Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Disclaimer: The following is a purely fictional recreation of what Richard Nixon and the Berlin Wall might have thought about tonight's performance of I Puritani. The views expressed by the Nixon, Ehrlichman, and Haldeman do not reflect the views of the blog-owner. 

April 30, 2014, 12:46 AM, Air Force One:

Richard Nixon (R.N.): Well, Bob, John, I have to say, tonight, we really pulled it off. This will get the goddamned liberal media off our backs for good.

H.R. "Bob" Haldeman: Yes, sir, it certainly will. A great night for the presidency, yes, sir.

John Ehrlichman: Yes, it will please all those liberals for sure.

R.N.: To do what we did, you know, have a (inaudible) Soviet soprano, onstage, singing with an, an Afro-American tenor, and a Polack baritone, that's just, the New York Times never would have thought Richard Nixon could pull that off. And for the President of the United States to stand on that stage, and present the opera, it's like if I ... if I went to China or something.

Haldeman: (Laugh). And I already saw the presses. They said "NIXON UNITES WORLD ONSTAGE."

R.N.: Who said that, the Post?

Haldeman: Yes sir, the Post.

Ehlrichman: Well, goddamn.

R.N.: Bob, have any, uh, cabinet members called, saying they saw us on television, or anything? Have you gotten any, uh, reactions from them?

Haldeman: Well, not yet, but, you know, it's late ...

R.N.: Tomorrow, could you call around, to see, you know, how they felt about it? Whether they liked it?

Haldeman: Yes sir, tomorrow first thing in the morning.

R.N.: And I thought I Puritani really represented, you know, Anglo-Saxon values. Patriotism, love, loyalty, wholesomeness, there's none of that, you know, homosexual Jewish agenda onstage. The men and women were all dressed up decently, like upstanding people, and not half-naked. And we were sitting in a box but I didn't see any, you know, obvious homosexuals in the audience. I mean, one or two might have been, but I went to the men's restroom, and it was really clean in there.

And I thought that it would be, you know, strange, seeing a Soviet soprano kiss an Afro-American tenor, but they kept it really wholesome, I liked it.

John, what did you think?

Ehrlichman: Well, Mr. President, I thought that the music was lovely and all that but kind of boring. Slow love song, fast love song, slow patriotism duet, fast patriotism duet, slow girl is sad solo, fast girl is sad solo, and on and on. I mean, after the show I went up to Mariotti ...

R.N.: Who the hell is Mariotti?

Haldeman: The conductor, sir.

R.N.: (Inaudible)

Ehrlichman: I said to him, "You know, Maestro, if you took that entire score, with all those sheets, and you threw them into the Hudson River, would anyone know or care?"

Haldeman: No, no, John, you're wrong there. The composer of the opera was a man by the name of Vincenzo Bellini and he's a very famous opera composer. And the way they sang, well, that's the style of the operas of Bellini. It's very specific and he composed them that way for a reason. It's called "bel canto."

Ehrlichman: Famous or not famous, it was boring. And that Soviet soprano, she's a dish and all, but she looked kind of empty-headed, and notice when she threw the veil into those fake candles, the poor baritone had to run across the stage to get the veil because it was so obviously fake candles ...

Haldeman: Speaking of her, Mr. President, Mitchell did call, he said he saw us on television, and he said ...

R.N.: What did he say? Did he say anything about my speech?

Haldeman: No, well, no he didn't say anything about your speech, but he did say something about the soprano.

R.N.: Nothing about my speech? Goddamn great cabinet we have here.

Haldeman: It's Mitchell. He said that the soprano when she sang her high notes ... she sounded like she had her titty in a big fat wringer.

Ehrlichman: (Laughs) So true.

Haldeman: The soprano was attractive, I agree.

Ehrlichman: Good thing we didn't take Kissinger. He would have wanted to discuss international affairs with her, for sure. (Laughs.)

Haldeman: She's married to the conductor.

R.N.: So nothing about my speech, goddamn.

Haldeman: But I think everyone thought the tenor Brownlee was good. He's such a little guy, but he can sure sing!

R.N.: I still think the picture of a Soviet soprano with an Afro-American tenor singing together, on the biggest stage in the United States, I mean, the magnificence of it! We won't talk about the Polack baritone, he was sick. What the hell is his name, anyway? I couldn't pronounce his name in the teleprompter, made me so goddamn annoyed.

Haldeman: Mariusz (M-A-R-I-U-S-Z) Kwiecien (K-W-E-I-C-I-E-N). Now don't ask me if I'm pronouncing it right, because I don't know myself.

Ehrlichman: I noticed how everyone's voice in the last act got bigger. I could barely hear them in the first act and then they're bawling into my ears in the last act?

R.N.: Could it be that they were miked?

Haldeman: No, no, opera houses are not miked. That's the difference between opera singers and, you know, rock-and-roll singers. Opera singers have to learn to project their voices without a mike.

Ehrlichman: So after the show I went up to that Gelb guy, and I said, "Say, Mr. Gelb, those voices sounded awfully ... BIG in the last act." And you know what he said to me?

R.N.: What'd he say?

Ehrlichman: He said to me, "Well, this is purely off the record, but here at the Met, everyone mikes everyone."

R.N. and Haldeman: (Laughs) Well, goddamn.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bis for Camarena!

During tonight's absolutely amazing Cenerentola Javier Camarena finished "Pegno adorato e caro" with a long-held D followed by an even longer high C, the audience predictably started screaming, just like opening night. This time though, after it was clear the ovation would not stop, Camarena ran back onstage to acknowledge the applause. And then ... an encore!!! Yes it was planned because the chorus also ran back onstage and Luisi immediately cued the band, but he deserved it. You could see the joy on his face as he held an even longer D and C. This is a guy who just has to open his mouth and the audience is already screaming.

Yes, I think it's safe to say ... Javier Camarena is ready for his close-up.

p.s. And the rest of the cast was also much improved from opening night, if that's even possible. But they were much more relaxed with the comedy, Luca Pisaroni sounded GREAT (as opposed to opening night, when he sounded ... ), and Corbelli and Spagnoli absolutely chewed the scenery and gave a master class in how to sing and act opera buffa. Joyce DiDonato threw in even more crazy machine-gun coloratura in "Non piu mesta." It really was just one of those nights.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

La Cenerentola - Viva Rossini!

To the left is a picture of Gioachino Rossini that I think reflects a bit on the man and his music. Behind the dark shadows and serious poses of 19th century photographs, you can see a sparkle in his eyes and a small but definite smile. Rossini's music, even his serious music, never loses that certain sparkle and joy, and the challenge for casting his operas has always been finding singers that can match the Italian master's spirit.

Friday, April 18, 2014

I Puritani

I attended the premiere of I Puritani last night at the Met. My review can again, be found at parterre box. Overall I don't think it's a must-see for the season.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kristine Opolais's Butterfly

Last night I had the privilege of attending the remarkable Butterfly of Kristine Opolais. My review is at parterre box. An amazing singer and performer.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Vintage Balanchine

VAI has released an absolutely essential DVD for all ballet and dance lovers -- vintage performances of two of Balanchine's most important works, Orpheus and Serenade, danced by Balanchine's legendary "first generation" of New York City Ballet dancers.

These films were made in 1957 (Serenade) and 1960 (Orpheus) but the first thing you notice is how absolutely no caveat needs to be made about when these films were made. The dancers and move in a completely modern manner. When Balanchine was alive there was criticism that he preferred "pinheads" -- tall, thin women with small sleek heads. A cursory view of both films shows that this was a fallacy. Violette Verdy (Eurydice) had a rather womanly figure, and the corps de ballet of Serenade also shows a sea of unexpected curves.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Joan and Peggy's Thoughts on Boheme

I walked into the Metropolitan Opera to see the matinee of La Boheme and who do I see but Joan and Peggy also walking towards Lincoln Center. Afterwards I followed them to a local bar and recorded their conversation surreptitiously. We all witnessed the historic last-minute substitution of Kristine Opolais, who had just sung in last night's Madama Butterfly. (The scheduled Mimi, Anita Hartig, was ill.) I could say what I thought of the performance but Peggy and Joan's conversation is just so much more interesting.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Melanie Wilkes reviews Arabella premiere

Mrs. Melanie Wilkes went to the Met's Arabella last night, and offered her thoughts in a letter to her dear sister Scarlett. Here is her review at Parterre Box. As you can see, Miss Melanie did not enjoy the performance.

Balanchine's Nutcracker pops up ... everywhere

It's December 2020 and the world is going through a furious, deadly second wave of the covid pandemic. Most performances have been cance...