12 December 2007

Legends of the fall

When a monumental 20th century masterpiece is revived at the Met, who better to review it than Anthony Tommasini? Today the Times published TT's critique of War and Peace, a compact screed of exactly 799 words. And how, you may ask, were those words distributed? Well almost half the review (351 words) was given over to a rehash of the incident five years ago when the super fell off the set into the pit. Here's how Tony's wordage stacks up in chart form:

Labels: , ,

11 June 2007


(a-pŏth'ē-ō'sĭs) n.

pl. a·poth·e·o·ses (-sēz')

  1. Exaltation to divine rank or stature; deification.

  2. Elevation to a preeminent or transcendent position; glorification: Many observers have tried to attribute Warhol's current apotheosis to the subversive power of artistic vision" (Michiko Kakutani)

  3. An exalted or glorified example: Their leader was the apotheosis of courage.

  4. Tony Tommasini reviews Death in Venice twice.


01 June 2007

The art of the buried lede

"Mr. Hvorostovsky looked sexy in black leather pants and an open-collared black shirt." Final paragraph.


12 April 2007

Give me my robe...

La Cieca has just heard that the 2007 Richard Tucker Award winner is tenor Brandon Jovanovich, pictured here at a concert given recently in honor of long-time Tucker colleague Eleanor Steber.

Career Grant winners for 2007 are Meredith Arwady, contralto; Jason Collins, tenor; and Stephen Costello, tenor. La Cieca regrets to inform you that she does not have any photos of Mr. Costello in a towel at the moment, but, after all, summer is just around the corner.

Labels: , , ,

11 February 2007

Tickling the ivories

"I could not have been alone in the audience in responding with something like parental concern when [pianist Till] Fellner appeared onstage. Lanky, rail-thin, wholesome-looking and still boyish at 34, he seemed as shy and awkward as ever . . . . A regimen of free weights at a gym in Vienna, where Mr. Fellner lives, might not be a bad idea."

Writing like this, on the other hand, is definitely a bad idea.


01 January 2007

Tony's Award

"The Papageno, Nathan Gunn, was certainly cute enough." -- NYT

Labels: , , ,

29 December 2006

Roundhead roundup

Five newspaper reviews are in for Anna Netrebko's Met Puritani, and the score stands at four postive, one mixed:

"With the smoky colorings and throbbing richness of her sumptuous voice, Ms. Netrebko was an unusually vulnerable Elvira. Bel Canto purists may find fault with her sometimes imprecise execution of coloratura runs and roulades. But I admired her way of treating florid passagework as organic extensions of an arching vocal line, not as a series of fast notes to be nailed with cool accuracy." Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

"She has that bel canto gift of singing like a windswept lark on a bright day, and an acting style combining the natural with the daring." Clive Barnes, New York Post

"Elvira should be beautiful; Netrebko is. Elvira should be so delicate of brain that the shock of being abandoned on her wedding day unhinges her completely. Netrebko raved gorgeously, but she also expertly controlled the whipping spray of notes and the rainbow colors of her voice. She proved herself a master of extreme opera, that volatile mixture of emotional distress and consummate technique. That's what we need divas for." Justin Davidson, Newsday

"And how about the mad scene, one of the greatest stretches in all bel canto opera? From Ms. Netrebko, it was an unshowy tour de force. What I mean is this: It was a tour de force, all right —but it had complete musical and theatrical poise. Ms. Netrebko displayed phenomenal control. And she was pathetic in the original sense — evoking great pity, sadness, and even wonder. This is simply a smart singer." Jay Nordlinger, New York Sun

"She didn't sing a false note, but she struck one. It was as if this charismatic performer, whose stage instincts are usually flawless, was overcompensating for the fact that she simply couldn't conquer all the vocal challenges of one of the most demanding bel canto roles in the repertory." Mike Silverman, Associated Press

Our publisher JJ hears the production on Saturday night; look for his review in Gay City News next week.

Labels: , , , ,

23 October 2006

Half and half

Andy's take on the Tommasini "lamentation" -- The Opera House is Half Full.


23 September 2006

Radio killed the video star

Talking heads Anthony Tommasini and our own little JJ discussed "Opera for the Masses" yesterday afternoon on WNYC's "Soundcheck." The station's website has made available the show for listening or download. (Scroll down to "Opera lives on YouTube" for JJ's portion of the program.)

Labels: , ,

21 September 2006

Illuminata a festa splende Venezia nel lontano

Having recovered from today's five hour dress rehearsal at the Met, La Cieca's spy Barnaba offers this report:

There isn't much point to doing La Gioconda in this day and age if you haven't got a cast who can put it over. Wonder of wonders, the Met has dug its ancient (1967) staging out of the basement and put it back on the stage for which it was designed with a worthy cast of singers and no attempt to update the staging for contemporary tastes that might not approve of this most old-fashioned of grand operas. At the dress rehearsal, though lighting cues were all over the place (is Act IV in day or night? Where does that spotlight aim? And shouldn't there be smoke machines full blast at the end of Act II?), what we got was a real live old-time Gioconda, minimal stand-and-deliver acting, fuzzy cues and all.

All honor first and foremost to Violeta Urmana, whose opulent unstrained soprano gave point to the enterprise and makes one hope the Verdi repertory (Aida, Stiffelio, Forza, Ballo) need not be consigned to the scrap heap just yet. A little unsteady on the floated pianissimi of "Enzo adorato" (I'm sure she'll have that down by later performances), she was passionate in well-supported flood everywhere else in this intense, verismo-foreshadowing role. Olga Borodina had no problems at all singing Laura, her mezzo foil -- if anything, she might hold back a bit to suit her character's more retiring nature -- but she seemed a bit confused at times about how to conceal/revealher identity and how much time she needed to swallow a potion and head for the catafalque. Irina Mishura sang a splendid La Cieca, a bit overdoing the arms-stuck-out-before-her blind lady bit.

The men were not quite of this quality, but nothing to sneeze at. Debutant Zeljko Lucic, another strapping baritone (let me get that in before Tommasini does), sang a thrilling Barnaba, almost too suave to snarl. Aquiles Machado, built like a fireplug and every bit as sexually alluring, attended the same school of acting as Francisco Casanova, but he manages the romantic phrasing of an Italian tenor part with a grainy but attractive sound. (I can't understand why the Met did not give Giordani this role -- I gather he will take it over later in the season.) Paata Buchuladze sang Alvise with a cavernous sound not, methinks, ideal for Italian opera but not inappropriate for this unpleasant figure. Among the many small roles, I especially liked Ricardo Lugo's Monk -- he'd make a good cover for Alvise. And let me not forget Angel Corella, borrowed from ABT, who makes a galactic star turn out of the Dance of the Hours.

Bertrand de Billy conducts with genuine old-fashioned excitement and no condescension to Ponchielli, one of the few composers of his day willing to admit the influence of Verdi and much admired by him in return. True opera lovers can be distinguished by the fact that they love every silly note of this opera, and they will be in pig heaven at this revival.

Labels: , , , ,

02 August 2006

Too darn hot

How hot was it yesterday? So hot that New York Grand Opera canceled their Central Park performance of Tosca, that's how hot it was. Rather ironic, too, because Tosca is specifically set in midsummer in metropolitan Rome, where the climate is comparable to yesterday's Gotham scorcher. Remember that the next time you see a Tosca sweep into the Palazzo Farnese in a long-sleeved velvet dress and ermine cape . . .

In fact, La Cieca is already beginning to shudder at the thought of the Met in the Park performances scheduled for the last week of August. Traditionally that last week before Labor Day is the most miserably hot and humid stretch of the summer in the city, which is why everyone who possibly can get away does get away. That number of course does not include La Cieca, who never goes anywhere and will during that wretched week cling to her outer borough abode as always. Who knows, if this whole global warming thing keeps up, maybe the Met can start doing their Park performances during their dark week in January.

Meanwhile, over at the Times, "Captain Obvious" Tommasini notices that at Bayreuth some members of the audience boo the stage director. And did he remember to mention the covered pit? Or was he too distracted by all those "pasty-skinned and delicate young men in lacy robes?" (Since when has the Times hired Blanche du Bois as their chief critic?)

Labels: , ,

22 March 2006

Tony has died and gone to heaven

Among the extra-musical delights in the New York City Opera's production of Mark Adamo's Lysistrata, definitely front and center is baritone James Bobick, who rocks the role of Kinesias. (He is seen pictured with Jennifer Rivera. Try looking a little up and to the right and you'll see her.)

Mr. Bobick next appears at the Wiener Staatsoper in an eagerly anticipated mounting of Auber's opera Le premier jour de bonheur (Whew, that's a long way to go for a dick joke, but La Cieca thinks it's worth the trip!)

Turning our thoughts from the profane to the sacred (segue!), La Cieca presents a performance of Wagner's Tannhaeuser on Unnatural Acts of Opera.

Labels: ,

06 February 2006

Whatever Happened to the Beautiful Voice?

"I sang Violetta that year, too! Tony Tommasini said it was the best thing I ever did! They never even broadcast it in the United States! They were too busy giving a big build-up to that crap you were turning out." Video

Labels: ,

01 February 2006

Ich suchte...

In her never-ceasing quest to give you, the reader, what you want and need, La Cieca has restored the "Google Search" function on parterre.com.

With this handy gizmo you can search the entire (blog and non-blog) parterre.com site, or, years from now when you've learned all you can learn from La Cieca, you can also search the entire web -- and insiders now whisper that this "web" is indeed world-wide in its reach. You can find the Google Search in the right-hand navigation column.

Go ahead! give it a whirl with, oh, I don't know, say, strapping Tommasini as the search terms. You'll have hours of safe, clean fun!


08 January 2006

And one for Mahler!

A double-header of Tony Tommasini delights this weekend in the Times. On Sunday, TT puts on his Captain Obvious hat to ask the musical question, "is it possible that [Nathan] Gunn's appearance has drawn attention away from his fine vocal artistry?" You'll find that story right next to the photograph of Gunn with his shirt off.

The day before, an interview with Elaine Stritch in which the veteran Broadway diva tells about her date with James Levine. (Yes, you read that right.) Jimmy, you see, took La Stritch to hear Barbara Cook at the Carlyle; Tony concludes that "this story gives a poignant glimpse into Mr. Levine's private life." Well, yes, actually: in fact, that scenario is just about the gayest thing La Cieca can imagine -- with the possible exception of Ricky Martin reading Valley of the Dolls aloud while getting fistfucked.

Labels: , , , , ,

20 December 2005

Preaching to the choir

Sometimes La Cieca can just lie back and let Tony and the Times do all the work.


10 October 2005

Thank you, Sir, may i have another, Sir?

Cher public, those of you who have written to La Cieca wondering at the frequency Anthony Tommasini uses the word "strapping" to describe opera singers of the male persuasion -- well, wonder no more. According to the New York Times archives, Tony has flogged his favorite modifer no fewer than 44 times in the past decade. In one of those instances, admittedly, the "S" word is used literally, something about how Shirley Verrett was punished as a child (!!!) But the other 43 uses all referred to the physical endowments of the NYT critic's favorite flavors of singer: tenors, baritones, and basses. Each and every one of those bad boys got a good "strapping" from Tautological Tony.

A few of La Cieca's recent favorites:

"Still, the strapping bass Ethan Herschenfeld made an impact in the role" October 8, 2005

"[Jon Villars] brought many splendid qualities to his performance: a clarion voice; a strapping presence; youthful energy; solid musicianship" September 27, 2005

"Lorenzo Pisoni commanded the stage as a strapping Demetrius" March 19, 2005

"The hardy baritone Kyle Pfortmiller makes a strapping Maximilian" March 10, 2005

"Mr. Gunn, an intelligent and elegant singer, is so strapping, handsome and hunky [Dude! Trifecta! -- LC] that stage directors search for reasons to get whatever character he is playing to go bare-chested . . . . Surely, a good Idomeneo must convey authority and dignity, and pull off mood swings between defiance and despair. But need he be strapping and sexy?" December 4, 2004

"The strapping, robust-voiced bass-baritone John Relyea" December 4, 2004 [A date that will live in history as "the day of three strappings!" -- LC]

"Figaro, the strapping, robust-voiced bass-baritone David Pittsinger" October 26, 2004

"the strapping young Russian baritone Rodion Pogossov" October 11, 2004

"The baritone Nathan Gunn brought his robust voice and strapping physique to the role of Guglielmo. " August 12, 2004

"the strapping tenor Brandon Jovanovich as Boconnion" August 4, 2004

"a strapping Westphalian youth" May 7, 2004

"tall, strapping and handsome Swedish baritone" April 20, 2004

"A supremely intelligent artist and a strapping stage presence, Mr. Hampson has long been aware, some would say overly so, of his own attractiveness." March 3, 2004

"And the robust bass João Fernandes made a strapping Pluto." February 7, 2004

"The strapping and robust baritone Christopher Schaldenbrand" January 5, 2004

"Schoenberg's Naked Virgins . . . cavort with strapping, scantily clad young men during the orgy scene before the Golden Calf." December 19, 2003

Labels: , ,

21 September 2005

Be brutal, be brutal!

"Tell me, Roberto, does this costume make my manly butt look big?" Speaking of which, has Anthony Tommasini started writing under an assumed name?

Labels: ,

01 August 2005

Darling, je vous aime beaucoup, aber...

La Cieca has sneered quite a bit at Anthony Tommasini lately for his slipshod coverage of the Met's archives and a really repellent obituary of Piero Cappuccilli. But it's not like Tony is alone in his bumbling. This morning's Newsday included a wire-service obit of legendary cabaret diseuse The Incomparable Hildegarde, who departed this world last week at the age of 99. But Newsday illustrated the piece with the following file photo:

Now, obviously this is a headshot of Hildegard Behrens, who just as obviously is alive and well. Given that the photo dated 1998, you have to wonder how a copy editor thought it was supposed to represent a 90 year old woman. (Both Hildegarde and Hildegard did a certain amount of maintenance along the way -- so La Cieca hears -- but, honestly! La Cieca thinks this photo of Behrens -- born 1937 -- looks damn good for a woman of 60!)

Well, anyweg, the passing of (T. I.) Hildegarde reminds La Cieca of a couple of stories (what doesn't?), so here goes. Did you know that Hildegarde was the baptismal sponsor when Jacqueline Susann converted to Catholicism? No, really! This happened back in the late 1950s at The Church of St. Paul the Apostle, a couple of blocks south of what was to become Lincoln Center. And after Jackie's baptism, the two ladies repaired to the Plaza for cocktails; reportedly La Susann raised her Martini and toasted, "Well, here's to Jesus!"

The other story is a little less elaborate, but oddly ironic in this context. Back during the period of La Behren's rocky vocalism at the Met around 1990, some of the disgruntled Wagnerians started calling her "The Intolerable Hildegard." But I'm sure that even the worst of her detractors are happy to know that she is still among the living.

In other news, Hildegard von Bingen is still dead.

Oh, ya know, it just occurred to La Cieca that (T. I.) Hildegarde and Hildegard (B.), besides their vocal accomplishments, have something else in common; but I will leave it to you readers to work that out. Hey, who knows, maybe it's true about Hildegard (v. B.) too -- though you didn't hear it from me!


31 July 2005

Strapping, brawny corrections

This week it seems Tony Tommasini can't do anything right. First he cooed over Renee Fleming's impossibly arch performance at a Mostly Mozart concert. Well, subjectivity and all that; still, you have to wonder where bad taste ends and starfucking begins. Then, in this morning's paper, ironically in a piece about the Met's archives, Tony misstates a widely-known and easily checkable fact. No, Maria Jeritza did not create the role of Turandot at the La Scala premiere; that would be Rosa Raisa. (As everyone knows, Arturo Toscanini fired Jeritza from that first production when he caught her flushing a copy of the Q'uran down a toilet.)

Labels: ,

21 July 2005

Tony fumbles, yet again

Piero Cappuccilli, considered one of the finest Italian baritones of his generation, lies in an advanced state of putrefaction today. He died July 12, but for reasons best known to Anthony Tommasini of the Times, that passing was not noted until today, i.e., nine days after the fact. Perhaps if Cappuccilli had achieved "international stardom" (which apparently consists of something more elusive than singing the great roles of the Italian baritone repertoire in every great opera house of the world for over 30 years), his obituary might have appeared a little more quickly. Then again, with a new production of Death in Venice about to open at Glimmerglass, Tony might have been too busy dreaming up adjectives to describe the dancer playing Tadzio ("buff?" "sleek?" "lithe?" "humpy?")

Labels: ,