July 2001: Which energetic divette is shopping around for a new record label as her current lucrative/exclusive contract draws to an end?

"Amazing" Grace Bumbry returns to rock New York in February of 2002 when she sings arias from Don Carlo, Carmen and Porgy and Bess with the Brooklyn Symphony.

In parterre box #46, currently on sale: "The Impresarios," "Der Fledermausmann," A Boy and his Diva, Baz Luhrmann and much much more.

Among the more titillating tidbits issuing from the controversial "Pavarotti 40th Anniversary Gala" in Modena last month: Angela Gheorghiu is looking for new management, Roberto Alagna is looking for a divorce lawyer, and one or both of them are looking for a recording contract from Decca. I'm not claiming all this is true, of course, but people are talking, loud. The gala's "Libiamo" encore (which, my dears, is a fucking zoo) may be seen online


A faithful reader writes, "
Your compatriot, Susan Graham, just scored a memorable success in Mignon in Toulouse. The production which I saw on 27 and 29 April, was excellent and Ms Graham sang the title role brilliantly. All the principals had been struck down with various flu/throat bugs around the time of the premiere and by the time I saw it everyone had recovered except the tenor playing Wilhelm Meister - Jonas Kaufmann. Almost impossible to find a replacement who had sung the role, the management engaged the Canadian tenor Benjamin Butterfield who had previously sung part of the role in concert. He stepped into the breech by singing the role from the stage box while Mr Kaufmann who looked every inch the romantic hero acted on the stage. It was a tribute to all the cast that this unusual arrangement did not for a moment detract from the success of the performance. Mr Butterfield was fantastic. Ms Graham - oh that she would consider recording the role - was magnificent. Annick Massis threw off Philine's coloratura with aplomb."

Diva Dementia Alert: rumor has it that the Met's 2002-2003 season will include Catherine Malfitano's Kundry and Dame Gwyneth Jones's Klytemnestra. Other casting soupcons through 2005 include: The Alagnas in revivals of Faust and Werther; Jose Cura as Samson, Cavaradossi, and Dick Johnson; a new Rodelinda with Renee Fleming and David Daniels; Deborah Polaski as the Faerberin; Ruth Ann Swenson as Adele; and Lombardi with Marina Mescheriakova, Marcello Giordani and Sam Ramey.

Do you think maybe Anthony Tommasini might change his mind about how "drawn out" Lulu is if he had some understanding about what is going on in the opera? In his

review in the New York Times, Tommasini manages to misquote (or misunderstand) the key textual phrase of "Lulu's Lied," demonstrating that he really doesn't get what the opera is about.

He writes: "The story is a sprawling tale of an alluring young actress and dancer in late 19th-century Germany whose only power in a patriarchal society is her desirability to men. 'I have never pretended to be anything but what men see in me,' she says, in a moment of chilling self-awareness."

Well, no. At this point in the opera Dr. Schön has accused Lulu of blatant adultery and has blamed her for entrapping him into marriage through her complicity in her second husband's suicide. And Lulu cooly defends her actions, saying, "If people kill themselves over me, that does not change what I am." She then with chilling frankness dissects her husband's hypocrisy: "You know very well why you took me as your wife, just as I know why I accepted you as my husband. You married me to deceive your friends, but you could hardly expect to deceive yourself the same way."

And then comes the line Tommasini gets wrong: "I have never tried to appear to be anything else besides what one sees; and no one has ever mistaken me for anything besides what I am." Essentially, then, there is no particular "self-awareness" here, but rather a declaration of principle: "I am what I am, and it's not my responsiblity to be anything else." Lulu's self-awareness is only that she does not consciously deceive anyone; if they misinterpet her, that's their problem, not hers.

There is actually a kind of primitive feminist idea here: women actually are more than projections of men's desires and prejudices, they are people, you know, just like you and me. For Tommasini to think that Lulu consciously is trying to be "what men see in me" is a really shocking misinterpretation of this opera. She is in fact doing just the opposite, being what she is without any regard to what construction others may place on her actions. In fact, Tommasini's (and many other male critics') inability to "get" Lulu may demonstrate that the idea of "woman as person" is still pretty radical.

La Cieca hears that Jane Eaglen has been bought out of her contract for Isolde at Covent Garden next season. It seems Bernard Haitink protested her in the wake of her recent "disastrous" Turandot there. Gaby Schnaut is reportedly to jump into the Wagner performances.

Which newly-appointed intendant is reaping harsh criticism for her hiring practices -- which include throwing $60,000 contracts at her Eurotrash regisseur/bedmate?

The Met's Nicholas Hynter production of Falstaff (announced to open March 21, 2002) has been scuttled in favor of sprucing up the creaky Franco Zeffirelli mise-en-scene yet one more time. (More on the Met's 2001-2002 season here.)

Vaulting ambition (or just plain greed) seems to have wrecked The Alagnas' planned Rondine with Opera Orchestra of New York. A source close to OONY reports that after approaching the company with the project, the couple's demands became "outrageous," particularly in the matter of Angela Gheorghiu's cachet, which we are told far outdistanced the highest fee ever paid by OONY. But, fortunately, Eve Queler has landed on her feet with Adriana Lecouvreur, to star Aprile Millo, Dolora Zajick and Marcello Giordani. La Millo took a break from the merriment at Mme. Vera Galupe-Borszkh's Comeback Soiree last Wednesday night to inform La Cieca that she plans to study the role of Adriana intensively this summer at the knee of Magda Olivero. Further offerings of the concert company next season include Marino Faliero and La battaglia di Legnano (with Francisco Casanova instead of Placido Domingo, phooey!)

La Cieca enjoyed a festive evening of music and merriment last Saturday night as a guest of the New York Chamber Opera at a fundraising gala. Divas Millo and Barbara Dever headed the bill along with a flock of NYCHOP's company of talented singers. The program was in the capable hands of Lucy Arner, music director of the company. Fuller details on the gala are forthcoming on our overnight review page, but for the moment, La Cieca will just warn you to save the date for the weekends of April 28 and May 5, when the company will present Mozart's youthful opera Mitridate, re di Ponto. For more information, email the company here.

"Congratulations to James Jorden and parterre box for proving that frankness and spunk still have a place in operatic criticism," says Astrid Varnay in an email received yesterday. The veteran hochdramatische further expressed her pleasure with our review of her superb autobiography 55 Years in Five Acts.

That other legend Anja Silja, star of the shattering performance of The Makropulos Case heard earlier this month at BAM, talks to parterre box in an exclusive interview in issue #45, now on sale. The queer opera zine also features an in-depth chat with up-and-coming countertenor David Walker, a rant from Dawn Fatale about Graham Vick and other household pests, operatic mad libs, and the usual tangle of gossip, news and reviews. Subcribe now and don't miss a word!

Too good to be true: you may have heard about a study being done at the University of Toronto regarding "the effects of semen on human speech." Supposedly they're paying male volunteers $145 each to receive fellatio. Yes, it's an urban legend.

Which dignified diva has elected to offset her lowered vocal range with a lifted face?

Failing either to wake up or to smell the coffee, Renee Fleming has booked yet another appearance in the Kaplan Penthouse, scene of her disastrous "musicale" earlier this year. She is joined by piano cutie Jean-Yves Thibaudet for the duo recital. It's for a good cause,

Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS, but why sing in a venue that has clearly already been shown to be built over an Indian burial mound?

Our editor “emerged from retirement” last week to produce La traviata (in capsule form) at the Manhattan supper club La Belle Epoque. Says James, “It was like trying cocaine again after being clean for five years. You suddenly remember why you quit in the first place: it’s just too much fun.” The company included longtime Friend of Parterre Box Dorothy Bishop as Violetta, the exciting young tenor Marc Heller as Alfredo and an ailing but gallant Troy Gremillion as Germont. Amy Pummill made her operatic debut as Annina (and several other roles) and the musical coordination was in the sure and steady hands of Eugene Cline. Spotted in the audience: Ken Benson, Aprile Millo, Ira Siff (who will play this venue beginning March 7 as Mme. Vera Galupe-Borszkh sings her “First Annual Comeback Soirées”), conductor Lucy Arner, Ed Rosen and a host of other dear, dear friends. Next up for “parterre productions?” La Cieca would like to hear your suggestions!

Road trip alert! Pittsburgh Opera promises in November of 2001 a queen's dream of a Salome: Carol Vaness, Dame Gwyneth Jones, Tom Fox, Gary Lakes, and John Mauceri conducting, in Sir Peter Hall's production. No word yet if Carol is going to take it all off; at last glimpse she certainly looked buff enough to dare to bare.

An inside source informs La Cieca that Lauren Flanigan is no longer participating in New York City Opera's "Divas Get Down" benefit cabaret at Studio 54. The invitation for the ultra-pricey March 19 event now promises Elizabeth Futral, Amy Burton and Marquita Lister -- not to mention the Peter Duchin orchestra! Then, the first two Mondays in May, Catherine Malfitano shows us the way to the next whiskey bar (i.e., Joe's Pub), where she will belt out an eclectic program including Weill, Bolcom and Arlen.

The New York Observer takes a look at "

The Parterre Posse."

Overheard: "She's so marvelous, this Anne Midgette. She's like a young Cori Ellison!"

La Cieca's nomination for worst idea of the new millenium: an operatic adaptation of The Women by Wendy Wasserstein and Deborah Drattell. Oh, what the hall, that's the worst idea of the last millenium as well! What might save this trainwreck-in-the-making is a truly starry cast, say Renee Fleming (Mary Haines), Ruth Ann Swenson (Crystal Allen), Karita Mattila (Sylvia Fowler), Renata Scotto (Countess DeLave), Susan Graham (Miriam Aarons), Cheryl Studer (Edith Potter), Barbara Bonney (Peggy Day), Heidi Grant Murphy (Little Mary), Wendy White (Lucy), Frederica von Stade (Mrs. Moorehead), Olga Borodina (Princess Tamara), Cecilia Bartoli (Olga the Manicurist), Natalie Dessay ("Our New One-Piece Lace Foundation Garment") and Manuela Hoelterhoff in the speaking role of "Dolly Dupuyster." The production by Francesca Zambello, of course, and conducted by Eve Queler. The "Fashion Show" sequence should be staged by Issac Mizrahi.

And here's even more gossip from La Cieca!