June 13: Professional (or semi-professional) naysayers out there are cluck-cluck-clucking at the "failure" of Baz Luhrmann's production of La boheme, which will shutter on June 29 after a six-month run at the Broadway Theater. A few are even going so far as to call the run "flop" or "disaster," with a strong undertone of "I told you so."

To put the "bomb" of the Broadway Boheme in perspective, La Cieca suggests we do a little math. You may get out your calculators now.

The Broadway Boheme will run a total of 240 performances in New York in the six months from the first preview on November 29, 2002 to the closing date of June 29.

By contrast, the Met's "Zeffirelli" Boheme has been performed 276 times the more than two decades since its premiere - a figure Baz's show would have matched with only a month's longer run.

Given that the seating capacity of the Broadway Theater is a maximum of about 1,600 (a good deal less than half that of the Met), a conservative estimate of the total attendance for the Broadway Boheme would be around 300,000.

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300,000 people would fill the Met, score desks and all, 75 times over.

More people saw La boheme on Broadway in the past six months than have seen La boheme at the Met since Roberto Alagna's debut (1995).

Think of it: 300,000 people spent $20 million to hear Boheme in a Broadway theater -- in a season when the same opera was playing in both the city's major opera houses, and in a season plagued with blizzards, an orchestra strike, and a terrorism scare. That's an astonishing accomplishment!

La Cieca thinks the strongest lesson to be learned from the Broadway Boheme is that there is an enormous untapped audience out there, ready to go to the opera house as soon as someone figures out how to market the art to them.

Or are the machers over at Lincoln Center too busy infighting to pay any attention to audience development?

  A reliable source at one of the Lincoln Center constituents reports that Live from Lincoln Center has just cancelled telecasts of both the New York City Opera's Madama Butterfly and the opening night of the New York Philharmonic. Curious... since both these organizations have recently indicated a desire to exit Lincoln Center. La Cieca wonders: has the "punishment phase" begun? (You will not be surprised to hear that the LFLC dates will now be given over to pledge-drive programs featuring non-classical music.)

Another rumor making the rounds at Lincoln Center is that LFLC is in negotiation with Beverly Sills to once again take over hosting duties for Met telecasts. In another of those "coincidence?" moments, we are told that Sills earmarked a hefty chunk of the $3 million raised at her recent retirement gala for the Met's new production fund. Some other constituents of Lincoln Center, outraged at what they perceived as the Met's "gobbling up of even more money and power," refused to attend Sills' shindig. And over at NYCO, some people are complaining about a sharp pain between the shoulder blades...

Meanwhile, yet another source (of even greater reliability) tells La Cieca that post-production continues on what may be the last two Met telecasts ever, Meistersinger and Ariadne auf Naxos. Look for the Strauss to show up in the PBS lineup sometime in the next year, but don't hold your breath for the Wagner. Apparently PBS detests any show that runs over three hours, so Meistersinger may never see the light of day.

June 6: No fits, no fights, no feuds and no egos: diva Renee Fleming and maestro Valery Gergiev (right) were all smiles backstage following a triumphant gala concert at the famed Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. The duo are slated to open the fall season at New York's Metropolitan Opera with La Traviata.

On a slightly more serious note, La Cieca is delighted to announce that [Working Title] Opera will perform Don Giovanni June 11, 2003 at La Belle Epoque in NYC. For more information, phone 212-254-6436.

May 30: Announcing a new role for Sam Ramey, that of father. Samuel Guy Ramey was born May 27 at 5:47 a.m., weighing 7 pounds 15 ounces. Mother Lindsey and baby are reported just fine.

May 15: If you're attending the Kirov Opera's appearances at the Metropolitan Opera this July, be sure to scope out the Just Plain Grand Tier, from which (we are told) the name of a certain reneging gazillionaire will be effaced.

May 4: Say what you will about Renaaay, she's news. In the three days since La Cieca posted MP3 clips from the "Houston Traviata," parterre.com has logged almost 18,000 hits -- by far the busiest weekend in the history of the site. Traffic was so heavy, in fact, that we have had to take the clips down from the site rather than exceed our server quota for the month. If you missed hearing the clips, drop an email to parterrebox@aol.com and we'll try to hook you up with a download site.

A truly lovely evening at La Belle Epoque last Wednesday night with Vera Galupe-Borszkh -- in superb voice -- doing a program of favorite repertoire from Trovatore to "Erlkoenig" with a couple of new surprises thrown in. The high point of the eclectic recital was the first encore, a classic Lied done absolutely straight with the quiet concentration and radiant devotion for which Madame is so justly celebrated. Of course there are plenty of raucous moments as well, plus some topical quips on subjects ranging from The Three Tenors to The Dixie Chicks.

Glimpsed among the throng were Anna Moffo, Paul Plishka and Eve Queler. La Cieca chatted briefly with F. Paul Driscoll who sadly informed La Cieca that his popular Wednesday night opera program on WNYE (Manhattan Cable's Channel 25) may not continue past the fall, as funds for new programming are not available. The show is now in repeats, which means you have a second chance to catch some of these rare and unusual European operatic videos as hosted by F. Paul.

Vera's show plays one more night, May 7. Get on the phone right now to La Belle Epoque, 212-254-6436!

Speaking of Maestra Queler, La Cieca hears that OONY's upcoming season is not set in stone: expect at least one change of repertoire in 2003-2004. Our source insists that Aprile Millo is still on the roster, though not for La Gioconda. Instead, the soprano will say "hello" to a brand-new Puccini role.

April 12: Hasty retraction notwithstanding, Renee Fleming may have been right in the first place. It appears that nobody much goes to Houston, neither audiences nor singers. Latest no-show is Marcello Giordani, who just canceled Des Grieux in Manon there. Rumor has it that Scott Piper (Radames in the Franco Zeffirelli Aida DVD) is jumping into the part opposite Elizabeth Futral.

April 10: Which superstar conductor made a fool of himself when he arrived almost a half hour late for his own dress rehearsal, reeking of day-old sweat and vodka? Maestro discovered the runthrough was already in progress, led by a less celebrated but more punctual colleague. Then, only minutes after he took over the baton, the tardy maestro turned in bewilderment to the concert master and muttered "Where are we?"

Seems like the Met might be taking that title "La traviata" a little too literally. They just lost yet another Violetta, Elena Kelessidi, who was reportedly fired yesterday, only a week before her first scheduled performance of the Verdi heroine here. Meanwhile, down in Houston, lowered expectations seem to be the order of the day. In a story today from the Associated Press, Renee Fleming "jokingly" (ahem!) told interviewer Ronald Blum "I don't want anybody to come [to my first Violetta]. That's why I'm doing it in Houston."  

April 2: First Deborah Voigt refused to to make eye contact with Natalie Dessay during the curtain calls for Ariadne auf Naxos the other night. Then Miss Dessay turned up her nose at Ms. Voigt and flounced off the stage. Moments later, Maestro James Levine tried to play peacemaker, pulling the divas' hands together, but they were having none of it. With a kick of her brocade train, la Voigt swept majestically behind the great gold curtain, pausing only long enough to fling a dagger-sharp glance at her coloratura colleague.

It's all an act, of course! The famously friendly Voigt and Dessay are simply extending into the curtain calls their onstage characters of haughty prima donna and scheming soubrette. So veristic was this bit of postlude improvisation, though, that at least one onlooker feared the onset of a furious feud between the two singers.

"No diva drama here," Ms. Voigt laughed late Tuesday night. "Natalie and I have tremendous respect for one another. She makes me want to sing my best because she's so damn good! I am even now trying to think of other projects for us!" The dramatic soprano then adds, "Of course, now and then I fantasize about being that petite and acrobatic, with high notes for days, and singing such a delicious role. But then I remember, I get to sing Isolde and I get over it!"

March 27: This tale of duplicity may leave you seeing double! It seems that a European cult diva of a certain age was complaining to her American manager that she was never invited to sing in the United States. The manager, a gentleman with a lifetime of knowledge of diva behavior, went to work and convinced a major American opera company to build its 2004 season around a new production of one of the diva's bel canto specialities.

But then, the manager's higher-ups (let's call them the Dynamic Duo), indulged in a little double-dealing or rather double-booking. They committed the diva to a prestigious Italian world premiere simultaneous with the American gig. The Duo then sent the manager to break the news to the diva of the change in schedule. But what the manager told the diva was more to the effect of: "If you walk out on this contract, it will sound the death knell of your American career." When the Duo heard about this bit of hard truth-telling, they fired the manager and ordered him escorted from the building by a security guard!

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