26 January 2008

"Blogs are awfully decorative, don't you think?"

A brainy reader points out to La Cieca that her little blog is mentioned this month in The New York Review of Books. The lovely and talented Sarah Boxer discusses a bevy of books on blogs and blogging, modestly mentioning only in passing her own tome on that very subject. As an example of the vast variety of blogs out there, she notes
You can read about the Iraq war from Iraqi bloggers, from American soldiers (often censored now), or from scholars like Juan Cole, whose blog, Informed Comment, summarizes, analyzes, and translates news from the front. For opera, to take another example, you have Parterre Box, which is kind of campy, or Sieglinde's Diaries and My Favorite Intermissions, written by frequent Met-goers, or Opera Chic, a Milan-based blog focused on La Scala (which followed in great detail the scandal of Roberto Alagna's walkout during Aida a year ago).
La Cieca can only say, thank you cher public; without you I am nothing!

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15 January 2008

"Bad news, the fog's getting thicker..."

"...and Marcelo's getting LARGER!"

[Via Opera Chic]

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05 January 2008

Wien: Wilkommen, Villazón!

AP Photo/Vienna State Opera, Axel ZeiningerThe Associated Press has the first review of Rolando Villazón's return to the stage earlier today in a performance of Werther at the Vienna Staatsoper. Reporter George Jahn says the audience's "huge expectations... were mostly - but not completely - met." Apparently the tenor's high B's sometimes failed to soar over the Massenet orchestral climaxes, but his celebrated onstage energy and presence were on full display. Villazón won several minutes of entrance applause and "a post-performance standing ovation from an audience that normally stays glued to its seats."

The indefatigable Opera Chic was (as she so often is!) first to blog the happy news, with the bonus of an exclusive eyewitness report.

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19 November 2007

Moon, June, Spoon

In an unreleased track from Cecilia Bartoli's new "Maria" CD (and you know La Cieca dotes on inédits!), the singer/musicologess performs in English! The song is "Yon moon o'er the mountains," which, as you all know, is one of the hit tunes from Balfe's The Maid of Artois.

In less aesthetically pleasing news, a photo of la Bartoli that should have remained unreleased instead currently graces Opera Chic.

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03 October 2007

I mulini di Signa li lascio al cara ... Nicoletta Mantovani!

How sad that Luciano Pavarotti's final role should be Buoso Donati!

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25 September 2007

The winner and new diva

La Cieca wasn't "in the house" for the Lucia prima last night like so many of her colleagues; instead she hosted perhaps the most popular of all her online chats thus far. Approximately 120 of you cher public logged in at some point during the night, with 75 or so on average staying for the long haul. Say what you will about Natalie Dessay or even Stephen Costello, there was really only one genuine "star is born" moment last night, and here, as dear Mathilde Marchesi would say, is "la nouvelle Melba" --

Our nomination for Camp Diva of the 2007-2008 Season: Miss Blythe Danner!

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05 June 2007

Opera Chic recoils in Scala shocker!

Our devoted and prolific little sister Opera Chic reports that, threatened with legal action from La Scala's cadre of highly-paid lawyers, she has removed "offending" content from her site, including photographs taken inside the celebrated opera house and even her own logo. But, as with so many things Milanese, OC tells the story best.

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21 February 2007

Do it again


The remarkable OperaChic was in attendance for the prima of La Scala's revival of La fille du Regiment, where Juan Diego Florez encored his first act cabaletta "Pour mon ame." This performance marked the first "bis" of a solo aria at La Scala since 1933. Photos and an account of what must have been a truly dazzling night abound on the Chic's website. And here's what JDF's "bis" sounded like:

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15 December 2006

A weekend in the country

Per Opera Chic, Roberto Alagna is off for what promises to be an interesting weekend at Franco Zeffirelli's palatial villa near Rome. According to Alagna's "Chief Counsel Avvocato" Marco Rocchini, the tenor will apparently spend much of the weekend in transit, since he plans a quick visit to Paris on Tuesday, and then will return to Milan on Sunday for a television interview. Rumor has it that he will perform a selection from Aida on the chat show.

Meanwhile, not a peep of what happened or did not happen at last night's Aida at La Scala. For better or for worse, this has become All Bobby All the Time. (And we're not talking about Bobby Bubbles.)

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14 December 2006

Is this the face of Opera Chic?

Intrepid girl reporter Opera Chic has lead the blogosphere in her coverage of the recent Alagnadammerung. But who is this mysterious Opera Chic? An important piece of evidence has made its way into the greedy mitts of La Cieca: soon the truth may be told.

Here we see a photograph of the poster for tonight's performance of Aida at La Scala:

This photo was published on Opera Chic's site, and we can assume it was taken with Opera Chic's very own digital camera. Now, cher public, La Cieca asks you to fix your gaze on the lower right-hand corner of the photo, just past the "Y" in "Chailly." The keen eye will discern a reflection in the glass covering the poster:

Aha! Opera Chic has carelessly allowed "her" reflection to appear in the photo! And so we see that Opera Chic is, in fact, no "chick" at all, but rather a dignified-looking middle-aged man with a mustache and full beard. La Cieca could swear she knows this fellow, or at least she has seen his picture before. Oh, this is just so infuriating!

Oh, yes, yes, now, I have it! Now I know where I've seen that face before:

Oh. Well. Perhaps we should wait for further facts before we make a decision on Opera Chic's identity; purely for confirmation, you know.

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Film at 11

First off, La Cieca should tell you that her producer/alter ego JJ will be heard this afternoon on WNYC's talk show "Soundcheck" discussing (what else?) L'affaire Alagna. The program begins at 2:00 PM and JJ is scheduled to be heard in the final segment between 2:30 and 3:00. "Soundcheck" gained notoriety last month when uber-diva Jessye Norman got into something of a snit after a fellow guest questioned the charitable motivations of certain celebrities. La Cieca hopes that this afternoon's show will include comparable fireworks.

Well, now a different version of the "walkout" video has surfaced from Spanish TV:

In the words of dear Alex Ross, "I'm no Zapruder," but La Cieca does note certain subtleties:

Now, what, if anything, does all this mean? Well, the first two changes would seem to suggest that someone decided to try to avoid "killing" Alagna's applause after his aria. The quiet ending, plus the presence of another character moving onstage) would tend to put a damper on audience reaction. La Cieca's guess is that Alagna was not happy with the polite applause at the prima and so tried to (as one might say) "give the public a chance to express their admiration." The video thus gives impression that Alagna was going a little mild milking of the applause. The well-timed "bravo" might be an attempt by a fan to build the ovation. Now, going further out into the realm of speculation, perhaps the ensuing "boo" was a scornful reaction to the "bravo" rather than a jeer at Alagna's performance per se.

Here's where it gets particularly interesting, at least to La Cieca's fevered imagination. A feature of these La Scala shouting matches is that the exclamations used are both wildly inflammatory and dangerously ambiguous. We are told that shouts were heard of "Vergogna, vergogna!" and "Questa e la Scala!" But to whom were these cries addressed, and in reaction to what? Were they saying, "shame, shame" to Alagna because his singing (in their opinion) was below La Scala standard? Or was the "shameful" part his perceived disrespect (or cowardice?) in walking offstage just because of a mixed reaction from the public. ("This is La Scala, get used to it!")

Or maybe the yelling was mostly, as we might say, intramural; i.e., various members of the audience yelling at each other, in which case Alagna's walk was really a gross overreaction.

But, speaking of the "walk" issue, I think this video takes some of the heat off Riccardo Chailly. When he starts the Amneris music, Alagna is still onstage. All Chailly can see at that moment is that the tenor is not doing the staging he was taught, which is not exactly unprecedented in Italian opera. For all Chailly could see, it may have appeared that Alagna was just stepping into the wings for a moment to clear his throat or grab a gulp of water -- again, these things do happen.

Had Antonello Palombi not bounded on from the wings, presumably Chailly would have stopped the orchestra, the curtain would have been lowered, and the performance would have continued with Walter Fraccaro, perhaps following a brief announcement. Where La Cieca is going with this is that it doesn't look like Chailly was necessarily conspiring against Alagna along with the three mysterious karate men, the anonymous phone caller and all the other members of the anti-Alagna faction.

Meanwhile, the latest installment of Opera Chic whispers that Stéphane Lissner has given orders to the Scala staff: if Alagna attempts to enter the theater, call the police! In contrast to such hysteria, Riccardo Muti spoke to

La Stampa Daily, turning aside questions about Alagna's behavior but sniping at the "moronic" stage production by Franco Zeffirelli.

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11 December 2006

Roberto, il diavolo?

It just gets better and better. Now Opera Chic reports that Roberto Alagna is threatening to (counter)sue La Scala, citing a hostile work environment. And yet, he has announced he intends to sing Thursday night's performance, even though the Scala management has already announced a substitute singer. More tales of anonymous phone calls, threats, showdowns and overheard vocalizing -- all at Opera Chic. (La Cieca will go out on a limb on this one and predict that this scandale is going to make Opera Chic the parterre box of Italy, or at least of Milan. Fame, fortune, and Carpal tunnel syndrome await you, my dear!)

Oh, and while, we're on the subject, Roberto Bolle.

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The other Bobby

Walkout tenor Roberto Alagna is just generally pissed at the whole La Scala Aida experience, frankly. Even before the "buu" incident at last night's performance, Bobby was spewing in an interview with La Repubblica that he (and the other singers in Aida) were being treated like second-class citizens: "La verità è che, in Italia, ormai i cantanti non se li fila più nessuno," Alagna fumed. "Esistono solo il direttore e il regista, quando mai vedi sui giornali una foto dei cantanti? Lo sa che alla cena a Palazzo Reale non eravamo nemmeno stati invitati e che anche lì ho fatto un mezzo scandalo? E poi tutti quegli applausi a Roberto Bolle... Vadano a vedersi un balletto, invece di un' opera."

Yes, it's true. Apparently at a gala dinner-reception following the prima, the singers were shuttled off to a secondary ballroom while Franco Zeffirelli, Riccardo Chailly, Scala intendant Stéphane Lissner and hobnobbed with the glitterari in the "A" room. And the photographers did indeed focus on Roberto Bolle, which is understandable at least on the grounds that "the other Bobby" is more than a little photogenic.

Opera Chic has more (constantly updated) details, including the point that the Scala performances are being taped by Decca for eventual DVD release, a project that will be pointless without Alagna's cooperation. Oh, on the same blogsite, a delightful photo of little Bobby's Scotto Heels.

UPDATE: Now Decca and La Scala are making noises about legal action against Alagna. He says he will show up for the performances scheduled for taping, but not the others (in January). And the Italian news site SKY Life has an online video report about this scandale, including bits and pieces of the gaudy Zeffirelli production, an interview with Antonello "Sul Palco in Jeans" Palombo, plus a tantalizing glimpse of The Other Bobby rocking his triumphal thong.

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10 December 2006

La Cieca returns, Alagna departs

Your correspondent is back in town just in time to report that Roberto Alagna walked out of tonight's performance of Aida at La Scala when his rendition of "Celeste Aida" was greeted by "qualche fischio" among the polite applause. The Corriere della Sera reports that Antonello Palombi was rushed onto the stage in "black jeans and t-shirt" to complete the act, but not before the audience cried, "vergogna, vergogna!" and "questa è la Scala!"

According to Opera Chic, Alagna has retreated to his Milan hotel suite pursued by paparazzi. The tenor has been complaining of poor health for over a week; the first performance of this new production of Verdi's opera was on December 7.

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08 November 2006

Midweek midtacular

Where else would La Cieca be this Sunday but basking the the star radiance of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation's annual gala? Now! With 100% more Met artists, including Elizabeth Futral, Samuel Ramey, José Cura, René Pape, James Morris, Marcello Giordani, Patricia Racette, Joseph Calleja, Angela Marambio, Sandra Radvanovsky and Aprile Millo. The galalicious fun begins at 6:00 PM at Avery Fisher Hall.

At least one former winner of the Tucker award won't be appearing, darn it, because she's just finished a gala benefit of her own at La Scala. It's Renaaay, of course, and the new (to La Cieca) blog Opera Chic describes the scene:
Interestingly, La Fleming had arranged to be basked in the glow of a peachy, pinkish spotlight. Hartmut Höll instead was replete in the flat, sterile, blue/white light, which by default, is implemented for every other normal recital. I mean, homegirl looked good, but it was like Liz Taylor and her vaseline filters.
La Cieca feels like she was there, I tell you, and wait until you read the breathless paragraphs detailing The Frock (by Gianfranco Ferré, of course.)

And did La Cieca mention that they're bringing back Big Gay Date Night at the Met? For just $95 you get an orchestra seat, pre-performance hors d’oeuvres, intermission champagne and dessert, and, just possibly, some post-performance nooky. Boheme is on November 21, but La Cieca thinks that the best husband material will be found at the February 2 Jenufa. (For that matter, surely the combination of Karita Mattila and Anja Silja will attract an upscale lesbian crowd as well.)

Plus: don't forget the Smart Singer Tricks on The Late Show With David Letterman tonight, beginning at 11:35 pm (US Eastern and Pacific time) on CBS-TV.

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