18 January 2008

O brother where art thou

An Italian TV report on the already infamous all-Alagna-all-the-time Orphée.

Now, David Alagna may not be one of the world's great stage directors, but he certainly is among the cutest!

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04 January 2008

Tomorrow is another day

Just a little over 24 hours from now, Rolando Villazón is scheduled to return to the operatic stage following an absence of nearly six months. He is announced for a revival of Werther at the Vienna State Opera tomorrow night, January 5, beginning at 19.30 (1:30 EST). Followup plans for the tenor this month include more Werthers and three performances of Manon plus concerts in Paris and Barcelona.

Villazón's highly-anticipated return is the lede for a Times Online article about how opera singers are in risk of becoming "pill-popping stressballs." Much of it is a rehash of the Endrik Wottrich brouhaha from last fall, but there are some interesting bits about how Joyce DiDonato uses Skype for brush-ups with her voice teacher.

Well, anyway, as you can imagine, La Cieca is naturally very curious as to the Villazón's current vocal estate, so she hopes that any of you Old World cher public in attendance at his performances this month will keep us informed.

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20 December 2007

Le Scandale, 2007 edition

Cher public, La Cieca meant to turn in early tonight, but she got one of those bees in her bonnet. This particular specimen of Apis mellifera is the "debacle" (as La Cieca has been astonished to see it termed) of Anna Netrebko's Juliette last Saturday afternoon. Such harsh criticism La Cieca has rarely heard since the infamous Renata Scotto Norma. Even La Cieca's own bitchery about Renée Fleming never (well, rarely) reached such heights of dudgeon.

La Cieca should remind herself that much of this accidie springs from opera-l, which most of the time is a valuable resource and all that, but it does seem to be a haven for every tongue-clucking old maid still hunched over her Philco every Saturday afternoon during the broadcast season. (Some of them predate Texaco, La Cieca thinks.) Anyway, the consensus over at opera-l is that Netrebko is kaput, over, finished -- that is, assuming she was ever anything to start with. The Roméo et Juliette has been called "failure" and even (yes!) "debacle." Admittedly , La Cieca occasionally amuses herself by throwing those terms (including the "d" word) around indiscriminately, but she has the defense that nobody with half a brain takes her babbling seriously anyway. On the other hand, La Cieca has her doubts that everybody over at opera-l shares her sense of light-hearted irony in these things.

Look. La Cieca regards herself as a very critical listener, but she simply cannot discern any "debacle" or even "failure" in last week's Roméo performance. Netrebko was admittedly somewhat off her best form at the beginning of the opera. She did have a minor crack on the high D in her first cadenza, and for most of the performance her voice sounded a bit cloudy and thick compared to what La Cieca (and, you, of course, cher public) have heard on Sirius and in the theater earlier this season.

La Cieca hesitates to jump to the conclusion that this one performance indicates an inevitable downward spiral toward ruin for Ms. Netrebko. She prefer to take the more cautious position that Netrebko was simply having a "B" voice day instead of her customary "A." The cause may have been nerves, or a mild case of acid reflux, or a minor allergy attack, or (who knows?) she may have been starting her period on Saturday. The point is, nerves and all the rest (including even dysmenhorrhea) don't last forever.

As, it so happens, tonight's Sirius broadcast neatly indicates. La Cieca tuned in at the beginning of the second act to hear Netrebko in fine fettle. Your doyenne will note also that in the bedroom duet tonight Netrebko is singing with a lighter tone and softer dynamics than she did opposite Roberto Alagna -- the better to blend with Joseph Kaiser's less aggressive approach, one assumes.

Well, enough scolding. A recent news story about Antonio Banderas' directing Carmen got La Cieca to thinking: how long before Angela Gheorghiu backs out of the projected Met production of the Bizet opera -- and how thrilling it would be if Netrebko could be persuaded to jump in!

Oh, and just so you don't think La Cieca has completely abandoned her position as Sultana of the Soupcons, here's a tidbit. Your doyenne hears that among Netrebko's la Gheorghiu's upcoming projects (besides that unlikely Carmen and the perhaps even unlikelier Ghosts of Versailles) is a complete recording of Giordano's Fedora opposite (who else) Placido Domingo.

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19 October 2007

"Bizarre and nondescript characters corralled from every stratum of society"

La Cieca thanks the visiting Enzo Bordello for pointing out to her some recent updates to the indispensable Met Futures Page so painstakingly maintained by Bradley Wilber. Most of it sound plausible enough, but every now and then a piece of casting leaves La Cieca so stunned she hardly manage to quote a Waldo Lydecker quip. Such is the case with a projected 2009 revival of Adriana Lecouvreur with Maria Guleghina and Jonas Kaufmann.

That show at least seems possible actually to transpire, unlike the new Carmen in 2010. The announced team for the Bizet, which includes Matthew Bourne, Richard Eyre, Angela Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna, Barbara Fritolli and James Levine, surely adds up to ten pounds of diva in a five pound bag!

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05 October 2007

I cc what you did there

Which world-class maestro is about ready to throw himself off of the roof since he accidentally cced a private email exchange to his entire list of contacts -- including Mrs. Maestro?

The exchange was eventually forwarded to La Cieca, who redacted some of the details for the sake of privacy, and now presents it for your perusal:
-----Original Message-----
From: [Maestro]
Sent: Tuesday, October 2, 2007 05:12 PM
To: [The Maestro's entire contact list!]
Subject: Fwd: OCT4

-----Original Message-----
From: [Maestro]
Sent: Tuesday, October 2, 2007 12:15 PM
To: [Maestro's friend]
Subject: Re: OCT4
Don't take a bag for this short trip ,it will be easier at airport and NO LIQUID in your purse .
When you enter in the ST Regis hotel ,turn left .The FIRST COUNTER on thr left (about 5 meters from thr main door) is the CONCIERGE.I'll leave an enveloppe with an electronic key under YOUR NAME.
THE ROOM NUMBER IS [redacted].
Wait for me in the room .You'l find a bath robe .I WANT TO FIND YOU NAKED when I arrive.

-----Original Message-----
From: [Maestro's friend]
Sent: Tuesday, October 2, 2007 06:11 AM
To: [Maestro]
Subject: OCT4
Did you already arrive at Beijing?
Is it cold in Beijing?
I'm packing now.
I'll visit you on Thursday.
My cell is usable in China. [redacted]
Looking forward to seeing you.
See you soon!
Kisses. M

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24 September 2007

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now

Struggling downtown artiste Robert Wilson has been rendered homeless since his recent "eviction" from the 6,000 square foot loft he leased since the early 1970s. The space is located in a building on Vestry Street in trendy TriBeCa that's scheduled for demolition to make way for, what else, luxury condominiums. The bereft avante-gardiste has been reduced to "traveling in Europe for work when not staying with friends in New York" but is "resigned to the idea he won't be able to find a new place with as much space," according to Page Six.

Having apparently dismissed the notion of leasing warehouse space in an outer borough (shudder!), the Lohengrin director is divesting himself of a few of the more than 3,000 tchotckes currently cluttering the place, including "20th-century furniture, tribal art, sculpture, textiles, ceramics, contemporary glass, Asian art and contemporary drawings, photographs, works by artists such as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Man Ray, Frank Gehry, Frank Lloyd Wright, Agnes Martin and Richard Serra." (It's an encouraging sign that even in deepest despair, Wilson retains his protean name-dropping ability.) Selected items will be auctioned on Sunday at tony Philips de Pury.

Wilson, putting his storage problems in perspective, reflects, "It is a tragedy that all this will be destroyed."

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07 September 2007

Not a comeback, a return!

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

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

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04 September 2007

Eisen zu pumpen

Here's the original (or, La Cieca supposes she should say, Das Original) of that endlessly-forwarded and endlessly-discussed article about alleged "doping" in the opera world, as published in Die Presse. Now, what catches La Cieca's eye here is the description of the beta blocker whistleblower quoted in the article: "Der Tenor und Bodybuilder Endrik Wottrich."

A Google image search for "Endrich Wottrich" yielded this photo (click to enlarge):


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30 August 2007

Where is style? Where is skill? Where is forethought?

Yes, another YouTube posting, but this one is something very special indeed. Legendary Zarah Leander is seen in a few moments from her 1975 triumph as Madame Armfelt in Das Lächeln einer Sommernacht (A Little Night Music) at the Theater an der Wien. La Leander also cavorts about a studio, lipsynching a medley of her hits with Les Boys. Once she lights up the cigarette, doesn't she look exactly like Bette Davis doing a musical version of The Little Foxes?

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26 July 2007

Das Traumboot

Bayreuth scion-apparent Katharina Wagner's production of Die Meistersinger opened yesterday at the Festspielhaus.

As you can see, this production is rather curiously cast with David Beckham as Walther and Aprile Millo as Eva.

Oh, well, all right, La Cieca must have her little joke, you know. The tenor is in fact Klaus Florian Vogt, whom many of you heard sing Lohengrin at the Met back in 2006, and, if this photo is anything like accurate, is indeed the "Traumboot" above referenced.

Now, be honest, cher public. If you saw this fellow approaching on a boat, would you even notice that it was drawn by a swan? No, La Cieca didn't think so.

Oh, and of course, that's not La Millo up there with the paint-spattered decolletage. More's the pity, La Cieca must say, because surely if it were Millo singing the soprano part in the quintet, it would be more nearly in tune than this snippet from the Generalprobe.

For those of you interested in Ms. Wagner's Konzept, here's a feature from German TV.

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23 July 2007

Swiss miss

The nice people at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland cannot be happy about last minute changes to this past weekend's concert schedule caused by late cancellations by James Levine and Renée Fleming. Maestro Levine, advertised for concerts on July 20 and 22, tendered his regrets on July 16, noting "My doctors have strongly advised me not to travel but to stay calm and collect my energies." Also collecting her energies (or whatever) was La Fleming, who pulled out of the the July 22 performance on four days' notice, i.e., July 18.

Barbara Bonney emerged from a mysterious year-long hiatus in her career to substitute for Fleming at the July 22 gala, where she sang the soprano part in the Mozart Requiem in d minor. The other soloists, all thankfully enjoying robust health, were Anne-Sofie von Otter, Kenneth Tarver and René Pape. In lieu of Ms. Fleming's art song portion of the program, Thomas Quasthoff performed Schubert lieder. Wielding the baton for this program and the July 20 opener was Manfred Honeck, future Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

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24 May 2007

Onegin, you're pissing on my shoelace

La Cieca is distressed to inform you that her YouTube account comprising 90 videos has been suspended. The cause of the action was a series of DMCA complaints from someone called "ByOnegin S.L." who claimed "infringement" from three videos featuring Mariella Devia and Montserrat Caballe. La Cieca is naturally distressed that all these favorite videos of hers should be unavailable on YouTube, but she pledges she will re-establish her presence there, thanking you in advance for your patience and support. In the meantime, she reminds you that there are some favorite clips still available at Google Video.

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02 May 2007

Esser madre e un inferno

A rare chance to hear Evangelia Callas (mother of Maria) tell her side of the story. This audio clip from a 1962 television interview is in rather dim sound, but we do get a sample of Evangelia's singing voice!

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25 April 2007

She never does anything twice

La Cieca is totally in awe of the insightful (and totally enjoyable) reporting her baby sister OperaChic is doing on the most recent Angela Gheorghiu scandale. In what La Cieca chooses to regard as an early 50th anniversary hommage to one of the most infamous moments in the career of Maria Callas, la Gheorghiu has, yes, walked out of a production at the Rome Opera. It seems that at the prima, Renato Bruson took a bis of "Di provenza," which (so OperaChic whispers) the soprano interpreted as an act of war. Gheorghiu obtained a doctor's certificate and canceled her second (and final scheduled) performance.

Permit La Cieca to say: maybe this is why they stopped allowing encores in the first place.

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