30 July 2008

Dear Renee, can you sing with an oxygen mask on?

Because people in Beijing have not seen a single star in the sky in years due to the thick toxic smog (their number one export product this year!), they're borrowing opera stars for some night wattage during the looming two-week Olympic Games. They've invited divas Renee Fleming and Angela Gheorghiu and regional semi-sensation Sumi Jo, along with the virile bunch of Marcello Giordani, Salvatore Licitra, Ramon Vargas, Jonas Kaufmann and Dmitri Hvorostovsky--in short, a good slice of the star-filled sky of the Met roster.

But Sieglinde's a bit worried that five weeks between Beijing and the Met prima won't be enough to purge all the filthy particles and dumplings out of Renee Fleming's lungs, throat, and gums. If Renee's Really Huge Opening is ever imperiled, I swear I shall boycott all the Grand Sichuans in Manhattan, except for their Aui Zhou Spicy Chicken, which is my favorite of all time and I won't be able to live a week without.

What's bukkake in Welsh

Bryn Terfel is having a concert at Carnegie Hall on September 16, dubbed a "Celtic celebration" and featuring, get this, a "400 Male-Voice Choir from 8 Countries." 400 men (and perhaps some confused dykes) on stage?? A little poking around yields the following list of choir participants:

Comrades Male Choir [Wales]
Burlington Welsh Male Choir [Canada]
Donaghadee Male Choir [Ireland]
Toronto Welsh Male Choir [Canada]
Maesteg Gleemen Choir [Wales]
Bristol Male Choir [UK]
Montreal Welsh Male Choir [Canada]
Metropolitan Male Choir of Southern Australia
Saengerfest Choir [USA]
Canberra Male Choir [Australia]
Sieglinde counts only 5 to 6 countries (depending on how seriously you take "Wales"), but whatever, you get the idea. Anyway, according to one deeply placed source, a big orgy is scheduled right after the concert at Barracuda in Chelsea, though things may get started during the encores on stage. Hurry, buy your tickets today.

29 July 2008

Staggering mediocrity all over Salzburg

Say what? The grotesque Eurotrash production of the Salzburg Don Giovanni is being upstaged by one mediocre maestro! This is unacceptable, how dare he.

Far more bemusing than the choice of (production designer Claus) Guth for a premature new "Don Giovanni'' is the decision to hand the baton to Bertrand de Billy. Nikolaus Harnoncourt was fascinating and eccentric at the last production. Now a conductor whose ideas nobody understood has been replaced by one who has no ideas at all.

De Billy's mediocrity is staggering. The Vienna Philharmonic dispenses with most vibrato in an empty gesture to period performance. It otherwise plays as if this were just another job on a boring weekend.

28 July 2008

Chef Eric Ripert, with three stars from Michelin and four stars from the NYT, says Big Macs "taste okay"

In developing that (great American) burger, my research took me to a couple of places that might seem unexpected: McDonald’s and Burger King. I didn’t grow up in the U.S. and had never really visited these chains before, so I wanted to see what they do with their burgers to make them so popular.

Just looking at the basic burgers at each of these chains—particularly the Big Mac—showed me a couple of very key things: First of all, the burgers are a perfect size. You can grab them in both hands, and they’re never too tall or too wide to hold on to. And the toppings are the perfect size, too—all to scale, including the thickness of the tomatoes, the amount of lettuce, etc. In terms of the actual flavors, they taste okay, but you can count on them to be consistent; you always know what you’re going to get.
Ripert's burgers are (drumroll) $18 a pop. Depending on your location, that could get you 2.5 to 12 Big Macs, which, it bears repeating, "taste okay." Now I'm hungry for burgers.

Political push of the day: better enjoy eating chicks for breakfast, or else

MoveOn.org does funny sometimes.

I learned two things this morning

(1) How to spell Cincinnati (two n's, one t), and (2) that Cincinnati Opera is the second oldest opera company in the US. Established in 1920, they're gearing up for their 90th season in 2010, by having Cincinnati native James Levine appear not once but twice! The first is an opening gala with Angela Brown and Christine Brewer; the second, a couple of evenings of Die Meistersinger, with singers imported from the Met. According to the news article, the opera "will be presented in a new production set in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine." I'm not sure what that means. Over-the-Rhine is where Cincinnati Music Hall is, so will the production consist of the singers and orchestra walking out and around the neighborhood? If so, I suggest double decker buses for the audience.

26 July 2008

Music critic, in a stunning departure from asslicking protocol, says "Glad it's over"

An Elliott Carter Shock and Awe just wrapped up at Tanglewood, conceived by the notoriously cerebral brain of James Levine, music director to everyone in the Northeast. The New York Times covered the majestic 5-day event in typical fashion, by sending Allan Kozinn up to the Berkshires to expound on their reverence for any toilet paper that dare touch Levine's ass. He churned out a dutiful puff piece titled "A Century Has Passed; His Time is Still Now".

The local Berkshire paper is having none of it. Here are juicy excerpts from Andrew Pincus's blunt review of what he called "a revival meeting, calling on unbelievers to repent." (Pop in a favorite Missy Elliot CD and enjoy the rare appearance deeply felt vomit in music criticism.)

Regrettable as Levine's absence was and is, it seems a kind of metaphor for the whole celebration. When you looked for musical content behind the vast intellectual and technical apparatus that Carter deploys, there seemed nothing, or very little, there. Where was the emotional response, the connection between art and lived experience?

Grant a music director his convictions. If Levine and other serious musicians, along with scholars and critics, think the music says something, maybe in the end it really will. Certainly, it has happened to other composers, most notably Beethoven and Schoenberg: the recognition in their time only by advanced thinkers like themselves.


Carter's musical fecundity at the border of a second century is a testament to the human spirit and an example everyone can aspire to. The paradox of the superb performances — many by renowned Carter specialists — over the course of the five days is that the clearer the music became, the less there seemed to be in it.

Glad it happened. Glad it's over.

24 July 2008

Obama in Berlin

I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived - at great cost and great sacrifice - to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom - indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us - what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America's shores - is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.

Those are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. Those aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of those aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of those aspirations that all free people - everywhere - became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of those aspirations that a new generation - our generation - must make our mark on history.

People of Berlin - and people of the world - the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. Let us build on our common history, and seize our common destiny, and once again engage in that noble struggle to bring justice and peace to our world.

Sieglinde shall plant herself in front of TV Friday afternoon

There's a special Golden Girls marathon on Lifetime honoring dear Estelle Getty tomorrow. The final episode shown will be one picked by the fans, so vote for your favorite Sophia episode here. I know it's a little stupid, but if you're as big of a fan of the Girls as me, it's one way to connect with the wider cult.


I got a number of e-mails (ok, two e-mails) last night in reaction to my fuck-the-media rant, inquiring whether I heart McCain or if I'm a charter member of PUMA (cute cat turned bad acronym). I responded with a single line of "Hello??". Let me be clear: the editorial board, staff, and crew of Sieglinde's Diaries & Spa, Inc. are all unanimous in their support for Obama, who will doubtless enjoy a landslide win in November. (For instance, Germany, with its gazillion electoral votes, will most certainly go blue this year, as will the rest of the world and much of the universe.) What we would like to happen, however, is a massive Obama win on the issues, so that he'll have a decisive mandate to blow up Washington and reestablish it elsewhere, perhaps in the Haight or in the West Village. Not a win midwifed by the juvenile media having goo goo eyes for him. Please, we don't want to see that happen again.

23 July 2008

Fuck the media (sorry, but that's the only way to put it)

No one should really pay serious attention to Mark Halperin, that pretend journalist who's such an insider of Washington he ought to be known as Washington's bloated prostate. However, sometimes he says something really revealing.

For instance, in a blog entry of a list of the ways John McCain could win in November, he inserts the fourth estate's dick where it don't belong:

What McCain needs to win:
Stuff he can’t control:

–For Obama to make a substantive mistake on his overseas trip that changes the vector direction of the coverage ...

[blah blah blah blah blah, and then]

–For the media to start treating him with respect (again).
–For the media to start treating him with affection (again).
Say what? McCain could win if the media start treating him with respect and affection again? Seriously WTF, right? So-called "journalists" giddy to be holding crucial power in electing presidents, fuck be ethics and facts and objectivity and all the stuff journalists are supposed to uphold? The rot is so deep, I'm not detecting even a shred of shame in such a confession. Self-important pricks obsessed with their self-important pricks. No wonder Washington is fucked up.

Excuse me while I puke all over my cable box.

A feel good story about a plump soprano shedding massive fat that's not named Deborah Voigt

Here's a Texas soprano who's doing it the normal way, by limiting the amount and increasing the quality of food she feeds her mouth. Read about her daily struggles on her blog.(P.S. If you're feeling that you're the only person on Earth without a blog, you're right.) Here's a typical excerpt:

But alas! The very next morning I was faced with the Breakfast Buffet of Doom. Piles of pastry, omelettes to order, pancakes and potatoes … all those evil, evil things. I ordered an omelette with lots of veggies, got some fresh fruit, and then --- I confess it --- managed to pass up the doughnuts but ate a cranberry muffin roughly the size of my head. Again, a lot of food. I excused myself because I knew lunch, such as it might be, would be back at the airport and certainly not before 2 p.m. I couldn’t face the airport food, so I snagged a piece of whole wheat bread and an apple, and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from the breakfast bar to take with me. And indeed, this along with a protein bar and some nuts was my late lunch.

P.S. Don't forget to view the dramatic pictures of her shrinking body.

Estelle Getty, 1923-2008

Rose: Sophia, why are you in such a bad mood?

Sophia: Excuse me Rose, but I haven't had sex in 15 years, and it's starting to get on my nerves.
Thank you for being a friend, Sophia.

22 July 2008

Met Futures: this week's updates

Sieglinde announces more updates to Brad Wilber's Met Futures page:

For Season 2009-10: Georg Zeppenfeld makes his debut as Sarastro, after singing the same role at San Francisco Opera recently; Andrzej Dobber added to sing Stankar in Siffelio (but still no definite word on the other roles).

For Season 2010-11: Ellie Dehn (last season's Mrs. Naidoo in Satyagraha) will sing Musetta; a revival of Armida added to the roster, slated for February-March.

For Season 2011-12: Maestro Maurizio Benini out of the Barbiere.

21 July 2008

Another thing Sieglinde nearly missed: incontrovertible proof that Aprile Millo is a gay man

He was the fuel for so many childhood dreams of mine, of that fabulous knight in shining armor coming to sweep you off your feet. Dashing is putting it mildly.
Yes Aprile, Antonio Sabato, Jr. makes us wet too.

Things Sieglinde missed during her hiatus: Robergela sign naked man's shirt

Here's a photo of some random Prospect Park cruiser bum and opera's Brangelina (Robergela?) after their outer borough concert. Apparently, they'll do anything to be liked by New Yorkers again. Meanwhile, no one give Lois Kirschenbaum the idea, ok.

I hear it was a successful concert all in all.

Apart from a helicopter buzzing overhead during the first few numbers and a phalanx of bats that swooped and dived over the crowd at dusk, it was an ideal night for outdoor music-making.
(More photos of the concert here.)

20 July 2008

Sieglinde gets to the bottom of why you pay what you pay to see opera at the Met

It's not unreasonable to question Peter Gelb's $1 million annual salary at a nonprofit arts institution (as well as previous Met boss Joe Volpe's $1.4 million). But how about this:

At the Met, the 54-year-old Gelb isn't the only employee making a comfortable living. The unionized master carpenter, Stephen Diaz, earned $533,450 in salary and benefits, while his boss, technical director Joseph Clark, pulled in a slightly more modest $445,852. Clark retires next month and has said he intends to become a brewer.
Master carpenter of what, Mercedes Bass's ass? Technical director of what, Mercedes Bass's technical ass? (Sorry, I'm still out of brain. It's still the weekend.)

Deepest pain

Deborah Voigt:

By the time I went to have the surgery, I couldn't even shop at Lane Bryant anymore. I was above a size 28, 30. Gastric bypass seemed like the right thing to do. My parents are very happy about my weight loss & though my mom did mention I had put on a few pounds. She'll say that, and then she'll say, "You look great, though." It's a contradictory message. My parents did do the best they could. They saw me very unhappy for most of my life.

At the Opera News gala last week, I had people telling me I'm beautiful. And it's hard for me to hear. It makes me uncomfortable. Something in me doesn't want to believe it or can't believe it. I lived a totally different life for such a long time.

Psychologically, I still think of myself as a really fat girl. I think I like the way I look, but I can't ever be satisfied. What will it take for me to accept myself the way I am and love it?

18 July 2008

Either you're with us, or against us

In a post on the multiplex broadcasts of Met performances, we stumble upon a little tidbit:

Of course, more companies, including La Scala and the San Francisco Opera, have jumped in. (The Met’s head, Peter Gelb, is said to be using some hardball tactics on singers: If you appear in someone else’s broadcasts, the report goes, don’t expect to appear again at the Met.) Too much supply can potentially weaken audiences ...
If this were Parterre.com, this post would be filed under the tag "Peter Gelb is a fucking genius." At Sieglinde's Diaries, however, we'd rather file this under "Peter Gelb is a genius fucker."

Sieglinde asks: would you rather have half a tank of gas or a box full of Bayreuth

Surely this year's steal: a 33-disc set from Decca of all of Wagner's standard repertory recorded live from Bayreuth. List price: $69.98 (which is, what, about three euros?). The catch: it's "limited edition". WTF would they do that, you ask? Sieglinde has no idea. But it seems that Decca means what it says. It's already "temporarily out of stock" at Amazon, where they're practically giving it away for $55.97. If they restock it, that is.

P.S. The set includes the Levine Parsifal from 1985, which nearly everyone online pooh-poohs. Am I the only one who thinks it's a great recording? It's characteristic Levine: meticulous, majestic, worshipful. Sure, it's damn slow, but what's your hurry? As if you have more important things to do.

Swarovski to Renee: outshine this

The glorious Met chandeliers are getting a Viennese facelift, thanks to Swarovski. All 49,000 pieces of crystal will be replaced with brand new ones, just in time to adorn Renee Fleming's Really Huge Opening. See a pretty NYT slideshow here.

17 July 2008

Al Gore to US: go Amish in 10 years or perish

Ladies and gentlemen:

There are times in the history of our nation when our very way of life depends upon dispelling illusions and awakening to the challenge of a present danger. In such moments, we are called upon to move quickly and boldly to shake off complacency, throw aside old habits and rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of big changes. Those who, for whatever reason, refuse to do their part must either be persuaded to join the effort or asked to step aside. This is such a moment. The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk. And even more - if more should be required - the future of human civilization is at stake ...
Read the rest of the historic speech here.

Met Futures, just updated

Sieglinde would like to point out a few changes to Brad Wilber's Met Futures page.

For Season 2009-10: Albina Shagimuratova will be debuting as Queen of the Night; Peter Coleman-Wright added to Benvenuto Cellini as Fieramosca.

For Season 2010-11: Angela Gheorghiu replaced by Violeta Urmana as Tosca; Olga Savova added to Boris Godunov as the Hostess of the Inn; Morten Frank Larsen will debut as the Count in Capriccio (upon Renee Fleming's specific request); the French Don Carlos switched (for now) to the Italian Don Carlo, this time with Angela Marambio as Elisabetta and Lorin Maazel as conductor (instead of Poplavskaya and Pappano, respectively).

For Season 2011-12: three revivals added to the roster: Rodelinda, conducted by Harry Bicket, Billy Budd, and Khovanshchina.

For Season 2012-13: three operas added to the roster: a new production of Francesca da Rimini with Eva-Maria Westbroek and Marcello Giordani, Parsifal, and Il Trovatore with Anja Harteros.

Dear Peter Gelb, I'd take down the Volpe poster in my bedroom if you give us a Lohengrin in Italian

When I ask (Barbara) Frittoli if there are any new roles she'd like to do in the future, she responds: 'I could give you a long list of titles, but in truth, it's difficult to know what I would like to do in the future. They have offered me a Wagner role that I could do, but it's very scary!' She almost seems to shudder comically down the phone at this comment. ... 'My problem is that I don't speak enough German. It's so difficult to perform a part when you don't speak the language properly. It's not enough just to learn how to pronounce the words. I have to see if I have time to practice for long enough, perhaps with a coach who can talk to me about the language. I need every word – you know to know all the roles inside out to know an opera properly, not just your own.'
And with Juan Diego Florez Giuseppe Filianoti in the title role, Dolora Zajick as Ortrud, and some naked barihunk as Telramund: if that cast doesn't sell out, Sieglinde shall happily eat her blog.

16 July 2008

You turn 30-something only a few times in your life

So we went to Per Se last night and dropped an obscene amount of money, but less obscene than I thought when at the start of the orgy, someone in our party summoned the sommelier and ordered him to choose for us "interesting wines" to pair with our 9 course meal. I was certain he'd sneak a legendary vintage (pre-war!) or a wine produced only from the vines that nurtured Mozart or Marie Antoinette or Bono. In the end, the wine bill turned out to be too reasonable, for a line of wines deep and delicious and nicely varied. However, for the price, the food was only so so. The Nova Scotia lobster was strangely chewy, but the oysters and caviar embodied the essences of oyster and caviar perfectly. The striped bass was salty, but the familiar duck foie gras a rich revelation nonetheless. The sweetbreads was nothing more than good, but the lamb was the best I've ever had. Consistent with the theme of the evening, the service was attentive but amateur, the young servers oddly nervous as they announced the ingredients of every course.

And so Jean-Georges remains safe on top of my list of upscale New York restaurants, with seafood-centric Le Bernardin a very close second. (Opera-related sidebar: on one occasion at Jean-Georges a few years back, I spotted from across the dining room the pretty Juan Diego Florez, who was then just wrapping up a successful run of La Cenerentola at the Met. After dinner, I introduced myself as a fan, and he was shocked speechless that someone actually recognized him. Fast forward, many high C's later: if he ever chooses to dine there again, I'm certain that Chef Vongerichten himself would come out of his kitchen to pay homage.)

15 July 2008

As if I need to commit more sins to go to hell

One of the great wonders of major cities is one's ability to eat more than the gross annual income per capita of a few dozen developing countries. Which is *gasp* what I'm doing tonight. I just looked it up: I'm expecting the bill for three at Per Se to be greater than the per capita annual income of at least 62 countries. Depending on the number of half-bottles of wine we end up consuming (plus a cocktail, plus a digestif!), it could be more. It's just wrong, and on so many levels. I'll let you know how it all went tomorrow, including if my liver is still functional.

We're no longer bitter, can't you tell

Instead of reloading Parterre for the nth time today, might I suggest spending the rest of the afternoon reading this instead, and be so edified. I have complicated feelings about this whole thing, but some people find it easier to write about it than I do.

Who needs real food, when you have JC in your life

Jeez, not Jesus Christ. Jose "wide thighs" Cura. Let me call your attention to a Norweigan blogger and certified JC stalker who has a riveting post about fastfood meat before a JC opera in Torino.

The opera starts at 2000 so I had some time. But I thought I could collect my ticket early. But I could have waited till 1 hour before the opera starts to collect it. So I wasted some time at that. I was hungry and saw many opportunities to eat but somehow went past them. But then I went to Teatro Regio di Torino at 1900 and collected my ticket, met a lot of JCx members, and went to the McDonalds close by to eat. I chose McChicken and Cola Zero. Not a good choice it was a very dry burger but I could drink. Then I went back to the theatre.

The opera EDGAR by Giacomo Puccini was a much longer opera then I had thought ...
Someone please e-mail the girl and tell her that her burger was dry because it was chicken. Anyway, mine's the Burger King behind the Met on Amsterdam Avenue. I remember having a double whopper right before a Butterfly with Diana Soviero. Those were genuinely happy days.

(Oh, in case you're curious, JCx is indeed a cult.)

No need for parody here, or is this shit for real

A domestic discipline marriage is one in which one partner in the marriage is given authority over the other and has the means to back the authority, usually by spanking.

A Christian Domestic Discipline marriage is one that is set up according to Biblical standards; that is, the husband is the authority in the household. The wife is submissive to her husband as is fit in the Lord and her husband loves her as himself. He has the ultimate authority in his household, but it is tempered with the knowledge that he must answer to God for his actions and decisions. He has the authority to spank his wife for punishment, but in real CDD marriages this is taken very seriously and usually happens only rarely. CDD is so much more than just spanking. It is the husband loving the wife enough to guide and teach her, and the wife loving the husband enough to follow his leadership. A Christian marriage embodies true romance and a Christian man a true hero.

Deport the bridge and tunnel crowd

I haven't gone to see the current art exhibit at the Gallery Met, featuring paintings of Met divas in upcoming roles. How daring, right? But I'll still swing by and give it a look, just as soon as Met security cleans out the Jersey riff raff. (With apologies to Newark Airport and the juicy Jersey tomatoes.)

Oh wait, is that Alanis Morissette?

14 July 2008

Project Runway to open the new Met season

"Their sense of poetry in motion is a total complement to the music that I will be singing," Ms. Fleming said ...

Mr. Lacroix will create two dresses for Ms. Fleming in the role of Violetta, one for each scene in the second act of La Traviata. Mr. Lagerfeld for Chanel will design the dress for Manon. For the final scene from Capriccio, Ms. Fleming will wear a creation by Mr. Galliano.
Which reminds me, I need to get serious with planning my Met season before the vultures hoard the balcony box again. I'm deciding on a leaner schedule this time, but who knows. One can't not see all of the Salomes. Is it possible?

No, this ain't about Hillary

Apparently, it still costs $10 to decapitate a b*tch in Orange County. (Misogyny! misogyny!)

Add gum, it's chaos

For the second year in succession, the American entrant in the Miss Universe pageant failed to meet the crucial challenge of walking and smiling at the same time.