Archive for December, 2005

Pass that peace pipe!

Posted in Uncategorized on December 29, 2005 by lacieca

All right, class. Take a careful look at the costume sketch below. It’s for a major character in a standard repertory opera. (In other words, nobody is doing Natoma.) Look carefully at the sketch, and when you think you know who the character is, scroll down to find out the answer.


Think you know who this character is? All right then, scroll down the page….

keep scrolling….

scroll yet some more…

and once again…

The character depicted is . . . Erda in Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Yes, that right, the Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner. It’s a new production of the tetralogy for Washington National Opera, directed by Francesca Zambello. According to a press release from the WNO, this is to be an “American Ring,” a concept explicated by Zambello thus: “the designers and I are using American history, mythology, iconography, and landscape to set the operas. We are creating a world in some ways familiar to our audience but also one that will feel very mythic as we look to our country’s rich imagery.”

Wotan (Robert Hale) is depicted in another of designer Michael Yeargan‘s sketches in a dapper frock coat, a la Horace Tabor. And so, you are surely asking yourself, how do the Niblelungs fit into this scheme. La Cieca is glad you asked.

OH NO THEY DIDN’T! Das Rheingold opens in March, and we’ll see how this goes from there.

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One morning she visited him in a dream

Posted in diva on December 29, 2005 by lacieca

“She had awakened desire in him, and he had once approached the house of Thais. But he stopped on the threshold of the courtesan’s house, partly restrained by the natural timidity of extreme youth– he was then but fifteen years old– and partly by the fear of being refused on account of his want of money, for his parents took care that he should commit no great extravagances. God, in His mercy, had used these two means to prevent him from committing a great sin.”

That’s Anatole France’s take on the story, but this week on Unnatural Acts of Opera we’ll hear a different account, Jules Massenet’s opera Thais. It’s the classic 1959 Radio France version, starring Andree Esposito and Robert Massard. For those of you who have the desire (and spare time) to compare the two treatments of the story, the text of France’s novel is online. (Though just between you and La Cieca, it’s so much prettier in French! “Elle avait allumé le désir dans ses veines et il s’était une fois approché de la maison de Thaïs. Mais il avait été arrêté au seuil de la courtisane par la timidité naturelle à l’extrême jeunesse (il avait alors quinze ans), et par la peur de se voir repoussé, faute d’argent, car ses parents veillaient à ce qu’il ne pût faire de grandes dépenses. Dieu, dans sa miséricorde, avait pris ces deux moyens pour le sauver d’un grand crime.”)

Oh, and wait until you hear what Mary Garden did to a diva who dared poach her roles! Unnatural Acts of Opera.

Unnatural Downloads of Opera

Posted in Uncategorized on December 27, 2005 by lacieca

Middle aged blues

Posted in bel canto, blind, damrau, gelb, gheorghiu, met, netrebko on December 26, 2005 by lacieca

Peter Gelb‘s new broom continues to sweep at the Met. Perhaps to make room for the Gheorghiu/Netrebko/Damrau generation, the incoming General Manager is buying out contracts. Two Met artists in particular are targeted, and, oddly enough, these two ladies have quite a bit in common. Both are 40-something light lyric sopranos, and they have three names (each, La Cieca means.) Oh, and did we mention the red hair?


In the latest shipment from Berkshire, La Cieca has found a dazzler of a DVD: Lucrezia Borgia (Encore DVD 2087) from Milan, 2003, starring Mariella Devia, Marcello Alvarez, Daniela Barcellona and (Encore DVD 2087) Michele Pertusi. Renato Palumbo is the conductor. Excellent video of the stylish traditional production, and superb sound — which is a particular plus since all the leads are in excellent voice. (This is the same staging that was so famously booed when Renaay appeared in it, and La Cieca has a better idea now why that demonstration was so vehement. Devia’s Donizetti is elegance itself, with a pure line and imaginative but always idiomatic ornamentation. This, obviously, is the way the Milanese want to hear bel canto.) Look for the soundtrack to this production on “Unnatural Acts of Opera” within the next few weeks.

Sacred monsters!

Posted in jones, met on December 23, 2005 by lacieca

Too late, I’m afraid, for a holiday gift, but what looks to be the must-have CD of the season has just become available. It’s a “new” Elektra, — actually a release of a live 1990 performance with the Valhalla-level pairing of Dame Gwyneth Jones and Leonie Rysanek as daughter and mother. (This is of course the same team that La Cieca has raved about incessantly for a decade now, whether in their 1995 Met or 1991 Orange performances.) This Claves release, in what appears to be superb sound, is from a staged performance of the opera at Grand Théâtre, Geneva, 10 March 1990, with Jeffrey Tate conducing the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Thus far La Cieca has had no luck in finding this release her on our shores, but several European websites offer it for mail order. Tantalizing sound snippets of Rysanek and Jones confirm that both divas are in 100% demented form, and the first published English-language review of the release is quite simply a rave:

“Sacred monsters, be praised! Some time ago I gave up hope of ever hearing an Elektra with these singers on disc, having chalked it up as yet another missed opportunity due to the short-sightedness of record companies. But Claves in publishing this Radio Suisse Romande recording of a live performance has arguably achieved better results than any studio recording with this cast might have produced. My reasoning is simple – both Dame Gwyneth and Leonie Rysanek gave of their best when live, feeding like voracious lionesses on the impulse of the moment …. [Dame Gwyneth] gets absolutely to the core of the character and becomes its total embodiment – and in a role such as this vocal beauty to the exclusion of all else would be to the ruin of the work …. I strongly urge you to put any preconceptions aside – this is singing of power (and not just in the decibel sense, that she also was capable of) drive, integrity, logicality and one of the most gripping interpretations I can recall from her. And the voice: I defy you tell me seriously that it’s not in superb shape and absolutely 100% up to the task. The Recognition scene blisters with white-hot intensity from first note to last, but so too does the whole role in this gloriously persuasive assumption. Leonie Rysanek, also heard here as another age-defying soprano – is one of the few who actually sings the fearsome role of Clytemnestra, as opposed to barking it like so many before her.” (Evan Dickerson, Musicweb International)

So, who can hook me up with this recording here in the US?

An American Thorax

Posted in barihunk, gay gay gay gay gay, gcn on December 23, 2005 by lacieca

“It’s not like there’s anyone who wants new operas to fail. In fact, audiences, critics, and opera companies alike have huge stakes in seeing new works succeed. And goodness knows the Metropolitan Opera, like any reputable opera company, has a responsibility to present recent compositions. However, reviews are not for good intentions; I have to write about results.” Our editor JJ reviews the Met’s recent world premiere An American Tragedy (starring Nathan “Headlights” Gunn) in Gay City News. Just the thing to read as you listen to the Toll House Cookie/Metropolitan Opera Radio Network Broadcast tomorrow afternoon.

Oh, and when JJ says, “increasingly unflattering,” this is what he means:


“I’m supposed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, but I think I look more like Tugboat Annie.”

Ad hoc

Posted in Uncategorized on December 22, 2005 by lacieca

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