31 October 2005

November Agenda

1. Early this morning, contemplate claiming scalito.blogspot.com. Shortly thereafter, Sieglinde wakes up and jabs me in the side.
2. Sieglinde searches for clean underwear, gargles some listerine, toasts some toast, and promptly takes over.
3. "F* this red state sh*t, let's go back to New York."
4. This week, a Così or two (for my seasonal Jimmy L. vaccine against a dull strain of Jimmy C.), and a Lucia.
5. Investigate opera credentials of SCOTUS nominee Samuel Alito. Early indications are positive: (a) Italian-American, (b) hails from Jersey, (c) Yale Law School, (d) operaqueen-Scalia clone. Will have to check with Lois Kirschenbaum's attendance logs for list of operas attended at the Met. (Soon as the face is made, Sieglinde's on the case.)
6. Ask NewYorkCityOperaFanatic if her title means she's really just a Fanatic of the New York City Opera; and if so, tell Met ushers to wheel her across Lincoln Center plaza to the New York State Theater every time she shows up at the Met lobby. (Same applies to anyone claiming to be Hedda Hopper.)
7. An Aida with Papian/Naef (for the sake of completeness: sad reason, no?), the spanking new Roméo et Juliette (at least twice), a Carmen (NOT!).


28 October 2005

Lammermoor Leak

If you can't tell (from recent posts) that Sieglinde's in Florida this week, then I will tell you this: Sieglinde's in Florida this week. Meanwhile, a warmly received Cosi fan tutte opens at the Met, as well as the return of Lucia di Lammermoor (a personal fave), marked by the Met debut of one 31 year old Italian tenor named Giuseppe Filianoti, and another visit by hotbod Elizabeth Futral. Sieglinde's spies are all over Lammermoor (in addition to the balcony men's room stalls), and one particularly orgasmic boy files a report, which you'll find below. Apologies in advance to Renée Fleming for the misspell, and for the insinuation that it's her phlegm that makes her sing the way she does. Sieglinde shall be there next week to evaluate these grand jury indictments herself.

"Giuseppe Filianoti sang like a god. Aside from the incredible breath control, the molten legato, the fearless ascent to the ringing high notes (think Ferruccio Tagliavini but much much smoother), there is the stunning diction: I could make out every word coming out of this guy's mouth Couple that with ardent impassioned Italianate singing and you've got yourself a legend in the making. He moved onstage with incredible elegance and is a very handsome man to boot. The suicide was done in an odd but to me very effective way: quite High Golden Age Tres Elegant Victorian Melodrama. (Very Oscar Wilde.) BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO: what an auspicious debut. There were times when I closed my eyes and I could hear echoes of that other Giuseppe ... di Stefano. My heart was sobbing at the 'Tu che a Dio' and by the 'bell alma inamorato' I was a complete mess.

Renay Phlegming sure could use coaching lessons from Elizabeth Futral. Futral has half the glamour of Renay stimm but has 100,000 times more taste, feeling and superb diction with no self conscious and egregious mannerisms (which means no mooing no cooing no pooing no scooping and no whooping) and no discombobulated registers. This was a Lucia that was deeply felt and incredibly moving. She looked wonderful onstage: exquisite slim willowy figure and gorgeous long dark hair. Work those high e-flats. Work that chest voice, work it. 'Il fantasma il fantasma' was frightening, sending chills down my spine.

John Relyea was good, except for that extra breath to end his cabaletta, and sooo sexy. Charles Taylor as Enrico was imposing."

27 October 2005

Random Access

(1) The moment the cable news found out this morning that Harriet Miers pulled her name from the nomination, a scramble for words ensued. Amidst discussion of a weakened White House, John King of CNN warned critics to never 'misunderestimate' the president in times of urgent political crisis. (2) Yesterday I downloaded La Cieca's latest Unnatural Acts podcast, the first act of the 1980 Paris Die Frau ohne Schatten, with a galactic cast of Jones, Behrens, Dunn, Berry, and Kollo, led by Maestro Christoph von Dohnanyi. As far as I know, this live recording isn't available 'commercially' (on both legit and semi-legit labels), but has been seen floating around in DVD form. Running on the beach with a Frosch on iPod is among the most thrilling things on this earth. The Gwyneth tickled, as always, but it was the Mignon that reenergized and pushed me to go the extra half-mile. (3) A bit disorienting to begin a run with the voice of La Cieca, however. She doesn't blend peacefully with a landscape of pelicans and great egrets. But s/he has a lovely baritone, sharply expressive, solid up and down the register: a rich, animated sound that should have been picked by the Met instead of Margaret Juntwait. (Can you imagine.) The parterre box podcasts are worth downloading, even if only for La Cieca's fabulously hilarious intros. Kei-ko-bad-ko-bad-ko-bad-ko-bad ... (4) Blue sky today; I'm outta here.

UPDATE: Oh look, 'misunderestimate' has 62,000 google hits.
UPDATE 2: Act II's up.

25 October 2005

The next crop

Bitter opera queens unsatisfied with the likes of Fleming, Netrebko, and Graves: check out and cruise the vibrant LiveJournal operasingers Community, where Ashlee Simpson types are chatting vigorously about voice ("I can nail those low notes as well as sing a solid g. Shoot!"), repertory ("anybody know where I might find the lyrics for the Flower Duet from Lakme?"), physics ("It's me-- the girl who discovered that push-up bras help you sing..."), and education ("just got back from watching Marilyn Horne give a master class. Oh my goodness, it was TOTALLY amazing!!"). In ten to fifteen years, don't be surprised to see operasingers alums in your local house roster. (Or worse, on the net as bitter ex-singer opera bloggers.) Seriously though, Sieglinde is somehow heartened by all the *awesome* interest. Dude, we got a future, after all.

24 October 2005

First Night

On your face the light from the sky teases my air in the fall

I invite you to see the whole subtle thing and so you close

Your eyes and more half light sinks in the grass around

You and all the flowers lift my sheets and moon and I awake

You fold the dream curves slowly you fall slowly in mine


(Happy birthday, J.)

LiveBlogging Wilma

[7:34am, 180 mi. north of outer eyewall] Wake up. Pee. "Oh look, J., we still got power." (J. isn't moving from sleep; doesn't really care.) Outside, 40 mph winds, with gusts reaching 60+ mph.

[7:38am] "Hey Wilma, is this all you got?" Bored.

[7:47am] Turn on CNN. "There you go, that's what we're talkin' about." Is that ... Anderson ... straddling ... the eyewall of the hurricane?

[7:49am] Once again, the nation 'participates' in Anderson Cooper's oh so studly stunts. "The winds are really blowing a lot of sand ... on my ... face ... and we can't see ... the beach ... any longer."

[7:57am] Play Siegfried's Funeral March (Decca/Solti studio, 1965) full blast. Whisper: "Anderson Cooper is my Hurricane God."

[8:12am] Look for breakfast. (Hope Anderson's alright though.)

23 October 2005

Sunday Popsicle

A New York Times article by drooly Kathryn Shattuck about the 'goods' of bari-hunk Teddy Tahu Rhodes carries the secondary headline (only in print, not in the web version) "'I don't really see what all the fuss is about,' says 'opera's Brad Pitt.'" Sieglinde thought the venerable paper discontinued use of that kind of headline since getting into trouble in 1973 with "'I am not a crook,' says 'crook.'" Anyway, we like Brad Pitt, and any reference to the Pitt has to be checked, measured, and verified. In absolute terms, we think the comparison to be a bit sensational, but we're giving Tahu (and his fans) a chance to rebut(t) by submitting naked pics directly to the Diaries (a la Pitt, via teenage girl website, be sure to *scroll down*), before we make a final pronouncement on this matter.

If that doesn't do it for you this Sunday morning, proceed to bask in the webinsanity of our shut-in little sister, this time for some Halloween doll play.

22 October 2005

Late reactions

(I don't buy new releases because I can't possibly afford them at full price and procure minimum nutrition at the same time. The current strategy is to wait till they make their eventual discounted appearances at Academy Records, or on Amazon, eBay, or Berkshire. Besides, there remain a thousand other recordings, awaiting judgment, in the 'to-do' cabinet.) A few days ago, I came across (and claimed at half-price!) the DG Tristan und Isolde, extracted live from the acclaimed Wiener Staatsoper performances of 2003. This morning, I put on Act I as background music while part-cleaning my workspace, part-cruising the web. Suddenly, Christian Thielemann turns my head toward the darkening window: outside, the farthest tentacles of Wilma are now dispersing what's left of the day's meager sun; meanwhile, Deborah Voigt is minutes into Isolde's fiery Narrative. But as she enunciates the love paradox, sinking into "Von seinem Lager / blickt' er her / nicht auf das Schwert, / nicht auf die Hand / er sah mir in die Augen," ('From his couch, he looked up, not at the sword, not at my hand, but looked into my eyes') my breathing stutters and my insides shake in the eye of this aural hurricane. (I'm being overdramatic here. Anyway ...) Thielemann, in the habit of exploring the widest possible range of expression, has a thrilling way of imposing an inevitable stillness to the music. While other conductors march on through these passages, he lingers (naked) in the obvious (near-profane) fragrance, and shapes the phrases into a lovely, tragic trance. Because his emotive amplitude is vast (like a Hollywood melodrama), the chasm into which he plunges is deep but still painfully familiar. I recall with much fondness his Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Met in 2001, where he molded the small lines of the Watchmen (to end Act I, *oh so easy to miss*) with the same high human kindness that made my eyes tear in the darkness. To make the familiar true, and the true so viscerally comprehensible--this is a rare magic in opera. Christian Thielemann has it.

(Anyway, before I collapse into my own Liebestod prematurely, I'm saving CD 2 for when Wilma finally hits land, and CD 3 for when the first clearing is established.)

21 October 2005

Opera Partners

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers loves the opera (as much as tennis and running, we're told). Sometimes she goes with 'Condi and the other single girls'. Other times with someone else. Who, you ask. Well, it's none other than Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht.

With pistol in hand, badge on the bosom, and 'cuffs just in case, Sieglinde's on the case about the nature of this opera partnership. Google-investigation reveals the following clues:

1. Hecht and Miers "have been friends for decades; they go to the opera together and often have dinner with each other." (Opera. Check.)

2. Hecht says he has "dated" Miers "off and on" for decades. (Decades? Can't get beyond second base, probably.)
3. Hecht attended Yale University and finished with a B.A. in philosophy. (Yale. Check. Philosophy. Check.)
4. Like Miers, Hecht has never been married either. Meanwhile, he likes to play the organ at church. (Oh *really*, we're shocked.)
5. Hecht critical of Miers's cooking: "'She's a terrible cook,' he said with a laugh." (*snap snap*)
6. As plausible as Iraq's WMD: "(Hecht and Miers's) relationship has been such a special one. Sometimes I think they wanted to protect how special it was by not getting married." (Terribly special, we're sure. G'ahead, protect it from shit like sacred vows.)

'Nuf said. Too easy. Case closed. NEXT!

(Picture by Andy Hanson of the Dallas Morning News)

20 October 2005

Pleasing Beauty

Strauss DAPHNE, Carnegie Hall 15.10.2005; Bychkov (WDR Symphony); Fleming, Botha, Larsson, Sacca, Holl.

Her Daphne soars to my ears from above, surrounds me in soft foliage, or warm ocean water. Renée Fleming's sound appears to come from the back of her throat. It doesn't rush to pierce the air, or pinch or grab me by the neck, or pull my ears toward it. Instead it arrives from many sides, envelops my body like skin, lulls me under its fragrant spell, ever gently. Renée's basic voice does not have a well-defined spine, sometimes sounding fluffy and cottony, timid, disperse. I feel it like water; it's a unique sensation. Everyone else's voice has a spine, a kind of sonic line that bridges the soprano's throat and my ears, from which pretty ornaments and over-emoted emotions are hung. In the dark opera house, the spine reaches from afar and attacks my space, like someone calling your attention and addressing you directly. During much of the Daphne, as in all her appearances, Renée sounds like she's in an adjoining room, or in a bathroom shower, and all I sense is a rich echo of a singing voice. To end Daphne, Renée turns around, projects the vocalise out to the back of the Carnegie Hall stage and up to the lights: from my front-row dress circle seat, it all sounds like the same glamorous echo. With eyes closed, I don't think I could tell if she's facing me, facing away, or turned upside down. Strange. From a live stage, she flickers like a fine-tuned digital CD recording. When the music demands f or ff, a miracle ensues: the main volume knob is turned, and the high-tech Renée-surround-sound pumps in the requisite decibel seamlessly, without changing the basic aural polish. Her ff is terrifying in breadth, like a sudden flood or a tidal wave from an unexpected source, and if she decides to hold the note, her massive lungs back her up every time. Liquid, it does not falter. It is angry, vulnerable, silencing. Renée's is an exotic sound, a syrup of dark gold, sunlight from a setting sun, trace of glint on calm water. The technicolor mannerisms, the grand pliés and virtuosic inflections, the 'look-what-I-can-do' poses: matters for the (misguided) kunstqueen to bitch about (as Sieglinde does from time to time). But in my $48 seat, within the pleasures of this Strauss, I see that there is some art in pleasing beauty, unblushing, the sort of image whose essence can't be stained, even by Renée at her most overindulgent.

Annals of Annals

This is how to worship diva.

19 October 2005

Opera is not all gay

It is lesbian too. "(W)ith her rare spare time in Washington, Miers sometimes goes to the opera with 'Condi and the other single girls'."

Supreme Court pick noted for her diligence [WP]

And potentially transsexual as well. "(Ariane et Barbe-Bleue) is an opera that the Met is unlikely to revisit, unless Plácido Domingo embarks upon a new career as a French soprano."

Fresh Faces. City Opera's fall season [New Yorker]

17 October 2005

Breaking News: Tony T Grows Hints of Backbone

"Though there were many lovely and ethereal moments and some impressive flights of coloratura, Ms. Fleming's singing was rough-edged at times. Occasionally a sustained tone would quiver below pitch. But it was exciting to hear her taking such chances."

Soprano Takes Chances as a Feisty Wood Nymph [NYT]

(In other news, Met Opera revokes Tony's *free intermission drinks* card, and reconsiders plan to name two basement bathroom stalls for said critic. Developing story; more to come in the next hour.)

UPDATE: Probationary two-drink limit enforced for Tony, after his date assured the Met board that the critic was *really, really, REALLY excited* to hear Fleming take said chances. (He has video proof, we're told.) Full privileges to be reinstated after agreeable Roméo et Juliette review. Meanwhile, company man Bernie H. receives personal (framed) note from Emperor Joe for his impeccable Met Aida press release.

16 October 2005

Daphne in Pictures

[7:32pm, 15 October 2005] Hectic scene outside Carnegie Hall. Folks rejected by Daphne-nympho scramble to get ticket to big diva event.

[7:50pm] After some spitting (from both sides), negotiations succeed. Pay undisclosed amount, enter great hall of music, take seat. Ask seatmate (twice) what they're singing tonight, who're singing, who's Daphne Strauss.

[8:15pm] Renée Fleming enters, looking like a million Euros. Sings exactly like the CD. Exactly. (I really mean exactly.)

[9:40pm] "Ich komme ... ich komme ..." (Devoted Diaries readers giggle privately; craigslist couple look at one another longingly.)

[9:52pm] Renée takes humble bows during curtain call. Gown and hair take separate (and well-deserved) bows.

[10:03pm] Rush to 56th Street stage door. Dean Lois Kirschenbaum takes attendance. Brainstorm with fellow patients for words other than "great" to describe mystifying work called Daphne. (Someone asks why they can't program La Gioconda instead. Everyone nods quietly in agreement.)

[10:47pm] The diva approacheth. Disposable camera records the diva approacheth.

[10:52pm] Ask diva to autograph newspaper clippings from 1996 and '98. Say things like "Oh that was great," "Oh your hair looks great," and "Oh wow Ms. Renée you were great."

[11:02pm] Enter Seventh Heaven. Smile briefly. (Compare quality of autographs with others.)

[11:04pm] Check watch, realize there's still time!! Make quick taxi arrangements to Lincoln Center. Met Falstaff just ended ... must ... get ... Bryn's ... autograph ...

15 October 2005

I am Dolora, hear me roar

Verdi AIDA, Met 14.10.2005; Conlon; Crider, Zajick, Licitra, Ataneli, Burchuladze, Robinson.

At the Met Aida, foghorn Dolora Zajick sings with an abundance of chest Arnold Schwarzenegger (or Pamela Anderson) would envy: some earthy, near-vulgar tones, but mostly of the kind of elegance we know from the Simionato amethyst. No top notes are cheated, no fortes passed; her legato melts any plastic occurring elsewhere on stage. How can Zajick, an awesome hurricane by all measure, breathe a delicate petal into the three sets of 'Ah! Vieni, amor mio' that open Act II (passages easy to overlook, taken with the rest of Amneris's stupendous music)? The miracle is that a towering structure of a sound is easily pliable into flowers swaying in a soft breeze. Meanwhile, her Judgement Scene is the purest form of mezzo-sex one can ever have at such a public place: hear her subdue the bass-thundering orchestra with the third 'pieta' (a low F-sharp), her entire body resonating with the wood of the stage, and you'd feel like you're touching yourself. You say "where dat gerl f*ing hide dat microphone?" and your jaw drops and you're like "who sez Italian opera's dead?" Then, she turns around and pumps fuel in all cylinders to release and sustain a T-bone steak of a high A-natural bright and buoyant, which in my so accurate accounting she held longer than all recent Met mezzos' high A combined. Moments like these are why we get out of bed in the morning.

[Elsewhere, the Aida of the evening, Michele Crider, isn't doing well: major swaths of her register are hollow and fake, and during agitated moments in Aida's music (scenes with Amneris and Amonasro), she reveals a tired instrument patched up with eclectic sounds and shrieks. Moments of repose (O Patria mia; various Numi pieta's) find her in more agreeable territory. She sounded much healthier the last time I heard her (a year ago?). Salvatore Licitra, the fourth tenor (or the fourth tenor to be the fourth tenor?), debuting the role of Radames in New York, has a huge voice, capable of moments of beauty, power, and (faux-)elegance, but somehow can't sustain the polish throughout the evening. Paata Burchuladze (Ramfis) seems to have swallowed more than a mouthful of glass marbles ('nuf said). Lado Ataneli (Amonasro) matches Crider's bartered notes, bar by bar. Alas, the little sparkle in the rough comes from a big guy, Morris Robinson (Il Re), with a gorgeous bass able to float and glide around the cave of the Met like a soprano's pp (imagine that).]

Brava Dolora Zajick, Erda of Amsterdam Avenue.

14 October 2005


The film '2046' by Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai doesn't cure the melancholy induced by all our current weather. It merely adds a frame of grey glamour to the tears. This morning, I was dripping of East Village rain as I settled in for the 11am at Sunshine on Houston St.. Two hours of relentless 60s Chinaglama, with subtitles translating predictable arias. The film likes closeups of stunningly sad faces, tight hallways, cracks on wooden walls, abandoned alleyways dressed up for painful farewells. A friend describes the brooding as Tristanesque, though throughout the film there is only abandonment, the Isolde drifting only as uncertain memories. The love potion is the film itself, stereotype-toxic. The camera zooms in to follow the still drops of water from the eye, from leaky faucets, or beads of sweat or rain; the smoke from a cigarette, the light from glistening hair: an opera of stylized gestures of emptiness, from a narrative that refuses to move beyond the clean bel canto of careful cinematic photographs. There's a character named 'Lulu,' known to others as 'Mimi.' Another character's theme song is Bellini's 'Casta diva' from Norma. Maria Callas appears to me in the first bars of the aria, and then slowly Angela Gheorghiu shows her sorrowful face. Gheorghiu has a wide palette of grey in her voice, and her timbre to these ears has significant quantities of the sweet acid of Callas. Elsewhere in the movie, Callas herself is asked to vocalize the slow fadeout of a lover, with 'Oh s'io potessi' from the final scene of Bellini's Il Pirata. In the happiness of love, or in the peace of happiness, their rupturing voices begin to mourn the centripetal logic of the tragic end. There is rain in their sound, familiar music of a lost lover.

13 October 2005

"Ich komme, ich komme ..."

Can't find tickets to Renée Fleming's Carnegie Hall Daphne this weekend? (Is it sold-out yet?) Can't afford it, or can't bring yourself to spend real money on it? Aunt Sieglinde brings good news. If you're "Sexy, Handsome, Culture-Loving, Over 35 ... (into) good company and perhaps some preconcert, nsa, safe fun," then you got yourself a free ticket. Times are tough; a man's gotta do what a gay man's gotta do. (Respond in haste.)

Sex and Free Daphne -36 [craigslist.org]

PS. Not my ad. Don't bother me.
PPS. Rumor has it that they're press seats (WOWZA!), and that you'll have to be into being called "Sir."

UPDATE: The ad, deleted by the author the day after it appeared on craigslist (wonder why), read as follows:

"Sex and Free Daphne - 36
Reply to: anon-103889481@craigslist.org
Date: 2005-10-13, 2:02PM EDT
Come to Daphne at Carnegie 10/15/05 For Free

You can be my date for Renee Fleming at Carnegie Hall singing Strauss's Daphne this Saturday night if you are: Sexy, Handsome, Culture-Loving, Over 35, and if you send me a face AND body pic. Not looking for anything--no bf, not necessarily a friend, nothing--except good company and perhaps some preconcert, nsa, safe fun at my place if it feels right. I am 36, 5'8", 145 lbs, 7"cut, in an open ltr. This is in or around W57."

UPDATE 2: Oooops, thought the reason for the delete was that he got overwhelmed by responses (from Fleming/leather connoisseurs). Now it looks like he just needed to pull it back up to the top of the ad list. He reposted the same ad here this afternoon (but renamed it, discreetly, "Daphne at Carnegie Free + More (?) - 36"). Good luck to all.

UPDATE 3: Now that's been deleted too. I'm tired of that. Meanwhile, let's all turn our attention to other opera-related craigslist ads, summarized here. Spread the love.

12 October 2005

Third View

Strauss ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, Met 11.10.2005; Petrenko; Urmana, Damrau, Graham, Villars, Allen.

(Don't believe a word I say.) Last night's Ariadne was the most vigorous, the most energetic, the best ensemble-sung of the three I saw of this Met run. In their genuine happiness with the music, everyone was juggling balls and doing cartwheels. However, I'm less certain about the quality of the individual performances this time. You see, to try something new I positioned myself on the left side of the auditorium, in an upper box across the auditorium from where I usually sit, and what I got was a drastically different 'view' of the singers. From this vantage point, every voice seems to have changed. There's turbidity caused by Sieglinde's faulty memory, as well as the expected variance from performance to performance--but to these ears, it seemed like an alternate-cast evening. The bottom line appears to be that all these hyperdetailed opera 'reviews' are but ornate bullishit, self-serving noise from lonely opera queens in need of a date. Twin ears present on the same evening, but positioned in two opposite sides of the house, are bound to bitchslap one another during intermission meetings by the Millo pole. Sieglinde exaggerates (her nature and her prerogative), but as in all the bullshit she's been known to release, there's a bit of truth in there somewhere (hidden beneath the make-up and persistent body hair).

Heavy breathing. Now that all the bullshit is out of the way, let's proceed to last night's Ariadne. Violeta Urmana's voice, to these ears, carries a bit less power this time. Her notes are still all there, shimmering and spellbinding, but now it seems she's easily overtaken during moments when Strauss's small orchestra decides to show off and do Wagnerian leaps. While the color of her phrases is never boring, the ending of 'Es gibt ein Reich', and similar points in her music, hunger for a more substantial top (predictably, being a Voigt connoisseur, Sieglinde puts forward Voigt). Meanwhile, Diana Damrau's Zerbinetta is luxurious in commitment and pizzazz, but technically now 'just OK'. Some notes are smudged together during machine-gun runs; there is a hollow/metallic quality to her sound; and from where I'm sitting one can hear her aspirate audibly between phrases (a pet peeve). Whatever. She steals the show nonetheless. Moving on: the tenor of Bacchus, Jon Villars, failed painfully Saturday matinee (when he skipped some of those lethal notes above the staff, hiding shamelessly behind the thunderous pit), but makes a respectable recovery for the last performance. If you think it's all a downgrade-- Susan Graham's Composer is a complete creation, stunning and full from every angle, vantage point, and time of day. I can't imagine Graham singing any other role better. Previously, I was harsh about Maestro Kirill Petrenko's work, but now I see that his many drawn out arches during the Prologue was calculated in part to showcase Graham's cream: it can backfire on an off-night, but otherwise, as last evening, Strauss's music vaporizes into pure, fragrant magic.

Ain't over till Zerbinetta sez so. You know how the trigger-happy Met audience almost always claps prematurely towards the end of Zerbinetta's fireworks, prompted by the high D-flat and Pavlovian *applause* cadence in the music? Well, Damrau does something about it, cutely. She releases the high note, spins around, holds her palm forward (miming "stop, bitch, not done yet"), slides down to Strauss's patented anticlimax "Kam der neue Gott gegangen, Hingegeben war ich stumm, stumm," jumps onto her little chair, smiles adorably and waits for payday. Music ends, roaring ovation for two minutes ensues (led by really loud fags up in the family circle strata), Damrau is touched, pulls hands to chest, then bows head. Diva! (No one tell Natalie Dessay, OK.)

10 October 2005

Breaking News: Mother in Gawker

My blind mama, La Cieca, has caught the attention of the venerable society pages of gawker.com (granted, the "Remainders" pile), via a catalogue of word choices by one Tony Tommasini, critic of classical music and, ostensibly, connoisseur of leather goods and services.

So that's all it takes to break into the major leagues? Cataloguing things from publicly available databases? Listen wonkette, andrewsullivan, MyDD, dailykos: Sieglinde has an e-box full of info about Tony T.'s leather whores and fellow 'arts' critics, where they eat, which Verdi they like, which mezzo they don't, boxers or briefs, top/btm/vers, etc. ... and if that doesn't do the trick, how about pictures of same critics hanging out with opera bloggers at some East Village Starbucks. Scandalo!

UPDATE: Sieglinde was told that this season's hottest ticket to blogfame is Harriet Ellan Miers. So ok ... she finds in Ms. Miers's bio: "Interests: running, tennis, opera. Family: single, no children. Religion: Evangelical Christian." Opera ... single ... evangelical? Smells like a gay man to me. Sieglinde's digging deeper ...

09 October 2005

Bronx Squeaker

Still alive.

Sunday Funnies

1. Parody gone awry. Harriet Miers's blog.
2. Adventures in spotlight. More info about French porn star Hervé-Pierre Gustave who recently outshined Venus: turns out he has an official website. In the midst of searching for naked pics of his, be sure to take a break and read his extraordinary bio. Weird, but 1997 wasn't a good year for Sieglinde either (i.e., to be alive and not know the pleasures of Les Troyens? Worse than using the wrong skincare cream, I don't care.)
3. Charity work. Sieglinde's favorite stepsister and basement shut-in NYCOF has been on a tear lately, posting every half-hour. (Did she just break up with her current beau ... or did her face just break out again from all that Chinese? Probably both.) Be generous: read her. In particular, savour her "In A Nutshell" series (her latest: Turandot, Salome, Ariadne).
4. Annals of love, Craigslist edition. Most recent entry: married guy looking for "handsome, sexy, intelligent." Sieglinde says take a number and wait your turn, bitch.
5. Annals of there's-always-next-year, Boston edition. Oh, the trials and tribs of the Red Sock fan. Yankee fans may join them in losers' lounge after tonight's game, but at least we didn't get swept. Go Yankees!
6. Critic of music and noise. Alex has sharp ears.

08 October 2005

A Shocking No Shocker

This is Dan Coats, former senator who was asked to shepherd the Miers nomination through the confirmation process, as quoted by the New York Times: "'If great intellectual powerhouse is a qualification to be a member of the court and represent the American people and the wishes of the American people and to interpret the Constitution, then I think we have a court so skewed on the intellectual side that we may not be getting representation of America as a whole,' Mr. Coats said in a CNN interview." Anyone else who couldn't breathe for ten seconds after reading that one?

Bush Steadfast in Face of Criticism of Nominee

Anyway, moving on. It's another Ariadne for me this afternoon. Last night was a second helping of crème brulé at that all-you-can-eat dessert buffet called the Renée Fleming Manon. I'm still on the sugar high, and loving it.

07 October 2005

Friday Afternoon Wrap-Up, Shirtless Edition

Sieglinde has always held that opera and porn are twin sisters separated at birth. (Obvious similarities include: throat, tessitura, and tissue.) So she's shocked that we don't get much of one in the other. But here's good news from Geneva:

Nina Stemme outshines the porn star in Geneva's Tannhäuser [AP, via andante.com]

Sieglinde notes the following: (1) French porn star Hervé-Pierre Gustave (a.k.a. HPG) appears as the god/bull Zeus in Act I, but Nina Stemme, the Elisabeth, doesn't appear till Act II, and any queen knows that it's the Venus who dominates Act I. The AP reviewer, Bradley S. Klapper, was apparently too busy checking out HPG to even notice the work of Jeanne-Michele Charbonnet, because she appears nowhere in his review. In Sieglinde's mind, a larger instance of "outshining." It's one thing to not review the acting in porn, quite another to not review the singing in opera. (As absurd as writing a review of Powertool and not making a smallest mention of Jeff Stryker's powertool.) (2) Article continues: "By the Hall of Song — where Tannhäuser's ode to sensual love lands him in hot water — Gould appeared clearly fatigued, his revelation of a liaison with Venus ultimately arriving with more of a whimper than a bang." Don't they sell Viagra in Europe as well? (3) French director Oliver Py is described as "Catholic and homosexual": is this possible? I mean, can you imagine being Catholic and homosexual? Sieglinde's equal-opportunity imagination can't even picture that one.

Meanwhile, in other subway news, "if you see something, say something." In ths spirit of such sage advice from New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sieglinde brings you the Diaries' craigslist.org ad du jour:

Looking for cute and masculine. New to this - 26 [craigslist.org]

The ad is a few days old, but how many gymrats do you think responded to "I am into all sorts of things from working out to opera."? I'll bet you my signed Renée program he's still looking. Help Sieglinde help this boy out, and rush to fill his e-box with lots of love.

And speaking of jockstraps: that opera and football (or basketball) don't mix is maxim, but somehow opera and baseball do. Queens, Sieglinde brings to your attention her favorite website this weekend:

Boston Red Sox Nation: End Game? [bostondirtdogs.com]

(New England is once again engulfed in deep doubt and despair; another century of Ring drought is brewing in the cold fall air. Go White Sox!)

06 October 2005

A Breathtaking Evening

Strauss ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, Met 05.10.2005; Petrenko; Urmana, Damrau, Graham, Villars, Allen.

For the role of Ariadne, Deborah Voigt creates a fierce goddess out of a solid column of sound built firmly from chest to piercing top. In comparison, Violetta Urmana, this evening's Ariadne, is a more earthbound being: sexy and playful, releasing a sound of many colors and dimensions and an aural swirl of blinding beauty, pitch-complete. Urmana caresses the Strauss with a pliable soprano (recently reworked from a bland,unmemorable mezzo) of impressive dynamic range: high pianissimi that float and linger, and fortes of respectable proportions. Voigt can barrel a ff note through space like a firetruck, and when she burns all cylinders you're surrounded by a solid thing. Urmana undertakes an Ariadne of more delicate layers: one is not blown away (the way Voigt's galactic brilliance affects me), but instead grabbed and pulled in closer. Two contrasting but equally compelling creations: don't ask me to choose, bitch.

Diana Damrau threatens to impose a Zerbinetta auf Naxos a la Natalie Dessay, whom in my ears she equalled in note count and precision, and approximated in confidence and elegance. Her timbre is saccharine, vocal production well-schooled, carriage very professional. Meanwhile, towards the end of the opera, Jon Villars provides a surprise treat as Bacchus, a one-dimensional role that almost always fails to make an impression amidst the intricate estrogen. We're all too ready to absolve the tenor who fails to reach a few top notes, blaming Strauss instead for the stratospheric trajectories. Instead, tonight Villars pins every one of them, and everytime he opens his healthy mouth, the spotlight leaves Urmana momentarily. Susan Graham, the evening's Composer, has a rich, creamy, feminine mezzo that thrives in Strauss's sentimental meanderings (more than in Mozart's more boyish Cherubino, a role she took up for the house prima two weeks ago). The Maestro, Kirill Petrenko, is a sucker for the Composer's many poignant poses, which he drags out a bit too much for good taste. As a result, Graham has to interrupt two soaring phrases with a quick intake of breath (understandably choosing life over art). All the buttery slo-mo portraits has Graham exhausted by the Prologue's end, and she's left spewing out strained tones and hard approximations of the remaining top notes. I place much of the blame on Maestro Petrenko primarily, and then some on Graham's intrinsic mezzo-limitations. Nonetheless, her endearing Composer is purely gorgeous, and if she had a more singer-sensitive conductor (like Levine), she'd be the evening's star.

The Yankees lost tonight, but so what.

03 October 2005

Verdian Slaughter

Over at ionarts, there's a burning at the stake. Prompted by an unexciting performance of that "garbage" of an opera called I Vespri Siciliani, Jens F. Laurson asks everyone (including himself) why we're all wasting our time with early/middle Verdi crap, about which he says the following: "The drama is staid and silly, the text plenty hackneyed and boring and only in place, it seems to give the singers something more than just vowels to discharge. Gluck's lessons ("to confine music to its true purpose ... expressing the poetry and reinforcing the dramatic situation without interrupting or obstructing the action with superfluous embellishments") never penetrated most Italian opera." An indictment of Italian opera worthy of Tom DeLay & Co.! (Superfluous embellishments in opera-- are you kidding. No, seriously, are you kidding?)

I thought we'd all be nice to JFL and help him out with his dilemma. First off, we believe that our boy from D.C. is really trying his D.C. best to at least have a healthy, nonconfrontational relationship with such things as Nabucco and Vespri, but didn't he get that memo about Oceanliner Guleghina? Here's the gist: no love can come out of an evening with Maria. Next, I'd suggest a re-reading of Alex Ross's essential New Yorker piece from 2001 called "Verdi's Grip." In the essay, Alex defends Verdi from Regietheater directors who attempt to cure the "silliness" out of Verdian plots by reworking them within their own little staging scenarios, meant to distract the audience from what they think as a vast Verdian emptiness.

OK, it's no secret that Verdi plots blow. No one's arguing otherwise. But dear D.C. citizens, that doesn't mean that Verdi's operas blow too. Here, Alex provides the escape clause (what I think is the key to my uninterrupted bliss and happiness with Verdi), observing that "a Verdi aria is like a camera that zooms in on a person’s soul." To clarify, Alex raises the example of Violetta's "Amami, Alfredo" (from La Traviata, created before Vespri and is therefore included in JFL's summary execution).

Now, regarding the Vespri. When Elena enters in Act I, for instance, to begin her "L'altro mare" parable (ladies, take out nearest Vespri CD and cue to appropriate track), the arc of the scene appears from the quietness of her entrance to ride every rising wave of the cellos. Suddenly, the darkness of Elena's voice recedes to deliver the "Deh! tu calma" prayer. But no, "E Dio risponde" and she tells her dear Sicilians that God's not always about manufacturing miracles. What the f*? But quickly they get their answer: "Mortali! il vostro fato e in vostra man," at which point the soprano spills out some blood-curdling chest: "in vostra man!" The "Coraggio" that follows is a direct command that speaks to the loins (with some vocal calisthenics thrown in, for the fans in the upper tiers), and when everyone chimes in with "O quai detti! Quale ardor," I am taken up in the swirl of a revolution: Verdi takes us there: I don't need Callas: even an Arroyo can midwife the drama. When Elena's voice reappears above the choral frenzy, I'm dancing, and with my arms raised, I vocalize "si sprezzin i perigli!" The high note is optional; I've already interpolated it in my mind's ear.

Verdi scenes in themselves, like his arias, situate familiar truths in a kind of music that resonates in our chests. (If I'm ever to address Sicilians to rouse them to courage, I'd want Verdi to write it for me. If I'm ever to "Amami, Alfredo" a lover, I'd surely use Verdi's "Amami, Alfredo", not Britten's or Puccini's or Mozart's.) His scenes may fall together awkwardly in a murky narrative, whose logic defies our modern, Hollywood-dominated conventions; the ride may be bumpy and long, but Verdi takes me, with some patience (where else am I supposed to be?), to simple mirrors of my humanity. The confrontation between Abigaille and Nabucco (Part III, "Donna, chi sei?"), punctuated with the kind of oom-pah-pah that turns off Wagnerites, rocks in my mind like a Coldplay track. When Abigaille is pushed to the throne by the Gran Sacerdote (Part II, "Chi s'avanza?"), I can feel the cursed crown on my own head. Are Rigoletto and Il Trovatore part of JFL's "middle Verdi" gang? Don't even get me started on those "silly" works.

The bouquets of Forza, Don Carlo, Aida, Otello, and Falstaff (an opera I've yet to reach) are all acknowledged masterpieces. Is it only because their narratives have finally coalesced into a drama worthy of comparisons to Wagner, Puccini, and Spielberg? Musically, the seeds of their successes are all over Verdi's earlier works, and when I'm sitting in the opera house and such a scene stumbles awkwardly into focus, my skin tells me it's familiar, and so it resonates in the human world Verdi knows very well.