70 today. Here's a clip from her legendary Elektra.

And here's more of the magnificent Dame G. on YouTube.

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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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06 August 2006

Schadenfreude bites La Cieca in the ass

You would think that since La Cieca has heard Parsifal quite a few times, and even given the philosophical implications of the libretto a bit of thought, she would have realized that Schadenfreude is just plain bad news. But no, La Cieca had to go and LAAAAAACH-te at the New York Times obituary of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, particularly their gaffe in identifying a photo of Anneliese Rothenberger as the late diva. Then La Cieca went farther and snickered at the Times's correction of the piece. Oh, the bad karma was just aching to bubble to the surface, and so it did. La Cieca ripped and uploaded video clips from a 1980 performance of Elektra to YouTube, proudly identifying the Klytemnästra as "Legendary mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig." La Cieca was really sure that the singer was Ludwig, though on second thought it seemed perhaps a bit odd that the label on the video identified only Gwyneth Jones and Birgit Nilsson in the cast. So then a few of you, cher public, offered the opinion that perhaps the lady in the video didn't sound all that much like La Ludwig. Hmmm. Well, yes, long story short: of course it's not Ludwig. It's Anny Schlemm. Still a pretty spectacular performance, but, well, La Cieca got it wrong. As soon as she posts this, she's off to YouTube to identify Anny Schlemm as the singer.

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24 June 2006

I heard the world end

Before La Cieca departs on holiday from her podcasting duties, allow her to introduce The Podderdammerung Page. Once again, La Cieca scoops the universe: here on parterre.com you can now listen to (or download) the entire Ring cycle, as featured on this month's Unnatural Acts of Opera. What sort of Ring will you hear there? So glad you asked!

Das Rheingold:

  • Festspielhaus Bayreuth, August 11, 1951. Conductor: Herbert von Karajan. Wotan: Sigurd Björling; Donner: Werner Faulhaber; Froh: Robert Bernauer; Loge: Walter Fritz; Alberich: Heinrich Pflanzl; Mime: Paul Kuen; Fasolt: Ludwig Weber; Fafner: Friedrich Dalberg; Fricka: Ira Malaniuk; Freia: Paula Brivkalne; Erda: Ruth Siewert; Woglinde: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf; Wellgunde: Lore Wissmann; Floßhilde: Hertha Töpper

Die Walküre:

  • Act 1. Festspielhaus Bayreuth, 1967. Conductor: Karl Böhm. Siegmund: James King; Sieglinde: Leonie Rysanek; Hunding: Gerd Nienstedt.

  • Act 2. Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona, April 4, 1955. Conductor: Josef Keilberth. Brünnhilde: Martha Mödl; Wotan: Hans Hotter; Fricka: Georgine von Milinkovic; Sieglinde: Gré Brouwenstijn; Siegmund: Wolfgang Windgassen; Hunding: Josef Greindl.

  • Act 3. Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of New York, November 1945. Artur Rodzinski, conductor. Brunnhilde: Helen Traubel; Wotan: Herbert Janssen; Sieglinde: Irene Jessner; Helmwige: Doris Doree; Gerhilde: Maxine Stellman; Ortlinde: Irene Jessner; Rossweisse: Doris Doe; Grimgerde: Martha Lipton; Waltraute: Jeanne Palmer; Siegrune: Herta Glaz; Schwertleite: Anna Kaskas.


  • Act 1. Covent Garden, October 1, 1957. Rudolf Kempe, conductor. Siegfried: Wolfgang Windgassen; Mime: Peter Klein; Wanderer: Hans Hotter.

  • Act 2. Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI, November 14, 1953. Conductor: Wilhelm Furtwängler. Siegfried: Ludwig Suthaus; Mime: Julius Patzak; Wanderer: Ferdinand Frantz; Alberich: Alois Pernerstorfer; Fafner: Josef Greindl; Waldvogel: Rita Streich.

  • Act 3. Festspielhaus Bayreuth, 1980. Conductor: Pierre Boulez. Siegfried: Manfred Jung; Brünnhilde: Gwyneth Jones; Wanderer: Donald McIntyre; Erda: Ortrun Wenkel.


  • Act 1. Festspielhaus Bayreuth, 1967. Conductor: Karl Böhm. Brünnhilde: Birgit Nilsson; Siegfried: Wolfgang Windgassen; Hagen: Josef Greindl; Gunther: Thomas Stewart; Gutrune: Ludmilla Dvoráková; Waltraute: Martha Mödl; 1. Norne: Marga Höffgen 2. Norne: Annelies Burmeister; 3. Norne: Anja Silja.

  • Act 2. Festspielhaus Bayreuth, August 4, 1951. Conductor: Hans Knappertsbusch. Brünnhilde: Astrid Varnay; Siegfried: Bernd Aldenhoff; Hagen: Ludwig Weber; Alberich: Heinrich Pflanzl; Gunther: Hermann Uhde; Gutrune: Martha Mödl.

  • Act 3. Teatro alla Scala, Milano, April 4, 1950. Conductor: Wilhelm Furtwängler. Brunnhilde: Kirsten Flagstad; Siegfried: Max Lorenz; Gunther: Josef Herrmann; Hagen: Ludwig Weber; Gutrune: Hilde Konetzni; Woglinde: Magda Gabory; Wellgunde: Margherita Kenney; Flosshilde: Sieglinde Wagner.


02 June 2006


UPDATE: the podcast of Das Rheingold is now online!

La Cieca is delighted and not a little bit frightened to announce that Unnatural Acts of Opera will present the first-ever podcast of Wagner's tetraology Der Ring des Nibelungen beginning Friday, June 2 and continuing through the last weekend of the month. The series will consist of ten podcasts, each of a single act of the mighty work, and each act from a different live recording.

Artists featured include Bernd Aldenhoff, Sigurd Björling, Gré Brouwenstijn, Annelies Burmieister, Ludmila Dvořáková, Kirsten Flagstad, Ferdinand Frantz, Walter Fritz, Josef Greindl, Marga Höffgen, Hans Hotter, Herbert Janssen, Irene Jessner, Gwyneth Jones, Manfred Jung, Hilde Konetzni, James King, Peter Klein, Paul Kuen, Max Lorenz, Ira Malaniuk, Donald McIntyre, Georgine von Milinkovic, Martha Mödl, Gerd Nienstedt, Birgit Nilsson, Julius Patzak, Alois Pernerstorfer, Heinrich Pflanzl, Leonie Rysanek, Anja Silja, Thomas Stewart, Rita Streich, Ludwig Suthaus, Helen Traubel, Herrmann Uhde, Astrid Varnay, Ludwig Weber, Ortrun Wenkel and Wolfgang Windgassen.

Sharing duties am Pult will be Karl Böhm, Pierre Boulez, Wilhelm Furtwangler, Herbert von Karajan, Josef Keilberth, Rudolf Kempe, Hans Knappertsbusch, Clemens Krauss and Artur Rodzinski.

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23 February 2006

Clothing not optional

Actress/model/skank Carmen Electra will live up to her dual-barrelled operatic name tonight when she attends the Vienna Opera Ball. Curvy Carmen is the date of Viennese entrepreneur/socialite/reality show star Richard Lugner, who annually throws money at a celebrated piece of arm candy in hopes of attracting publicity.

La Electra (oh, La Cieca thinks that is just so much fun to say!) raised eyebrows at a press conference earlier today when she insisted that she intended to remain fully clothed during tonight's ball, which is the most important event on the Viennese social calendar. The former Playboy covergirl will wear a black and white designer gown to the event, and will at no time during the evening strip out of it.

Lugner first pulled this paparazzi-friendly stunt in 1993, when he squired Joan Collins accompanied him to the ball. In recent years the level of "star" Lugner attracts has spiraled from B-list to D-cup: Grace Jones, Sarah, Duchess of York, Raquel Welch, Faye Dunaway, Farrah Fawcett, Andie MacDowell and, last year, Geri Halliwell.

Viennese grande dame Christl Schoenfelt, who organized the first Opera Ball in 1956, sniffed, "These women are horrible. Their presence damages the event's distinguished image." And then Lugner sued her.

In other opera-related news, La Cieca presents a 1986 recital by Carlo Bergonzi and Piero Cappuccilli on the current Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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09 February 2006

Monstre sacré

Not that La Cieca begrudges Jessye Norman her Grammy Award (she's pictured celebrating in Tokyo after the ceremonies), but, honestly, what all has La Jess achieved in her lifetime that she should be given a Lifetime Achievement award? Certainly Norman's has been a very visible and well-publicized career, but when La Cieca talks about a lifetime of achievement (not to mention "monstres sacrés"), she tends to mean performers like Dame Gwyneth Jones and Leonie Rysanek. And talk about them La Cieca does, on this week's "Unnatural Acts of Opera." The featured opera is Elektra with Mmes. Jones and Rysanek as Elektra and Klytämnestra, respectively. It's a live performance from the Grand théâtre de Genève, March 10, 1990. The YouTube video also features Elektra. Unnatural Acts of Opera

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23 December 2005

Sacred monsters!

Too late, I'm afraid, for a holiday gift, but what looks to be the must-have CD of the season has just become available. It's a "new" Elektra, -- actually a release of a live 1990 performance with the Valhalla-level pairing of Dame Gwyneth Jones and Leonie Rysanek as daughter and mother. (This is of course the same team that La Cieca has raved about incessantly for a decade now, whether in their 1995 Met or 1991 Orange performances.) This Claves release, in what appears to be superb sound, is from a staged performance of the opera at Grand Théâtre, Geneva, 10 March 1990, with Jeffrey Tate conducing the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Thus far La Cieca has had no luck in finding this release her on our shores, but several European websites offer it for mail order. Tantalizing sound snippets of Rysanek and Jones confirm that both divas are in 100% demented form, and the first published English-language review of the release is quite simply a rave:

"Sacred monsters, be praised! Some time ago I gave up hope of ever hearing an Elektra with these singers on disc, having chalked it up as yet another missed opportunity due to the short-sightedness of record companies. But Claves in publishing this Radio Suisse Romande recording of a live performance has arguably achieved better results than any studio recording with this cast might have produced. My reasoning is simple – both Dame Gwyneth and Leonie Rysanek gave of their best when live, feeding like voracious lionesses on the impulse of the moment .... [Dame Gwyneth] gets absolutely to the core of the character and becomes its total embodiment - and in a role such as this vocal beauty to the exclusion of all else would be to the ruin of the work .... I strongly urge you to put any preconceptions aside – this is singing of power (and not just in the decibel sense, that she also was capable of) drive, integrity, logicality and one of the most gripping interpretations I can recall from her. And the voice: I defy you tell me seriously that it’s not in superb shape and absolutely 100% up to the task. The Recognition scene blisters with white-hot intensity from first note to last, but so too does the whole role in this gloriously persuasive assumption. Leonie Rysanek, also heard here as another age-defying soprano – is one of the few who actually sings the fearsome role of Clytemnestra, as opposed to barking it like so many before her." (Evan Dickerson, Musicweb International)

So, who can hook me up with this recording here in the US?

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25 October 2005

To dye for

The only thing better than knowing that a singer has had the greatest Sternstunde of her career is having that performance documented. Montserrat Caballe's Norma at Orange, for example, which is one of truly must-have DVDs for any true opera fanatic. Now, Dame Gwyneth Jones has had many great nights in her amazing career, but it's hard to imagine she (or anyone else!) could ever top her performance as the Dyer's Wife in this 1980 Frau ohne Schatten from the Paris Opera. Voice, commitment, acting, and La Jones's remarkable physical beauty are at their peak: this is a definitive Faerberin. And it's not as if Jones is carrying the whole show. The luxurious cast includes Hildegard Behrens (Kaiserin), Rene Kollo (Kaiser), Walter Berry (Barak), Mignon Dunn (Amme) and Franz Grundheber (Geisterbote), under the baton of Christoph von Dohnanyi. Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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13 May 2005

Name brands

Il Gran Teatro della Cieca proudly presents Above the Title: Operatic Superstar as Protagonist. This program features five complete live performances: La Fille du Regiment (Beverly Sills), Salome (Gwyneth Jones), Don Carlo (Franco Corelli), Die Walkuere (Kirsten Flagstad) and Madama Butterfly (Montserrat Caballe).


12 May 2005

Don't touch that dial

Coming up this weekend on "Il Gran Teatro della Cieca," an all-new, all-recorded-live program of opera. You'll hear complete performances of La Fille du regiment, Salome, Don Carlo, Die Walkuere and Madama Butterfly, with the title roles taken by Beverly Sills, Gwyneth Jones, Franco Corelli, Kirsten Flagstad and Montserrat Caballe (respectively!)

In the meantime, do take this final opportunity to catch "The Art of Virginia Zeani," continuing until early Friday morning.