28 January 2008

A Star is Reborn

That superstar of the podosphere, Miss Frances Gumm, is back after six months of laying fallow. Or is La Cieca thinking of Frank Sinatra? Anyway, one of our absolute favorite online destinations, JudyCast, has returned with its distinctive mélange of entertainment gossip and otherworldy warbling as gaily subversive as ever. (No explanation is given for the hiatus, but La Cieca suspects that the recent TCM screening of the bizarre 1968 flick Skiddoo dislodged whatever was creatively blocking Carol Channing and the other JudyCast partipants.)

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27 January 2008

Villazón sings again!

La Cieca's dear friend Ed Rosen (doyen of Premiere Opera) sent along a clip from Rolando Villazón's first recital since his return to the stage early this month. According to Ed, "He first sings Massenet's "Ouvre tes yeux," followed by Tosti's "Ideale." Rolando's voice sounds as beautiful as ever! The recital took place in Barcelona on January 13 of this year."

While we're on the subject, do be sure to check out Ed's always fascinating podcast.

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23 January 2008

Weird sister

The inimitable, irrepressible Miss Tallulah Bankhead once more graces the studio of Unnatural Acts of Opera with a guest appearance on Apocryphal Opera Anecdote Theater. The legendary stage star joins Our Own La Cieca and Miss Cratchitt to perform a pair of scenes from Shakespeare's Macbeth. The main event, of course, is the second and third acts of Verdi's operatic version of the Scottish Tragedy, starring Shirley Verrett, Piero Cappuccilli, Nicolai Ghiaurov and Franco Tagliavini. Conducting this performance from La Scala on December 7, 1975 is Claudio Abbado.

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16 January 2008

Lady Be Good

La Cieca is happy to announce a special performance to mark the return from exile of Unnatural Acts of Opera. Our program is a reprise of the first opera ever podcast on this site, Verdi's Macbeth featuring Shirley Verrett and Piero Cappuccilli. Claudio Abbado conducts the orchestra and chorus of La Scala on December 7, 1975.

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20 December 2007

Vox populi

You, the cher public, have spoken. By a firm plurality of 31%, you have selected Renata Scotto's Lady Macbeth as the "encore" to her Adriana Lecouvreur on the current episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera. Of the 238 ballots cast, the Scottish dame garnered 74 votes. Runners-up were Norma (50 votes) and Elisabetta in Don Carlo (47 votes). La Gioconda and Amelia in Ballo brought up the rear with 31 votes each.

Also featured on our current podcast: Apocryphal Opera Anecdote Theatre of the Air presents the heart-warming holiday-themed drama "La Cieca's Christmas Carol," with special "ghost" appearances by your favorites Tullio Serafin and Olga Cratchitt.

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18 December 2007

You, the programmer

La Cieca has once more been remiss in her podcasting, so she's turning to you, cher public, for a little help. Thursday night La Cieca will publish the (overdue) podcast featuring the final act of Adriana Lecouvreur starring the ineffable Renata Scotto. As usual, there will be room for 20-25 minutes of additional music after the act. So La Cieca is asking you, my darlings, to help her choose the bonus material.

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02 December 2007

Mostly mediocre moments

24 November 2007

Watch out boy she'll chew you up

Unfortunately La Cieca has been unable to find video of the stars of our current Unnatural Act in a staged version of Adriana Lecouvreur. However, here's our other prima donna of the piece, Elena Obraztsova, in a concert performance of the Principessa's aria "Acerba voluttà."

La Obraztsova may be heard in equally full wail opposite Renata Scotto, Giacomo Aragall and Giuseppe Taddei in the second act of Cilea's opera at Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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17 November 2007

Musa! Diva! Sirena!

La Cieca's all-time favorite soprano, Renata Scotto, in one of her greatest roles, Adriana Lecouvreur -- if you can think of an operatic experience to rival it, La Cieca hopes you will let her know what you're having! La Scotto is heard in her first Adriana Lecouvreur, from San Francisco in 1977, partnered by Elena Obraztsova , Giacomo Aragall and Giuseppe Taddei under the baton of Gianandrea Gavazzeni. The first act of the Cilea weepy is the centerpiece of the current episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera, but is La Cieca satisfied? Hardly! Bonus features include rare early recordings of Scotto singing Bellini arias (I Capuleti e i Montecchi and I puritani) and your doyenne's admittedly somewhat vague reminiscences of the glory that was San Francisco gay life in the seventies.

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10 November 2007

Finishing Lulu

La Cieca finally got herself back into the studio this evening for a podcast of the second act of Berg's Lulu. This performance features the Orchestra and Chorus of the Vienna State Opera conducted by Karl Böhm on December 16, 1968. Anja Silja stars as the irresistible Lulu, with Martha Mödl, Ernst Gutstein, Waldemar Kmentt and Hans Hotter rounding out a classic cast.

As a bonus on this episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera, La Cieca introduces a clip from the rarely-heard Samuel Barber opera Harriet Craig.

Those of you who have recovered from the recent Ernani vocal identification quiz may want to jump back into the saddle to guess the identify of the singer of the "Lied der Lulu" in the following sound clip.

Hint: it's not Anja Silja! If you think you know the identify of this singer, send your guess to [email protected]. La Cieca will award an amazon.com gift certificate to the first correct responder.

UPDATE: Too easy! The singer of the "Lied der Lulu" is [click]. Congratulations to Judy who was first with a correct answer (barely ten minutes after the clip went up), and to Daniel, Richard, Paul and Oliver who all got it within the hour. Now La Cieca is off to devise a more challenging quiz!

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01 November 2007


Was seht ihr in den Lust- und Trauerspielen?!
Haustiere, die so wohlgesittet fühlen,
An blasser Pflanzenkost ihr Mütchen kühlen
Und schwelgen in behaglichem Geplärr,
Wie jene andern - unten im Parterre...

La Cieca salutes the successful launch of Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century with a podcast of one of her very favorite operas of that era, Alban Berg's Lulu. It's a 1968 live performance from the Vienna State Opera, Karl Böhm am Pult. Anja Silja is the femme fatale, with Waldemar Kmentt, Ernst Gutstein, Hans Hotter, Manfred Jungwirth, Oskar Czerwenka, Heinz Zednik, Hilde Konetzni and Martha Mödl among the ensnared. Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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24 October 2007

Gli enigmi sono venti

UPDATE: Here's the "Ernani involami" vocal identification quiz -- 20 singers in seven minutes. As of Wednesday night, the two leading entries are tied at 17 correct answers each. Remember, the competition ends at midnight on Friday!

La Cieca (not pictured) is practically beside herself (also not pictured) with glee now that she has published the most recent episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera. Why, you ask? Well, not only does the show include the final two acts of Verdi's Ernani (starring Anita Cerquetti, Mario Del Monaco, Ettore Bastianini and Boris Christoff, with Dimitri Mitropoulos conducting), but this time around there's a very special edition of "The Enigmas of La Cieca," one of the composite vocal identification quizzes you so adore. The winner of this quiz will be the (no doubt overwhelmed) recipient of the three-DVD set Cult Camp Classics 2 - Women in Peril, which includes Joan Crawford's final theatrical film, Trog.

You can as always listen to the show on the Unnatural Acts page, or, if you're feeling particularly competitive, you can download it from the Archive page.

UPDATE: as of 8:00 AM Monday, the contestant to beat is "MC," who submitted 14 out of the 20 correct answsers. As Milton Host explained to you all during the podcast, the competiton continues until midnight on Friday, October 26, 2007. If there is no entry with all 20 singers correctly identified, La Cieca will select a winner by means of a random drawing from the tying entries with the most correct answers. La Cieca's decision is (as in all things) final and irrevocable. That email address again [email protected].

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11 October 2007

Don't let's ask for the moon

La Cieca performs a dramatic reading from The Greatest Opera Novel Ever Written -- and that's merely a curtain-raiser to the second act of Verdi's Ernani, starring Anita Cerquetti, Mario del Monaco, Ettore Bastianini and Boris Christoff, under the baton of that icon of gaiety Dimitri Mitropoulos. Well, what are you waiting for? Go directly to Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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29 September 2007

Voices of Springfield

Placido Domingo stars as "himself" in what looks to be a steamy episode of The Simpsons this Sunday, September 30 on Fox. It seems Homer Simpson is tranformed into a tenor after he suffers a freak head injury (in other words, he's no different from most tenors) and seeks the advice of maestro Domingo. Not about singing, mind you; rather, how to fend of unwanted groupies.

In honor of Domingo's debut in one of the few media he has not long since mastered, La Cieca presents an Unnatural Acts of Opera podcast featuring one of the tenor's most spectacular live performances, Turiddu in Cavalleria rusticana from Munich in 1978. Opposite Domingo is the Santuzza of Leonie Rysanek, with none other than Astrid Varnay sinking her teeth into the role of Mamma Lucia.

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27 September 2007

Don't wait up for La Cieca

The regularly scheduled podcast from Unnatural Acts of Opera will be delayed a bit, not really because of "technical difficulties" but rather because La Cieca is getting herself out of the house for once and attending the opera. Tonight it's the seconda of the Met's Lucia di Lammermoor, and your doyenne (squired by Milton Host) will be on hand to take in all the Dessayesque dementia.

Unnatural Acts of Opera will be updated tomorrow night (Friday) with a classic performance of an Italian warhorse, starring a veteran tenor who this very weekend will make his debut in a new medium. La Cieca hopes you are intrigued enough to check back here tomorrow; until then, "Verrano a te sull'aure!"


13 September 2007


Sunday, September 16 will mark the 30th anniversary of the death of that most significant of all opera singers, Maria Callas. In honor of the diva, Unnatural Acts of Opera presents one of her rare New York performances, a concert version of Il pirata as performed at Carnegie Hall on January 27, 1959.
Unnatural Acts of Opera

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09 September 2007

While You Were Out

Your doyenne La Cieca goes it alone on the current podcast of Unnatural Acts of Opera, doing her best to introduce the third act of Spontini's La Vestale starring Leyla Gencer. Co-host Milton Host, it seems, was unable to reach the studio, and so La Cieca attempted to contact him via the telephone.

An unfortunate tangle of crossed wires and a voicemail system from Hell led to, well, quite a bit of confusion. In the course of her fruitless search for cher Milton, La Cieca managed to speak to no fewer than 10 celebrities over the telephone.

So as to transform fruitlessness into fruit punch, La Cieca proposes the following challenge: can you name all ten boldface "wrong numbers" that she reaches in the course of the current podcast? If you can, please email your answers (in the correct order) to [email protected].

The first email received with all the correct names will receive one of La Cieca's widely-coveted gift packages. The podcast may be heard at the usual Unnatural Acts of Opera site or downloaded from the Archives page.

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24 August 2007

Flame on

Tending the sacro fuoco this week at Unnatural Acts of Opera will be that priestess of the primo ottocento Leyla Gencer. The diva sings the title role in Spontini's La Vestale in a performance from Teatro Massino di Palermo, December 4, 1969. Ferando Previtali conducts, and the young Renato Bruson is heard as Cinna. Also in the company: Robleto Merolla (Licinio), Agostino Ferrin (Il Sommo Sacerdote), Franca Mattiucci (La Gran Vestale), Enrico Campi (Un Console) and Sergio Sisti (Un Aruspice).

For those of you in a more contemporary mood, Unnatural Acts of Video presents Denise Duval in one of her Poulenc specialties.

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09 August 2007

Kunst overload

Nelly Miricioiu sings the second act of Roberto Devereux plus the finale of Rossini's Ermione in the current episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera. Representing the German wing, Martha Moedl is seen in a rare television appearance, performing Lieder by Wagner and Wolf, discussing her career, and performing a scene from Mahagonny. It's all at Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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02 August 2007

Ou sont les podcasts d'antan?

Update: beginning tonight on Unnatural Acts of Opera (2007 edition), a return to Italian opera, with one of today's most controversial cult divas starring as (what else) a conflicted queen. Nelly Miricioiu sings the role of Elisabetta I in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, in a 2002 performance from the Royal Opera, Covent Garden.

La Cieca has now updated the feeds or whatever it is for the archived 2005 and 2006 episodes of Unnatural Acts of Opera. You can download these episodes in iTunes by clicking on 2005 or 2006. Your iTunes application will automatically launch and you can start listening within seconds.

For those using other podcatchers, you will need the RSS information for 2005 and 2006.

And for those of you who just want to hearken back to the golden age of unnatural acts, you can launch a player for 2005 or 2006 and listen while you continue your browsing.

A quick reminder: like NPR, Unnatural Acts of Opera is supported by your generosity. Won't you visit the Amazon Honor System and help out?

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01 August 2007

2005 podcasts are back!

In response to overwhelming listener demand, La Cieca is making the older Unnatural Acts podcasts available through RSS subscription. We begin with the first season, 2005. The RSS address for this season's podcasts is http://parterre.com/podcast/2005_archive.rss. La Cieca will update the iTunes podcast directory later this evening so you can subscribe to the archive there -- check back in this space tonight for details. Meanwhile, you can click on the photo of La Cieca to launch a player with the entire 2005 repertoire.


28 July 2007

Dutch treat

To wind up this summer's Wagner festival on Unnatural Acts of Opera, La Cieca plans to play the composer's first "canonical" opera, Der Fliegende Hollander. But which live performance, she wonders. That's where you come in, cher public. La Cieca lists below a selection of exciting live Hollanders, and you get to vote on which you would most like to hear. Voting will be open until 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 28, at which time La Cieca will declare a winner and proceed to post the performance.

UPDATE: Voting is now closed, and the winner is the 1955 Knappertsbusch performance from Bayreuth. Here is the final tally:

Be sure to listen in to this special "democratic" edition of Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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21 July 2007

Good Saturday

As if the third act of Parsifal were not enough for a single podcast, La Cieca and her sidekick Milton Host are surprised in the studio by a visit from The First Lady of the American Musical Theatre. Eventually TFLOTAMT has to leave the studio to prepare for her evening performance, and Milton and I can finally get on with the Wagner. It's a 1964 performance from Bayreuth featuring Jon Vickers, Thomas Stewart and Hans Hotter, with Hans Knappertsbusch conducting. Unnatural Acts of Opera.

UPDATE: La Cieca was informed earlier this evening that iTunes was not showing the most recent podcasts, including the previous two acts of Parsifal. She thinks she has the glitch corrected now, so if you use iTunes (or another podcatcher) to listen to Unnatural Acts of Opera, please do check in for these updates.

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12 July 2007

Zum Raum wird hier die Zeitgeist

As a warmup for this evening's Unnatural Acts of Opera podcast of Parsifal (Act 1), a short film by Kopernikus1618 demonstrating what happens when "Andy Warhol meets Richard Wagner."

Speaking of Unnatural Acts, La Cieca is once more setting a precedent by offering an alternative to the current program of Wagner's Rienzi, a live performance from Vienna in 1997. Since the Vienna Rienzi is heavily cut and catches Siegfried Jerusalem on an off night vocally, La Cieca has decided to make available the most nearly complete version of Rienzi available, based on a 1976 radio performance of the work conducted by Edward Downes. These mp3s were encoded by the ineffable Mike Richter for one of his invaluable Audio Encyclopedia CD-ROMs. You can download a .zip file containing the five acts of Rienzi here.

If you like what you hear (and why should you not?), you should note that this complete recording is now available in excellent sound on a 4 CD set released by Ponto, and the whole thing will set you back less than a Jackson.

Oh, and did La Cieca mention the video currently on the Unnatural Acts page, a short film in which five divas offer their "regrets" for their non-attendance at the Met's 1983 Centennial Gala? You will be overjoyed (we hope) to hear that this clip includes the celebrated Renata Scotto X-ray Story!

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05 July 2007

Régine Crespin, 1927-2007

Régine Crespin in Recital John Wustman, piano. Hunter College, New York City, November 11, 1967.

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03 July 2007

Beverly Sills: Podcasts and YouTube

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29 June 2007

Roman holiday

Unnatural Acts of Opera returns with yet another rarity, Wagner's Rienzi in a performance from Vienna in 1997. Featured are Siegfried Jerusalem and Violeta Urmana, with Zubin Mehta wielding the baton. Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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18 June 2007

Druidesses three times three

La Cieca is startled and delighted to note that there are already some very competitive entries in the "Nine Normas" quiz, including a likely prize winner. So that all you cher public may have the chance to put your vocal identification skills to the test, here's the clip of The Nine Normas.

Feel free to make your guesses in the comments section!

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How tief is your love

Surrounding the second act of D'Albert's opera Tiefland on the current episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera is a veritable plethora of special features. First, La Cieca takes a telephone call from an icon of stage, screen and recordings (hint: she was the surprise star of Broadway's Hit the Sky). Then our old, old, old friend Tallulah Bankhead drops by the studio along with none other than legendary, lovely Marlene Dietrich for a Sapphic singalong. After the act, your doyenne introduces the latest installment of The Enigmas of La Cieca, and, yes, it's another vocal identification. Take the quiz and determine your Norma-Q! Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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18 May 2007

Witchy Woman

The return of Unnatural Acts of Opera continues with another rarity, Respighi's 1934 grand opera La fiamma. Starring in this tale of witchcraft in medieval Ravenna is American soprano Alessandra Marc as the mysterious Silvana.

According to Will Crutchfield's review of this live 1987 performance in the New York Times, La Marc's "voice is full, beautiful, creamy at times. Her tone is pure: it does not have the overripe, pushed vibrato that afflicts so many singers in weighty operatic roles today. Miss Marc also has a feel for the soaring curves of Puccinian lyrical writing. She is generous with portamento, and she lets her feelings into her singing. One would not be surprised if Zinka Milanov had been one of her models."

The cast also includes Mignon Dunn and James McCracken, with Robert Bass conducting.

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12 April 2007

The gala continues

In further celebration of our 200th podcast, La Cieca presents a second program of superstars and their superstardom. Featured in the current episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera are Karita Mattila, Rolando Villazon, Renee Fleming, Dorothy Kirsten, Renata Scotto, Elena Obratszova, David Daniels, Ruth Ann Swenson, Renata Tebaldi, Giuseppe diStefano, Marilyn Horne, Montserrat Caballe, Kostas Paskalis, Alain Vanzo, Krassimira Stoyanova, Marcello Giordani and Aprile Millo.

And don't forget Part One, starring Maria Callas, Cesare Valletti, Rosanna Carteri, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Tito Gobbi, Birgit Nilsson, Leonie Rysanek, Alfredo Kraus, Jeannette Pilou, Cesare Siepi, Jessye Norman, Joan Sutherland and Leontyne Price.

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31 March 2007

A chance for stage folks to say hello

Leave it to La Cieca to offer added value to even so glittering a performance as Act Two of I Capuleti e i Montecchi starring Anna Netrebko, Daniela Barcelona and Joseph Calleja. Your doyenne makes her legitimate acting debut in a new episode of Apocryphal Opera Anecdote Theater in the demanding role of "Lady Capulet" in Romeo and Juliet. Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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28 March 2007

Balcony box

Something new and interesting (La Cieca hopes) on Unnatural Acts of Opera: a 2004 concert performance of Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi, starring Anna Netrebko (Giulietta), Daniela Barcellona (Romeo) and Joseph Calleja (Tebaldo). Act One is the current podcast, with the second to follow on Friday.

Speaking of the lovely Miss Netrebko, she and Rolando Villazon will headline a gala celebrating 40th Anniversary of The Met at Lincoln Center next Tuesday. The concert will be webcast over the Met's RealNetworks (and of course Sirius) beginning at 7:00 PM. Unfortunately, La Cieca has a prior commitment that night, but she is sure that you, her cher public, will want to chat about the gala here at parterre.com. As such, La Cieca is sending out request to you parterre.com regulars for volunteers to host the web chat. (Quite simple, really: you'll need only to be online and on the chat site beginning at 6:45 and continuing until the finish of the broadcast.) If you're interested in helping out, email La Cieca at [email protected].

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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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23 March 2007

Mary Dunleavy joins in the fun

La Cieca has just been informed that soprano Mary Dunleavy will participate in tonight's panel discussion "Opera and Technology" at The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University. No word on whether La Dunleavy replaces or supplements the previously announced Lucy Shelton. Our own JJ will be there of course, along with a veritable constellation of opera pundits: Elena Park, Editorial and Creative Content, The Metropolitan Opera; Beth Greenberg, stage director, New York City Opera; Wayne Koestenbaum, poet and writer; and Anne Midgette, critic, The New York Times. That's tonight at 7:30 PM, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue (between 116th and 118th Streets), second floor.

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16 March 2007

Will work for feud

The latest episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera episode offers, in addition to the second part of Gluck's Armide, the long-awaited return of Apocryphal Opera Anecdote Theater. Our drama this time is based on the real-life story of a feud between two of opera's most celebrated divas!

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25 February 2007

It's not a comeback

The final act of Loreley is hardly the only attraction on the current episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera. La Cieca also salutes the birthdays of three of the greatest sopranos of all time, and, can you believe it, presides over the return of one of your all-time favorite features, "The Enigmas of La Cieca." Once more, cher public, you can play "opera quiz" from the comfort and safety of your own lovely homes, without the difficultly of slogging through the snow to List Hall, or, for that matter, the difficulty of slugging Anthony Laciura once you get there. (Who knew it was possible to channel Eddie Cantor? Who knew anyone wanted to?) But anyway, as La Cieca was saying, do lend an ear to the new Unnatural Acts of Opera, listen to La Cieca's enigma, and (if you dare) send you answer to the question to [email protected]. The first correct response received will win a tantalizing gift from handelmania.com.

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22 February 2007

Siren song

Currently on Unnatural Acts of Opera, the ravishing Loreley by Alfredo Catalani in a performance from La Scala in 1968. Heading the cast is perhaps the definitive "meteoric" diva, Elena Suliotis.

La Cieca remembers as a tiny child seeing this late '60s photo of La Suliotis and thinking that she had to be the most glamorous star ever, with her frosted bouffant, nude lips and Barbara Parkins eyeshadow. And in this Loreley she sounds utterly glamorous as well!

Unnatural Acts of Opera

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11 February 2007

Fan club

In observance of the 100th anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera premiere of Madama Butterfly, La Cieca presents a podcast featuring the original cast of that production: Geraldine Farrar, Enrico Caruso and Antonio Scotti. The three superstars are heard in ten selections from Puccini's score.

Unnatural Acts of Opera

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08 February 2007

Grace Bumbry sings Richard Strauss

In the latest episode of Unnatural Act of Opera, deluxe diva Grace Bumbry wails in a lesser-known corner of her vast repertoire, two operas by Richard Strauss.

In performances two decades apart, she takes on the title role of Salome (1978) and Klytemnestra in Elektra (1997). La Cieca's generosity extends even farther, though. As bonus, we hear Bumbry in an interview discussing Madame Lehmann and her breakthrough performances as the "Schwarze Venus" at Bayreuth.

As encore -- a 2003 performance of "Der Manner Sippe!"

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05 February 2007

After the ballo

... is over, you can hear a performance of the winning entry in the Madlib challenge, devised and written by the lovely and talented Le Cerf Agile and performed by the Apocryphal Opera Anecdote Theater of the Air Players. The actors have informed La Cieca that they are honored to be performing such top-notch material, and La Cieca has replied "How lovely for you" or words to that effect. Le Cerf and the other four winners should keep an eye on the mailbox for their rewards in the form of historic opera DVDs. Also on the latest episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera, the aforementioned third act of Un ballo in maschera and a wild rant by your doyenne on the subject of the Met's Jenufa.

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Fourth among equals

Our fourth and final runner-up in the Madlib competition. Do check back at Unnatural Acts of Opera later this evening when the Grand Prize winner's creation will be performed as the latest episode of Apocryphal Opera Anecdote Theatre of the Air.

Margaret Junktrunk
Hello there and welcome to the Sirius Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Krzysztof Penderecki's beloved masterpiece The Taming of the Shrew, a work that illustrates the idea, first expressed by Wittgenstein, "You gits what ya pays for," or, as the libretto puts it, "Troppi prosciutto e lontano troppo salato." In today's performance we will hear tenor Salvatore Licitra, baritone Dimitri Hvorotsovsky, mezzo-soprano Helga Dernesch, and a young soprano appearing for the first time at Metropolitan Opera debut this season, Renee Fleming.

Of Renee Fleming's debut here two eternities ago, Martin Bernheimer wrote in Cat Fancy, "Not since Giuditta Pasta melted the heart of a 87 year old fan seated far up in the Grand Tier of the great Tower of Babel has any artist managed spanking both the dank and devastating aspects of Penderecki's bovine-faced little crack whore-girl. Her high F#s are pure, with the instrumental timbre of a bagpipe, and she is not afraid to use uvula resonance when necessary."

In tonight's performance, Renee Fleming will wear a dirndl that was specially created by the famous designer Coco Chanel for Maria Callas when she sang this role at Monte Carlo in the 1959 season. We have with us in the studio this evening Quentin Crisp , a freelance bodybuilder and stage director, who will share an anecdote with us about tonight's opera.

Quentin Crisp
Thank you, Margaret. This story takes place exactly 59 years ago this week, when the famous divas Maria Callas and Maria Malibran were rivals both on the opera stage and for the affections of Pope Paul VI. One of the ladies had a precious topaz-encrusted dirndl that was a gift from the Shah of Iran following a particularly phenomenal performance of Wozzeck in Genoa. What she did not know at that time was that Franco Alfano had written a special cabaletta for...

Margaret Junktrunk
I'm afraid we're running short on time; can you just jump to the punchline?

Peter Allen
"And so, a dispute over a dirndl was the cause of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.."
Margaret Junktrunk
Thank you! In our next intermission, we will have a discussion on the subject of the "scuro" musical style, with panelists Christina Aguilera, Mike Tyson and Barack Obama, moderated by our very own disgruntled hostess Beverly Sills. In just a moment, we will hear the excrutiating opening measures of tonight's opera. Yes, now Maestro Nello Santi is entering the torture chamber and our opera will begin horrifingly.
-- G. Paul Padillo

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27 January 2007

Voce di donna

On a new episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera that can only be called fabulous, we hear the first act of Un ballo in maschera as it was performed at La Scala in April of 1956. Gianandrea Gavazzeni is the conductor, and even by the lofty standards of Unnatural Acts of Opera the cast is very starry indeed: Giuseppe di Stefano, Antonietta Stella, Ettore Bastianini, and Ebe Stignani. And what's more, La Cieca herself makes her podcast singing debut!


23 January 2007

Beautiful music, dangerous rhythm

"It was an affair to rank with the coming of Christ, the death of Garland, the birth of the blues, and the freezing of spinach." -- Arthur Bell, Village Voice.

"Miss Steber appears from the steam room in a chiffon gown, loaded with diamonds and a black towel draped around her waist. Mrs. Leonard Bernstein, Suzy, Patrice Munsel, a lot of Metropolitan Opera stars and half of New York society love it. Miss Steber is in good voice, singing everything from Tosca to Strauss waltzes while boys yell, 'Brava!'" -- Rex Reed, Daily News.

From October 4, 1973, Eleanor Steber's iconic recital at the Continental Baths. Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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21 January 2007

Duelling Domingos

Today is the shared birthday of Placido Domingo and Charlie Handelman. Unfortunately, there's no YouTube video of these two together, so La Cieca will make do with the next best thing: a Domingo/Domingo duet:

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13 January 2007

Patti's shoe, La Cieca's clue

On the current episode of the all-new Unnatural Acts of Opera, the Apocryphal Opera Anecdote Theatre of the Air presents the two-act radio drama "Adelina Patti's Shoe." Also in this episode: La Cieca spills the beans about the Met's planned German repertoire through 2012. Oh, and did she mention Act 2 of Der Barbier von Bagdad, starring Sena Jurniac, Rudolf Schock, and Gottlob Frick? Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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12 January 2007

Not since Nineveh!

La Cieca and sidekick Milton Host are back with another rarity: Der Barbier von Bagdad by Peter Cornelius. Joining them in the studio with repurposed commentary: a formidable diva of the Johnson era. (No, not Lyndon Johnson. Edward Johnson.)

Act 1 is available now at Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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04 January 2007

Curtain up! Light the lights!

The all-new (or at least somewhat-new) Unnatural Acts of Opera relaunched this morning at 8 a.m., only 12 hours behind schedule.

Thrill to the dulcet voiceovers of new guy Milton Host! Delight in La Cieca's flattering new microphone placement! Tingle with excitement as the superstar team of Luciano Pavarotti and Beverly Sills sing I puritani! And La Cieca thinks you will enjoy the debut of a brand new segment, "Apocryphal Opera Anecdote Theatre," a radio drama depicting great moments in operatic history. The first presentation: "Mary Garden Gives a Press Conference."

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03 January 2007

2007 things to do in the new year

  1. Visit La Cieca's newly spiffed up MySpace page, where you can
  2. Delight in a slideshow of the Many Faces of La Cieca,
  3. Listen to a few of the doyenne's favorite tracks,
  4. Thrill to the latest bizarre opera video,
  5. And, while you're there, become one of La Cieca's friends (as if you aren't all already!)
  6. Meanwhile, you can get ready for the relaunch of Unnatural Acts of Opera this evening at 8:00 p.m., and
  7. Discuss.
Let's see. 2000 more to go. La Cieca will have to get back to you.

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13 December 2006

Ma, in America

Milan is just one little corner of the world, after all. Meanwhile, back home in the 'Side, La Cieca's managed to podcast a couple of times in the past dizzying days: Unnatural Acts of Opera


06 October 2006

Mysterious skin

Okay, maybe not all that mysterious, but it's a very cool skin design for Unnatural Acts of Opera, plus what La Cieca hopes will be a more user-friendly interface. You can try out the new podcast player here, or skip on over to Unnatural Acts of Opera for the new player's debut presentation, a 1969 performance of Smetana's Dalibor.


29 September 2006

Final curtain

The late Thomas Stewart as Wotan in Herbert von Karajan's film of Das Rheingold. La Cieca will present a podcast tribute to Mr. Stewart this weekend.

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26 September 2006

Return from the Plaza

La Cieca is back in her beloved Sunnyside late this evening, even though the Metropolitan Opera opening night began at 6:30. By her watch, the performance of Madama Butterfly ran not quite four hours including intermissions and curtain call. Oddly, though, the evening didn't seem unnaturally long -- maybe because La Cieca enjoyed a disco nap prior to the performance, or maybe because her seat for this opening night was in the plaza, watching on the big screen video, or, as we have come to call it, the Plazatron.

First things first: quite unlike most free events in New York, and on the Upper West Side in particular, the crowd was mostly very well mannered, attentive and appreciative. The weather, La Cieca must say, was simply superb, with just the hint of a cool autumnal breeze. The much-ballyhooed Red Carpet was somewhat underwhelming, hidden as it was over near Damrosch Park. La Cieca did catch a glimpse of Jude Law in the flesh, looking very dapper in black tie, and on the Plazatron, she noticed our own Dawn Fatale looking very boyish indeed against a backdrop of social xrays.

About the performance proper La Cieca can't really say anything because our own JJ will review a later performance, but she will note that the Plaza crowd was treated to an intermission feature showing director Anthony Minghella and the cast in rehearsal. Minghella talks too much, La Cieca thinks, and in the video one could sense that Marcello Giordani and Dwayne Croft were getting a bit impatient with all the chitchat. Speaking of which, Giordani looks great these days, slim and dashing in his Navy whites, and Croft has evolved into a very sexy daddy type -- particularly since this production makes no effort to disguise his mostly-bald pate. You know how La Cieca goes for the tete de peau look!

As La Cieca was preparing her podcast this evening she was listening to the second Met Radio broadcast on Sirius, a 1971 Rigoletto, and she sees the ante has been upped: she'll have to redouble her efforts to bring you the best in Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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25 September 2006

Sound the alarm

A few tidbits in reference to the impending Sirius broadcasts of the Met Opera. First, La Cieca's backstage spy reports that the Met has installed literally dozens of permanent microphones in various spots in the auditorium. These mikes are described as being reminiscent of CIA spy equipment, "the kind of technology that kind pick up a whisper a hundred yards away." (This sort of sensitivity will surely come in handy when Angela Gheorghiu sings Carmen a few seasons hence.) Our source went on to say that the Met and Sirius are trying for a completely different sound mix and balance from the familiar Saturday afternoon broadcasts.

La Cieca herself has signed up for the online-only Sirius service. The Met channel has not launched yet -- amusingly, the station is at the moment running a "tune in tonight" announcement backed with what sounds like Robin Byrd-era porn music. And that's for listeners who actually can access Sirius online: it seems that for some platforms (e.g., Safari) the stream may not be accessible until tomorrow. (Stone-age La Cieca is still on IE, which seems to work just fine. Right now she's listening to Miss Rosemary Clooney singing "In the Cool Cool Cool of the Evening" on Channel 75 "Standard Time.")

Following tonight's performance, La Cieca will podcast her reactions to the plaza experience along with the third act of a 1967 Madama Butterfly featuring Renata Scotto. Check back here, oh, elevenish when La Cieca returns to base for debriefing and cocktails!

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04 September 2006

Astrid Varnay 1918 - 2006

The celebrated dramatic soprano Astrid Varnay died earlier today in Munich. She was 88 years old.

A few highlights from her 55 year career can be heard in this podcast. Included are scenes from Die Walkure, Tannhauser, Elektra, Der Fliegende Hollander, Der Rosenkavalier, Parsifal, Siegfried, and Tristan und Isolde.

powered by ODEO
UPDATE: one of the few available video clips of Varnay in live performance, from a 1971 telecast of Jenufa:

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24 August 2006

Unnatural Acts of Introduction

A Very Special Guest Diva introduces La Cieca's latest podcast, Verdi's Aida as performed at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden on 12 April 1973. And the performance is pretty special, too: Gilda Cruz-Romo as Aida, Carlo Bergonzi as Radames, Mignon Dunn as Amneris, Gian Piero Mastromei as Amonasro . . . and Kiri te Kanawa as the Sacerdotessa! Sir Charles Mackerras conducts. Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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19 August 2006

parterre 2.0

In her never-ceasing quest for greater convenience and maximum gadget-intensivity, La Cieca has updated the user interface for her podcasts. Now she can insert one podcast directly into the homepage like so . . .

powered by ODEO

All you need do is click on the "play" button and crank up your speakers. (This is the most recent podcast, by the way, the third act of Mercadante's Il Bravo, which includes a few bits of news plus a return of the wildly popular quiz "The Enigmas of La Cieca.") The most recent dozen or so podcasts can be accessed, as always, from the Unnatural Acts of Opera page. And do note that the Unnatural Acts of Opera Archive contains the whole first year of La Cieca's little shows.

Another new shiny object is the updated player on the Podderdammerung page -- now you can listen to the entirety of Der Ring des Nibelungen from a single page here on parterre.com. Podderdammerung.

Another exciting new feature, coming very soon, is discussed in the current podcast.

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09 August 2006

New podcast player

A new way to listen to podcasts, courtesy of the wonderful folks at Odeo.com: a new pocast player that looks like a video Ipod.

If you would like to add this player to your web page, just go here, click on "copy to clipboard," then just paste the code on your page. Easy, no?


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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22 July 2006

Queens Power Struggle -- Update

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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15 May 2006

Breath control

You know, La Cieca heard there were some staging modifications to the Wilson Lohengrin since the last revivial, but who knew?

As La Cieca announces in her current podcast, she will be liveblogging the WQXR broadcast of the Volpe Farewell Gala this Saturday evening. Comments will be enabled so you can be as interactive as you like. Or, come to think of it, how many of you would participate in a chat room devoted to this broadcast? Let La Cieca know and, as always, she will do her best to turn your wishes into reality.

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04 May 2006

Why did the podcast cross the road?

This week's podcasts feature a reprise performance (the 1977 Turandot starring Luciano Pavarotti, Montserrat Caballe and Leona Mitchell) with all new chatter from La Cieca. In the current episode, she yaks about the Volpe Farewell Gala and poses yet another of "The Enigmas of La Cieca." It's all at Unnatural Acts of Opera, of course.

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06 April 2006

Lenz crafters

05 April 2006

President Coolidge is a cousin of mine

"Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else."

That's the advice Judy Garland gave Liza Minnelli, and I think we can all agree that dear Liza took those words to heart with great success. At the moment, though, La Cieca is wondering how Judy would feel about a "first rate version" of her own legendary self, because that's what the podcast The Entertainment Beat with Frances Gumm offers on a biweekly basis. A self-described "fellow in his 20s" identified only as "Billyboy" channels the Jack Paar/CBS era raconteur Judy, stutter, popped p's and all, in freewheeling patter about popular culture and witty interviews with guests ranging from Carol Channing to Gollum. "Judes" also unleashes her pipes every now and then to belt out tunes written since 1969, e.g., Stephen Sondheim's "Putting It Together." Production values and (especially) pace for this solo spectacular are excellent, and, on a personal note, it does La Cieca's heart good to see that Camp is alive and well chez Billyboy.


31 March 2006

Talking lady

That Eveready Rabbit of a diva, Montserrat Caballe, is going to camp it up once more at the Vienna State Opera when she makes her role debut as the Duchesse de Krackenthorp (the Ljuba Welitsch part) in Laurent Pelly's production of Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment in April 2007. This production, starring Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez, is skedded to appear at Covent Garden and the Met between 2007 and 2008. No word yet if La Caballe will travel with the show, but La Cieca will be the first to encourage her: do it! (If the Met management is skittish about the possibility of a Caballe cancellation, then the obvious solution would be to engage Mme. Vera Galupe-Borszkh as her cover!)

La Cieca hears that Lorin Maazel is so devoted to "American Idol" that he has become an avid participant in the show's online discussion board. The Maestro's online alias (unlike those of several celeb participants in the parterre.com comments section) is not very difficult to figure out.

Speaking of living legends (as if La Cieca knows any other topic!), "Il pirata di Jackson Heights" himself, Charlie Handelman, is now podcasting. His show, "Handelmania," features live (what else?) excerpts from his vastissimo collection. To hear the shows and to find RSS information, go to The Handelmania Podcast.

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17 March 2006

Too many tenors!

Well, no, of course, there's no such thing as too many tenors, but it's good to know we have so many high male voices around these days. One from the present (Rolando Villazon) and one from the past (Beniamino Gigli) are featured in Ed Rosen's recently-debuted podcast, and one for the future is parterre favorite Stephen Costello, who just last night was a first place winner of the George London Foundation competition. Stephen's performance of "Che gelida manina" suggests that, in his case, the future is very near indeed:

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28 February 2006


La Cieca hears that Audra McDonald will sing the role of Kitty Oppenheimer when the Met presents John Adams' Dr. Atomic in the 2008-2009 season. La McDonald, it will be remembered, premiered Kitty's aria "Easter Eve, 1945" in May 2004 with the New York Philharmonic under Adams' baton. The versatile songstress is currently in Houston preparing for the March 4 prima of a double bill of La Voix humaine and a new one-woman opera by John Michael LaChiusa entitled Send (who are you? I love you).

Glamour diva Marcella Pobbe stars in this week's podcast of Giordano's Fedora on Unnatural Acts of Opera. La Cieca is experimenting with a new web-based player for the podcast on the site; the advantage is that you can select either the current show or else any of the archived shows from a pull-down menu. Do let La Cieca know what you think of this new gadget!

Also new is one of the latest Google Video selections, a performance by Edita Gruberova in the finale of Roberto Devereux from Munich in 2005:

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25 January 2006

The Swinging Sixties!

Ah, the 1960s! Corelli and Nilsson in Turandot! Tebaldi in Gioconda! Freni's debut! Milanov's farewell! Beverly's breakthrough Giulio Cesare! The two-night blizzard testing the loyalties of the standees queued for Maria's return to the Met! (And let's not forget the war in Vietnam, LSD, and the miniskirt!) By an odd coincidence, La Cieca's podcast and video offerings this week both date back to the year 1967, and, so far as she knows, neither acid nor minis are involved. On "Unnatural Acts of Opera," we present the soundtrack of a BBC telecast of Eugene Onegin starring Margaret Price, John Shirley-Quirk, Josephine Veasey, Robert Tear and Don Garrard. This week's youtube video clip (also to be found on the "Unnatural" page) is from Lucia di Lammermoor, starring Renata Scotto and Carlo Bergonzi. Unnatural Acts of Opera

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20 January 2006

Smooth operator

As a supplement to this week's podcast of Faust, a video of Alfredo Kraus singing "Salut, demeure" in 1972.

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18 January 2006

Eternal youth

09 January 2006

The dragon with the flagon

Soprano Mariella Devia -- who La Cieca thought was such a sweet ingenue type -- turns tigress for the title role of Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti). This live performance from 2003 also features Daniela Barcellona (Maffio Orsini), Marcelo Alvarez (Gennaro) and Michele Pertusi (Don Alfonso, Duca di Ferrara) under the baton of Renato Palumbo. The Prologue of this gothic/bel canto masterpiece is now available on Unnatural Acts of Opera, with the following two acts to come later this week. (La Cieca apologizes for the occasional static audible during this podcast; its origin is the source material and she couldn't figure out a way to de-click it. Please let La Cieca know if you find the noise intrusive!)

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06 December 2005

High Noon: the Gala and Quiz!

Here it is, cher public: the Unnatural Acts Gala and Quiz. To listen, just click on the arrow button. (Make sure your speaker volume is turned up, and allow 10 - 15 seconds for the show to start playing.)

Listen to the Gala and Quiz!

You can also download the mp3 at this direct link. When you know the answers to the three questions, send them to [email protected]. For more details on the gala and quiz, see the posting below.

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01 December 2005

Billy the birthday boy

Today is the "birthday" of Billy Budd, the 54th anniversary of the premiere of the Benjamin Britten opera. To mark the occasion, the popular (?) podcast featurette "The Enigmas of La Cieca" goes international next week when a lucky listener to "Unnatural Acts of Opera" will win a pair of prime seats to the English National Opera's acclaimed production of the opera, featuring Timothy Robinson making his role debut as Captain Vere, while "charismatic" Simon Keenlyside sings the title role and Sir John Tomlinson appears as Claggart. The performance the winner will attend is on December 14. So, all you UK parterre box fans (and anyone else who will be in the London area on the 14th), here's what you'll need to do to win: Listen to a special edition of "Unnatural Acts of Opera" that will become available at noon EST (17:00 GMT) on Tuesday, December 6. (You can download through Itunes or else listen to the show directly on the Unnatural Acts page.) During the show, La Cieca will ask three opera trivia questions. You'll email your answers to the questions to [email protected] and the first received email with all three questions answered correctly will be the winner. Now, La Cieca realizes there are a lot of you listeners out there who would like to enter the contest, but you can't make it to London on the 14th to enjoy the Grand Prize. So, just to keep the competition interesting, La Cieca is offering special prizes to the first three winning (i.e., all three questions correctly answered) entries from North America. Each of these winners will receive an historical opera DVD from the Encore collection. (La Cieca's decisions as to winners will be hers alone, final, and subject to whim.)

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10 November 2005

Straight, to hell

That classic Mozart/da Ponte warning against the dangers of the heterosexual lifestyle, Don Giovanni, is the basis for La Cieca's next podcast. It's an example of what is called "big house Mozart" -- in other words, Mozart performed in a grand opera house, with full-voiced Verdian and Wagnerian singers, and in general overlaid with a Romantic sensibility. The venue is the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the date is February 19, 1962. Georg Solti wields the baton, and the lavish casting includes Cesare Siepi, Geraint Evans, and what must be both the most starry and the best-contrasted trio of leading ladies ever assembled: Leyla Gencer, Sena Jurinac and Mirella Freni. Unnatural Acts of Opera.


07 November 2005

Millo sings again!

La Cieca's latest episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera features Aprile Millo. The occasion is her upcoming appearance at Alice Tully Hall here in New York on November 12 -- a concert performance of Leoncavallo's verismo gem Zaza with the Teatro Grattacielo. The podcast features selections from two previous concert opera performances by Miss Millo: Verdi's I Lombardi (1986) and Ponchielli's La Gioconda (2004).

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01 November 2005

The Pleasant Peasant

Last week, as you'll recall, our Unnatural Opera was Die Frau Ohne Schatten, one of the most grandiose and over-the-top works ever to grace the stage. La Cieca thought her public's palate could stand a little cleansing, so this time around we will hear a more intimate work, Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore. This performance is from the Maggio Musicale in Florence in 1967, and it stars the definitive Nemorino and Adina of the era, Carlo Bergonzi and Renata Scotto. Now, you wouldn't believe what hoops this unpretentious opera has sent La Cieca jumping though in her never-ending quest to enhance your your listening enjoyment. The first act of L'elisir is very long, as you know, something like 72 minutes, and so La Cieca thought it would be a good idea to break the act into two parts for the podcast. Great, fine, but where to put the admittedly artificial intermission? The logical place is just before Dulcamara's entrance, but then the first part of the podcast is like twelve minutes of music. Well, eventually, after lots of agonizing and second thoughts and sleepless nights, La cieca decided to break after Dulcamara's aria. Well, now that you know that, maybe we should just listen to Unnatural Acts of Opera.

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09 October 2005

Sillsmania continues

A few of La Cieca's cher public wrote in to complain that last week's podcast, the Beverly Sills farewell gala, offered lots of gala but not much Sills. So we're remedying that this week on " Unnatural Acts of Opera," with an all-Sills program featuring music by Handel, Mozart and R. Strauss.

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15 August 2005

Tu la mia Stella sei

La Cieca is no longer alone in the podosphere. She has just been informed of the debut a podcast "designed for rabid opera fans everywhere" by a new girl on the block, Mme. Stella Maria Krazelberg von und zu Brabant. Details on the first episode ("As the Fur Flies - Bitchin', Brawlin' Biker Chicks") may be found chez Stella.


04 August 2005

One more insane queen

It occurred to La Cieca that she might be well advised to listen (with her mind and with her ears?) listen to the music files she's posting into her podcast "Unnatural Acts of Opera." Not that there are technical problems with the source materials, oh, no, never that, but rather she thought she could start commenting in more detail on what is coming up in that day's episode. You know, sort of the way that charming Robert Osborne does when he introduces the movies on TCM. ("When Joan tested for the part of Mildred she showed up in a little cotton housedress that she'd bought off the rack at Sears. Director Michael Curtiz took one look at her and snarled, 'You and your damned Adrian shoulder pads!' Then he ripped her dress from neck to hemline, only to discover -- Joan's shoulders were still there. They were real!")

Now, where was I? Oh, oh yes, previewing the operas. Well, this morning La Cieca was riding into the city on the soon-to-be-trendy 7 train, Ipod earbuds firmly in place, and she got a major earful of Act 4 of Maria Tudor. That's the Gomes opera, you know, about yet one more of those impossibly temperamental British queens, and, let me tell you, Maria is a Dementodiva dream role. Starring in this performance is the Brazilian soprano (and mainstay of the Vienna State Opera) Elaine Coehlo, who is, shall we say, not exactly shy about using chest voice for effect. (That's her in the photo -- as Salome.) It came as no surprise to La Cieca to hear that the soprano is a product of Leyla Gencer's studio, where apparently Coelho majored in glottal attack with a minor in baleful glares.

Amazing stuff, and it's coming soon on " Unnatural Acts of Opera." This week we finish off Il piccolo Marat (starring Virginia Zeani) and then on Friday night we'll hear a brani scelti program, also featuring La Zeani. Next week.... no, not Maria Tudor, not quite yet. La Cieca thought first we should refresh the palate with something lighter and more delicate: Massenet's Manon, with Montserrat Caballe in the title role.


01 August 2005

The revolution will be podcast

This week on La Cieca's podcast Unnatural Acts of Opera, we hear Virginia Zeani and Giuseppe Gismondo scale the verismo heights of Mascagni's Il piccolo Marat. This 1962 performance also stars Nicola Rossi-Lemeni and Afro Poli; Ottavio Ziino conducts.


14 July 2005

Podcasta Diva

Did you know Unnatural Acts of Opera is the only all-opera podcast in the whole, uh, podosphere? Even better, this podcast features only live opera performances, preferably demented. Our opera this time is both live and demented, with even a soupcon of backstage drama to add an extra frisson. La Cieca presents the first act of Bellini's Norma, recorded live at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow on June 19, 1974. Montserrat Caballe sings the title role. She is joined by mezzo-soprano Fiorenza Cossotto as Adalgisa, and, as I'm sure any number of sopranos will tell you, working with Flo always puts a girl on her mettle. Gianni Raimondi sings the role of Pollione, and Ivo Vinco is Oroveso. The production is from La Scala, conducted by Franceso Mollinari-Pradelli. Unnatural Acts of Opera

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Last dance at Naxos

Those of you who haven't had the chance to hear the "Oper" section of La Cieca's podcast of Ariadne auf Naxos should take the time today; starting tonight a new opera will be programmed on the free player. (Both parts of the Ariadne, as well as last week's Macbeth, will remain available for downloading via iTunes and other podcatching software.) Starting tonight, we'll hear a favorite "Podcasta Diva" -- Montserrat Caballe, that is, in a live performance of Norma with the La Scala company on tour in Moscow, 1974. La Cieca will of course inform you the moment the new show is available!

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10 July 2005

A good podcast is worth repeating

San Francisco Opera, as always right on the crest of the wave, introduced its own podcast over the weekend. Pamela Rosenberg and Donald Runnicles yak about the 2005-06 season, which will include the premiere of the new John Adams piece "Dr. Atomic," and some musical highlights of the rest of the repertoire are included too. San Francisco Opera 2005-06 Season Preview.

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08 July 2005

Dude, you're getting a della Casa!

Backstage drama! The veteran prima donna suspects a conniving newcomer of trying to upstage her -- both onstage and off! No, it's not All About Eve, but almost! Now, on the parterre podcast "Unnatural Acts of Opera," the Prologue to Ariadne auf Naxos from the Salzburg Festival 1954. Lisa della Casa, Hilde Gueden and Irmgard Seefried are the triumphant triumvirate heading the cast, with Karl Boehm conducting. Following the Prologue, a bonus from La Cieca: more della Casa, singing more Strauss, natuerlich! Hear this podcast now at Unnatural Acts of Opera.


Back on the air!

After a service interruption that lost all her files (grrrrr!) La Cieca has restored and restarted her Web radio show Il Gran Teatro della Cieca. Included in this rotation are the Macbeth and Turandot from her podcast, plus complete performances of L'incoronazione di Poppea, Samson et Dalila and Jenufa. Thank you for your patience, and now, please feel free to tune in.


30 June 2005

Unnatural Acts with an Apple

Apple bites backThe reviews for Apple's iTunes 4.9 are mixed but the consensus is "thumbs up." La Cieca downloaded and installed the new version last night; very smooth. The interface with podcasts is something less than lavish, the one part of the application that feels "freeware." But La Cieca realizes there are a lot of people out there who use iTunes as their only jukebox software, so it seems likely that this development will increase the podcast public significantly. A good thing. The down side is that Apple has to review the podcasts before putting them on the one-click "subscribe" list, which means that you can't just go to the site and click on "Unnatural Acts of Opera."

But there is a simple workaround. From iTunes, click on Advanced, the Subscribe To Podcast..., then paste http://parterre.com/podcast/unnaaturalacts.rss into the URL text box. Then then click OK. That will subscribe you to the podcast series.

You can also subcribe on My Yahoo. Just Click on Add Content Add RSS by URL, then paste the URL and continue as in the iTunes instructions.

I'm also working on a tweak that would allow you to play the current "Unnatural Act" directly from the parterre podcast page; more on that maybe this weekend, as well as the first "regular" unnatural act, which at the moment looks like it's going to be Act 1 Traviata from Verona 1970 (Scotto, Bergonzi).

Now, about the Met's plans for a tab version of Magic Flute in the Julie Taymor production. La Cieca says, "Oh, why the hell not?" Somehow La Cieca feels that a 90-minute, fast-moving entertainment is a lot closer to Mozart's original intention than the three-hour plus behemoth the Met delivers when they do the Gesamt version.

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29 June 2005

Smashing the oligarchies

The decentralization of the music business is progressing so quickly La Cieca can hardly keep up. (Though it's not like she's completely in the loop; as you know, she only recently found out that Giulio Ricordi had died!) The very latest (as of this morning) is that Apple has launched a new build of iTunes will full podcasting support. They promise that the search/subcribe/update/download/sync process will be as simple and intuitive as purchasing a song from the iTunes Music Store. La Cieca will test-drive this new application in the next day or two, then give you a full report on the functionality or lack thereof. In case you're wondering, no, "Unnatural Acts of Opera" is not yet included in Apple's podcast directory, but we're working on that.

Another promising development is the partnership of Naxos of America and OverDrive, Inc. to provide downloadable classical recordings free of charge to cardholders at many of the nation's public libraries. The best part is that the service is web-based, so you can "check out" a digital version of a CD from your home or work computer, then listen to it at your leisure over the next couple of weeks. The digital files then expire and are "checked in" for use by another library patron.

This process strikes a particularly resonant chord with La Cieca. Back in the day, when she was a lowly Opera Infanta on the bayou, she had no access to classical music record stores. The only way to listen to opera (besides those lovely Met broadcasts) was to borrow records from the Louisiana public library system. (No, dear, they were not 78s; we were well into the microgroove era by then.) Anyway, the library provided me with my first aural glimpses of Wagner's Ring, the voices of Tebaldi and Callas, and, yes, even Blomdahl's Aniara. What a boon, then, for the little queens of the 21st century, who will have immediate access to so broad a swathe of the repertoire, while staying within the law. (There will be plenty of time for them to break it later.)

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26 June 2005

Doin' what comes unnaturally

"Unnatural Acts of Opera" -- that's what La Cieca is calling her new opera podcast. The "unnatural" in this case has nothing to do with sodomy or lasciviousness, but she's sure she can hold your interest anyway, with extraordinary opera performances presented one act at a time. (Get it?) La Cieca stessa will offer commentary before the acts and will remain silent during the music. (You're welcome.)

La Cieca will begin the series by breaking her own rule, first of all by featuring an opera simply dripping with perversity, and second, by offering three programs (i.e., an entire opera) at once. (Don't count on her being so open-handed in future!)

Kicking off, then, is Puccini's Turandot from a 1977 live performance starring Montserrat Caballe, Luciano Pavarotti, Leona Mitchell and Giorgio Tozzi. For more information on this premiere podcast, go to the new parterre podcast page.

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10 June 2005

They're here already! You're next!

So La Cieca has been thinking about joining the pod people; that is, she wants to try her hand at podcasting. One idea off the top of La Cieca's well-coiffed head is something called "Daily Dose of Diva," a mix of some of my favorite opera recordings and a bit of yakking thrown in. But what's important is what you want -- so let's do a little informal market research. What kind of content would you like to download from the parterre podcast? Complete operas? Opera highlights? Potpourri shows? Themed shows (a la George Jellinek)? Interviews? Leave a comment or email me as we embark together upon this great auditory adventure!

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