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reviews from parterre box
the queer opera zine

reviews from Gay City News

Rigged out in everything from black tie and ball gowns to Southwestern squash-blossom splendor to raggedy biker chic, the celebrants put on the traditional extravagant tailgate party – hundreds of folding tables laid out sumptuously, complete with fine silver and china, multi-course meals, and (but of course) plenty of fine wine. Simply put, it made any other regional opening night look like a hoedown at the Shuck-o-rama in Possum Bend. Santa Fe Opera 2002

Musically, things were not satisfying. Much of the blame rests with Giuseppe Sinopoli’s energetic, forceful, yet ultimately dull conducting. For all the attention to coloration and rhythm, there seemed to be little concern with the emotional contours of the piece. While, one might argue that this was in keeping with Flimm’s detached concept, there is more to Wagner’s orchestral writing than sixteen hours of dispassionate play-by-play commentary. from issue 44

Carsen has dispensed with this opera’s customary exotic, fairy-tale trappings to focus instead on the character of the Empress and the source of her great anguish and torment. In doing so, he fashioned an entirely new plot for the opera that emphasized the Freudian overtones in the libretto without changing a word of the text. from issue 43

Upshaw's voice sounds perfect for the role, slightly reedy yet clear all the way down, much like the solo oboe that announces Mélisande's leitmotif in the first scene. It's the voice of a woman who knows what she wants at any given moment, but has no sense of what she did yesterday or where she'll be tomorrow; directionless, to be sure, but never vague, no more so than Upshaw's bracing precision of pitch and rhythm....Wafting about the stage in her "aesthetic" gowns and streaming auburn tresses, Upshaw recalled Ellen Terry as painted by Burne-Jones.

from issue 41

Heard in conjunction with her much-debated Marschallin last month, the two events featuring Renée Fleming provided an unusual chance to evaluate a singer’s voice and artistry in depth. Her instrument is a marvelous one, full and luscious, yet flexible and agile. Why then must she squander this gift by performing with such meretricious style? She approaches everything like a sentimental bluesy ballad, mauling the music with the hootchy-kootchy stylings of a second-rate lounge singer. Her stage demeanor is that of a fourth Designing Woman, reacting to everything with a disengaged pout or a smug smirk.

from issue 40

What really impressed me about Domingo's interpretation on this occasion was its unbridled exploration of Otello's shadow side. From the very beginning, it was apparent that the Moor had been traumatized and conflicted by years of oppression, slavery, deceit and prejudice. He appeared uncomfortable, even tormented by his happy estate. Otello's too-easy acceptance of Iago's accusations seemed fueled by an easily aroused death instinct, with the hero becoming a gleeful participant in his own destruction. One sensed the character's unspoken longing for oblivion. This interpretative chiaroscuro imbued the death scene with an emotional depth that was overwhelming.

from issue 39

Questioning the presence of life and death could be a full time occupation in Bayreuth. With opera queens in from all over the world, you'd think the locals would try to put a little more "Fest" into the Festspiele. Like, couldn't the leather club from Nuremburg rent a house here and host a "Gayreuther Fistspiele?" Now, it is true that homos were ubiquitous around the Festspielhaus, but in such tight little cliques and severe attitudes as to render them unapproachable. from issue 38

The first signs of trouble greeted us on our arrival at the theater: the orchestra and soloists could clearly be heard frantically rehearsing right up until the house opened. Then, the curtain was held for ten minutesan unheard of breach of German punctuality. After confused whispers grew to a dull roar in the darkened auditorium, Intendant Peter Jonas walked onstage to announce that Gabriele Schnaut was indisposed but willing to sing the title role.

from issue 37

This being a chamber opera, the curtain rose, not on the ghosts of French aristocrats proclaiming their boredom through tasteful wisps of tone-clusters, but on a hotel electrician in drag, singing a tango in praise of cocksucking. from issue 35


While still possessing an opulent, richly textured instrument, Aprile Millo has traded some vocal gold for baser metals. There was newfound heft and power to be savored in forte passages but her capacity to sing high pianissimi seems to be either limited or entirely disabled. But the basic vocal package remains the same: warm, feminine tone allied with a thorough schooling in the art of authentic Italianate style. What a joy to hear her easy command of portamento, legato, accento and other formerly basic elements of the performance tradition in this role! from issue 34



The trendies were out in full force: four button suits and scaffold-like eyewear were de rigeur. The crowd yammered ecstatically in multiple languages about the thrill of attending a Peter Sellars production. Meanwhile, a coterie of Salzburg traditionalists grimly huddled in the corner recognizing that their hope that Peter Sellars and the festival director, Gerard Mortier, would be dragged off to hell a la Don Giovanni was looking increasingly remote.

from issue 33



If hot young countertenors are indeed growing on trees these days, I think we can say that a particularly luscious fruit has just fallen into our laps in the person of one Lawrence Zazzo, the evening's compulsive, haughty blond Jason. With round, evenly produced tone and keen dynamic shading, Mr. Zazzo filled Cavalli's vocal lines as voluptuously as he did the snug-fitting seat of his gold lamé jeans.  from issue 32



Speaking of directorial atrocities, I wish to preface my comments about the Robert Wilson staging of Lohengrin by stating that I pay far too much money for my opera tickets to have any investment in hating a production before I see it. I genuinely hoped it would be a fantastic experience. But it wasn't. It was simply a loathsome variation on the Emperor's New Clothes fable. Fortunately, the majority of the audience didn't buy it and responded to Wilson's curtain call with intense booing. And make no mistake about it: I am talking about hundreds of Met patrons, not a few "organized" cranks.

from issue 31



Catherine Malfitano and company left crisco stains all over the Met stage last night. It's about time somebody did. With Jessye Norman as Emilia Marty, the Met's Makropulos Case production was elegantly dead on arrival; now that Catherine Malfitano has claimed the part, it has sprung carnally to life. from issue 30