Earring Magic Ben

Oh, it’s been a lot of years since La Cieca’s days in the campy cabal. How long, you ask? So long that she plumb forgot the moment where Lohengrin hands Elsa the Cockring of Remembrance.

Dies Horn soll in Gefahr ihm Hilfe schenken,
in wildem Kampf dies Schwert ihm Sieg verleiht;
doch bei dem Ringe soll er mein gedenken . . .


57 Responses to “Earring Magic Ben”

  1. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    That tiny thing… ?


    Come now. What would a Wagner opera be without some kind of ring? (cock or otherwise)

  3. Baritenor Says:

    Oh, Robert Wilson, Robert Wilson, will you ever do ANY Wagner right?

  4. The robotic movements made me laugh…sigh.

  5. julienned Says:

    She looks disappointed…

    By the way, in that costume, she looks a little like an uncapped toothpast tube.

  6. Just Another Tenor Says:

    I LOVED his complete ring in Paris just a few wekks ago. Saw it all in 7 days, and I was blown away by the emotional intensity of his staging and his work overall. I completely understand that the singers must have hated doing it, and I would be loathe to reproduce his staging – it must exhausting and painful. However, he had a series of performers who were so devoted that the staging really worked (actually, so did the LA Butterfly two years ago with Veronica Villaroel in TOP form. She is a consumate actress, and sunk her teeth into her staging. Staying completely still, crouching, during the entire third act interlude took great strength of character!)

  7. rysanekfreak Says:

    Hmmmmm…That ring looks like it’s about 20 times too big for Volpe, but probably much too small for Rene Pape.

  8. Baritenor Says:

    Yeah, I loved the Butterfly, too. I saw it again this year with the Fantastic Pat Racette, who really gave it her all.

    And speaking of Villaroel and Racette, they both appeared in the Los Angeles Opera 20th anniversary Gala last night, which I somehow got a ticket too. The first act featured Placido Domingo and Racette in the 4th act of OTELLO, the second had the second act of Fledermaus in English with Cynthia Lawrence, Sarah Coburn and Rod Gilfry. But the Gala in the Fledermaus scene…..Ruth Ann Swenson, Veronica Villaroel, Charles Castronovo, Mark Delevan, Roberto Alanga, Angela Gheorghiu and Placido Domingo. 30 minutes of the greatest singing i’ve ever heard, one right after the next.

  9. La Cieca Says:

    Attention commenters: I have reset the comments section so I can review comments before they are published. You will notice that most everything gets published anyway, but do be aware that your comment will not be visible until I click the “approve” gizmo. I’ll try to do this at least every could of hours, but bear with me and don’t feel like you have to hit the “publish” button two or three times because your comment doesn’t show up right away. — La C


    Imaginary scenario: (I, as stage director at a rehearsal) Yes, Mr. Pape, it IS Necessary to try this round thing on in this production. May I help?

  11. It would have to be for “Remembrance,” wouldn’t it? Afterall, it’s probably been ages since he’s been able to see his Schwert, as it was long ago welcomed into the fold, so to speak.

  12. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Nick lost me with that one.

  13. Baritenor Says:

    Well, that;s a bit unkind. Hysteircal, but Unkind.

  14. Mr. Wotan Says:

    Ring, indeed. Yes – perhaps too small for Pape; definately too small for Kaufmann; and probably just right for Gunn….

    I’ve been advised to stay away from this production since its premiere. Missed the second go of Wilson’s Butterfly last month with Pat at LAO, but heard the same advise from friends there (despite all the awe from the press). I adore Matilla; so – question to all y’all: Is this production really as stylistically staid as I’ve heard? Should I invest in a ticket – or skip it for another Meistersinger?



    Memories are indeed very nice!

  16. La Cieca Says:

    The whole point of a cockring is that it’s supposed to be very tight. Unless you’re wearing it just for show.

    Not to change the subject, but can anyone figure out why in the world Google is advertising a “muscle car” on this site?


    NO loose rings EVER!!!

  18. a voice from the peanut gallery Says:

    Mr. Wotan,

    If you love the opera and the singers, buy a ticket and go! The production may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it certainly did not interfere with my enjoyment. Don’t miss the fabulous singing of Matilla for fear of a little Wilson! That’s just bad business!

  19. Baritenor Says:

    Mr. Wotan-

    Is there any reason to make jokes about the size of Nathan Gunn’s schwert? I mean, come on.

  20. La Cieca Says:

    The LOHENGRIN really is worth a visit. I honestly don’t care at all for Wilson’s chichi staging, but as I recall Mattila managed to slip in a little personality when Wilson was looking the other way. La Cieca would be very interested to hear what the Met had to give Mattila in order to get her to do this revival — originally she refused to do it. So maybe the tradeoff of JENUFA for SALOME is her pro quo.

  21. rysanekfreak Says:

    I’m sure google has figured out the demographic of this group:

    We all have mullets.
    We all eat and breathe fire.
    We all have so much disposable income that we buy new cars each year.
    And we just love the combination of green plus orange!

  22. Baritenor Says:

    That requires a WOOT! Any time Anja Silja and Mattila sing together, I am THERE, especially in this work!

  23. Leontyneluvr Says:

    I have it on good authority that it is Gunn’s size!

  24. Chalkenteros Says:

    I love this production, esp. the act 2 finale, with Ortrud’s red velvet curtain of death. Gives me goosebumps.

  25. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    I’m looking forward to “hearing” this Lohengrin next week. After all I’d rather have the singers stand and do nothing but sing than carrying on all over the stage as seems to be the fashion these days.


    itdg, ain’t NOTHING wrong with a little stand and deliver when there is voice and MORE voice!

  27. marschallin Says:













    LA LA







    …..TO DRAMA

  28. Burma-shave.

  29. Baritenor Says:

    I have long stopped trying to decifer you, Marshie. Good luck in your insanity.

  30. You guys have it all wrong! It is a ring, after all … a NuvaRing!

    She’s just disappointed because he’s handing her a birth control device.

    (I’ll post a photo over on my blog, just for y’all.)

  31. I agree with Chalkenteros on the second act finale. Even thogh i dont think i like the bare staging and the often robotic movements, the second act finale with the red curtain and the final spot light on Ortrud is just chilling. Fantastic singing from the cast. I just dont exacly like the idea that the whole production is so cheap.

  32. Baritenor Says:

    What’s wrong with a low-budget production like this one? It provides budgeting for the REALLY expensive ones. Like the drek Zefferelli drags out every year (and I know what I’m talking about. Has anyone else nseen his terrible Pagliacci for LA Opera?)

  33. La Cieca Says:

    The Wilson LOHENGRIN is hardly a low-budget production. In fact, at the time it premiered, it was rumored to have cost more than Zeffirelli’s TURANDOT. All those lighting rehearsals aren’t cheap, you know, and neither are all those staging sessions with a 120 member chorus.

  34. baryton francais Says:

    Great a flat looking production that probably adds nothing to the opera, AND it costs more than a great Zeffirelli work… typical.


    I thought that anything Zeffirelli attmpts these days was NOT considered very good–too extravagant and mostly too gay. Oh well, then we are left with the dawning of the very bleak. Hopefully, it is sung well.

  36. Baritenor Says:

    At least it isn’t Wilson’s Parsifal…

  37. Wagneriana Says:

    I saw this in 1998 with Mattila and she was sooooo good. At first I didn’t know what to make of it but in retrospect enjoyed a lot more than originally thought.

    Hence, I saw his Parsifal in LA last December. Wilson has improved. A LOT!

  38. Baritenor Says:


    Did we see the same Parsifal? Let me give you a litte rundown of what was wrong, apart from the usual robotic positions:

    No attempt to Make Kundry look seductive, No Grail, just a large avant-gard structure, no representation of Amfortas’s agony, Parsifal’s black armour was a exocutioner’s Hood, a Young man who accompianed Amsfortas wherever he went and good be called his double if not for the troubling fact that he also appears in no pyscical pain, and a child supernumeriary who seemed to be the child christ, but was later revealed (in conversation with the kid who played him, son of a friend), turned out to be the young Parsifal.

    I slept through that peice of junk. Thank god for Marti Salminen and Kent Nagano, or the evening would have been a compleate loss.

  39. hab mir's gelobt Says:

    wilson always seems to be someone who gets a strong reaction … one either loves or loathes his style (and admittedly he only has one style, but it usually works very well for me), but i prefer is to zeffirelli any day. zeffirelli just bores me – as its just clutter and junk.

    it is interesting to see how different singers deal with wilsons stagings. the grand anja silja, who is a stage actress per se for an opera singer, sang ortrud for him in brussels (now that dates a bit back though) and even though she had her doubts first, she found the staging revealing as it brought out new nuances and a completely different approach for a singer to create a character. she did not find it straight-jacketing at all and enjoyed the experience. (i am not making it up but i am basing my comment on what she wrote in her autobiography, which is one of the best singer autobiographies ever published, as it is brutally honest … sadly only published in german!)

  40. Man…is Ben showing off his cock ring? I guess he’s pack’n!

  41. Baritenor Says:

    Hab mir geblot-

    While I agree with you on Zefferelli, I can’t say I’m a huge fgan of Bob Wilson. I loved his butterfly, liked his Lohengrin (and LOVED Matilla and Devol)But his Parsifal was abismal and his ring cycle didn’t work. Furthermore, I think the worst sin a director can commit is to not serve the work, and Wilson has never shown me a production where he does.

  42. palcofunesto Says:

    I think Zefferelli is a genius.His shows have always been detailed and accurate period pieces. He and Visconti set quite the standard. His Don Carlo with Pavarotti and the banished maestro was a revelation. His current productions are a bit busy, perhaps to make up for the lack of real charisma from the singers. When anyone has any real charisma , the stage looks just right and full of depth and LIFE. He’s forgotten what we have yet to learn. That some of you new bee’s don’t get him is atypical for this time period we are in. Pagliacci is a fabulous production. LA boasts little else.

  43. hab mir's gelobt Says:

    i agree that wilson serves more himself than the work … but for me it works. opera needs to present stagings in different ways – zeffirelli for me is museum. it has not much do with art, just reproduction, which bores me – but hey that is my opinion!

    a great character on stage can survive any staging i suppose but i always prefer if the staging adds a certain dimension. that doesnt mean it needs to be modernized or updated … just clutterless.

  44. hab mir's gelobt Says:

    and mattila can illuminate ANY production i guess (even zeffirelli hahaha). she just is on stage and u know she IS there. there are few people around nowadays who can do that. speaking of lohengrin, waltraud meier can as ortrud – i remember being transfixed by her from the beginning of act 1, even though she did not open her mouth to sing until the end of act 1. anja silja can as well … all u new yorkers out there, go and catch her and mattila in jenufa, sparks will be flying (oh and yes it is a mainly clutter-free, ‘modern’ prodcution)…


    As i get older, I do really like those “clutter free” (Love the phrase) productions

  46. Yeah, I second that one; lose “das Konzept” productions. [As in “Sofort, bitte!”]

    ps Does anyone know if the story about Beverly Sills cutting up the costume is true?

    The way I heard it, Bubbles got sick of asking for a better costume, ie one that fit properly and had some relationship to the character and one fine day, while on stage asked for the garment in question.

    Without comment, she took out her own pair of scissors, cut it to shreds, and said to the Director, “Now, about that new costume!”

    Is that true or an urban myth?

    (& that blue toothpaste tubey costume would be prime fodder for one thing.)


    Yes indeed ariadne it’s true. I heard it fom La Sills’s own lips on a Carson show.

  48. hab mir's gelobt Says:

    oh that sills story is hilarious! even though i like a strong directors point in an opera i agree that sometimes it can loose ‘the plot’ (so to speak). speaking of anekdotes … there was the famous luisa miller incident in munich a couple of years back. frittoli was luisa and admittedly found the directors concept rather underwhelming so after a lot of discussions she quit the production (still in rehearsal period but things were heating up) and left. now the tenor (i honestly dont remember who it was but he was not a nobody) followed her suit. in came lorin maazel as conductor (i think) who had in his contract the agreement to conduct the opera with frittoli singing – so he resigned as well!

    finding themselves without the scheduled leading lady nor leading man nor conductor the opera house fired the director and did the scheduled luisas as concert performances. touche!


    Now that’s “being up sh.. creek without a paddle!

  50. il stupendo Says:

    Bubbles wrote about the costume story in her autobiography. it happened at her debut with Marilyn Horne at La Scala. here it is, in it’s authoritative glory:

    ‘the woman [costume lady] had cut and sewn a gold costume for Renata [Scotto, whom Bubbles was replacing], but because of my hair color, i didn’t go for the gold. i thought silver would be a far better color for me. costume and set designer Nicola Benois agreed, so i asked the wardrobe lady please to redo the dress in silver. even though she told me not to worry, she did nothing about it. i tried to explain to the woman that Renata and i had talked, that we were friends, and that i was a happy occasion for both of us. the costume lady remained resentful. and the gown remained gold.

    ‘on the day of our first dress rehearsal, i carried the costume onstage and had the wardrobe lady meet me there. in front of the cast and the chorus, i asked her quite loudly: “did i not tell you four or five times to make this costume in silver?” yes, that was true, she conceded. i borrowed the pair of scissors she wore like a pendant and cut the gown in half. i told her to make it in silver, at which point the chorus broke into applause and began cheering. italians love their pasta al dente and their divas temperamental.’


    Sadly during Sills’s reign, many in this county did not take her too seriously erroneously thinking that she was not a really serious artist–just so bubbly and unprimadonna like. However, she was a serious singer! Listen to her recordings especially her Lucia.

  52. il stupendo Says:

    yes callasorphan, Bubbles gave, gave, gave so much.

    when i listen to Bubbles, especially her lucia, i always feel that she sings until there’s just nothing more to be sung.


    leontyneluvr, I really like “heartbeat of the cabaletta”. That certainly describes what is missing from some performances and WHY I find them lacking while Sills and Callas’s performances of the same works send my soul to heaven!!

  54. marschallin Says:

    Awful awful radio broadcast today, wasn’t it? For great Lohengrins, check out these legendary performers/performances:

    Elsa von Brabant: Cheryl Studer
    Heinrich der Vogler, King of the Germans: Manfred Schenk
    Lohengrin: Paul Frey
    Friedrich von Telramund: Ekkehard Wlaschiha
    Ortrud: Gabriele Schnaut
    The King’s Herald: Eike Wilm Schulte
    Four Brabantian nobles: Clemens Bieber, Peter Maus,
    Robert Riener, Heinz-Klaus Ecker
    Four pages: Rachel Robins, Natsue von Stegmann,
    Katalin Benei, Akiko Makiyama
    Noblewomen: Sarah Fulgoni, Helen Lawson, Martina Beier,
    Kristina Gloge, Kriemhild Strettner, Isolde
    Claassen, Yehudit Silcher, Philippa Thomson

    Bayreuth Festival Orchestra & Chorus
    Chorus Master: Norbert Balatsch
    Conductor: Peter Schneider

    Recording: Festspielhaus, Bayreuth, June 1990

    Philips 434 602-2


    Elsa von Brabant: Cheryl Studer
    Heinrich der Vogler, King of the Germans: Kurt Moll
    Lohengrin: Siegfried Jerusalem
    Friedrich von Telramund: Hartmut Welker
    Ortrud: Waltraud Meier
    The King’s Herald: Andreas Schmidt
    Four Brabantian nobles: Bojidar Nikolov, Franz
    Kasemann, Claudio Otelli, Peter Köves
    Four pages: Amy-Linda Domaracki, Ingrid Sieghart,
    Senta Fischer, Elisabeth Mach
    Four Ladies-in-waiting: Renate Hasler, Gretchen Eder,
    Ulrike Erfurt, Marianne Sattmann

    Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsoperchor
    Wiener Philharmoniker, Conductor: Claudio Abbado

    Recording: Vienna, Musikverein, Großer Saal
    November 1991, May-June 1992

    DG 437 808-2


    Elsa: Cheryl Studer
    Lohengrin: Plácido Domingo
    Telramund: Hartmut Welker
    Ortrud: Dunja Vejzovic
    King Heinrich: Robert Lloyd
    Herald: Georg Tichy

    Vienna State Opera, Conductor: Claudio Abbado

    Virgins Classics
    VVD 841 (VHS Hi-Fi) (220 mins.)

    Home Vision
    833-9659, VHS 2 cass., 219 mins.
    Hi-Fi stereo. In German, subtitled (1990)

    Video Opera House
    LOH 02V (2 VHS) (USA)

    PLMCD 00011 (Laserdisc) (219 mins.)

    079 258-3 VHS (04/1996)

    Nothing we heard today surpasses the performers
    and performances listed above. Mattila is way too old for Elsa and the
    voice is not the same. It was never a special voice anyway. Still, this
    compromise is better than not hearing the work at all. Studer is the best Elsa in decades and that no one else has
    excelled in the role like she has. The least said about Heppner the
    better. What a sad case of a voice gone to ruin for wanting to sing too
    much too soon and too much out of his Fach. And what of the really vile Luana DeVol?

  55. a voice from the peanut gallery Says:

    Yes, Heppner had a rough afternoon. I was in the house for the prima, and while it took him a while to warm up, he sounded great at the end. DeVol unfortunately arrives at the Met rather late in her career and the voice has a bit of a wobble from years of hard use in heavy rep, but she has wonderful temperment, the the role is Otrud after all!

    Marschallin, I couldn’t disagree with you more about Matilla. Her Elsa was radiant both in the house and on the broadcast. She is the real deal, the total package: voice, temperment, glamour. Your refusal to consider the merits of anyone but your idol forces you to live with your studio-enhanced memories. Face it, Ms. Studer’s stage career is (prematurely) over. Her only public appearences in the past 5 years have been concerts in the provinces.

  56. Kerr loves Ariadne Says:

    legendary!!!!!!!!! Really!!! Becasue there happens to be a singer that you obviously adore in the cast list hardly makes the rest of the performance legendary, nor hers for that matter! I suggest if you want legendary you listen to Konya and Grummer.

    So sad about Heppner those rough afternoons are far too frequent now. Too many Tristans!


    Where oh where are those lungs and vocal chords of iron that opera use to have so many of? Gone the way of the Dinosaur I guess.

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