Category: Opera

Dmitri Hvorostovsky.

Imagine for a moment that you’re the world’s foremost operatic dramatic baritone. You’ve done Rigoletto, you’ve done Germont père, you’ve done Conte di Luna to critical and popular acclaim the world over. What might you think would be next on your artistic agenda?

1) Become a tenor, in the manner of Plácido Domingo but backwards.

2) Conduct.

3) Direct.

4) Star in a sadomasochistic fetish video, not unlike certain Duran Duran music videos from the 1980s.

If 4 was not even on your radar, this may, um, surprise you.

NSFW in the extreme.

Via Schleppy Nabucco’s.



Yesterday was the birthday of Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti. Self-Pollution invites you to celebrate with some clips of his greatest hits.

The Mad Scene from Lucia di Lammermoor, sung by the incomparable Natalie Dessay.

“Cheti, cheti, immantinente”, the comic bass/baritone duet from Don Pasquale, performed by Samuel Ramey and Thomas Hampson, and having a blast from the sound of it.

More Lucia: the famous sextet, familiar to fans of Scorsese films as Jack Nicholson’s phone ringtone in The Departed. Featuring Maria Callas and Giuseppe diStefano, with Karajan conducting.

Possibly his best known aria, “Una furtiva lagrima” from L’Elisir d’amore, sung by its best-known interpreter, Luciano Pavarotti at his peak in 1981.

And no Donizetti celebration would be complete without “Ah! mes amis…Pour mon âme” from La fille du régiment, with its infamous 9 high Cs. They’re tossed off with ease in this rendition by young American tenor Lawrence Brownlee.


Schleppy Nabucco’s Shawn and Elizabeth review Shostakovich’s surreal opera at the Met.

I wish I could have seen it. I am only familiar with one of Shostakovich’s operas: the tremendous Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which has quickly grown to be one of my favorite works. I saw it for the first time from the stage side, in Graham Vick’s infamous postmodern Met production.

Any opera personally denounced by Joseph Stalin can’t be all bad.

And as for the sexual implications of the proboscis in question, I can do no better than to direct my readers to the “Spanish Fry” episode of Futurama.

Nose as sexual organ. Discuss.

New York City Opera, RIP.


Your humble hostess with Samuel Ramey in New York City Opera’s Anna Bolena, 1980. Photo Credit: Beth Bergman

On 11 September (yes, really), 1980. I made my professional stage debut in the mute and uncredited role of Elizabeth in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, at the New York City Opera. I was six, and on stage with me were Olivia Stapp, Samuel Ramey, and Rockwell Blake. For the entire run of performances and rehearsals, I earned a princely fee of $ 39.45, after taxes. It was to alter the course of my life in ways I couldn’t even comprehend back then.

After a glorious 70-year history of triumphs, tragedies, iconic performances, some rotten luck, some labor difficulties, and a whole heap of boneheaded decisions, City Opera is filing for bankruptcy.

Kinda depressed about this right now. If my thoughts coalesce into anything rational I’ll write them down. I might also try and get my scanner working so I can share a bit of NYCO memories and ephemera.

And always remember that there are lots of other small opera companies, projects and competitions in the New York area that are worthy of  your patronage.

Going to stalk YouTube for a while. See ya’s.


Chinese_princess_by_VikaLCIn the gloomy night flies an iridescent ghost.

It rises and opens its wings on the infinite black humanity.

The whole world invokes it and the whole world implores it.

But the ghost disappears with the dawn, to be reborn in the heart.

And every night it is born, and every day it dies!

Giacomo Puccini, Turandot

as quoted by Pope Francis,  a fan

The opera protests.

Lee Broomfield/Metropolitan Opera

Lee Broomfield/Metropolitan Opera

A petition has been circulating among the opera crowd: it wants the Metropolitan Opera to dedicate its opening night new production première of Eugene Onegin to LGBT people suffering under Russian president Vladimir Putin’s repressive laws. The rationales:

*Composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was secretly gay and suffered for it.

*The production’s conductor Valery Gergiev, and star Anna Netrebko, are on record as being Putin supporters in the past.

*The singer playing the title role, Mariusz Kwieceń, is gay.

The movement has been gaining a lot of support from critics, singers and fans alike. There are plans to boycott and picket opening night.

The Met, however, via general manager Peter Gelb, has declined to submit to the petition’s demands.

As well he 10000% should.

Politicizing the arts is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Once you take that step for causes you believe in, you have implicitly consented to it for all causes. If someone has saved up their dollars to attend their first opera at the Met, are we now going to tell them not to go because of the boycott? And if they decide to go anyway, and cross a picket line to do so, are they now homophobes ? Maybe they just want to go to the goddamned opera, hear some beautiful music, be moved, and go home.

The arrogance of the petitioners is breathtaking: if you don’t sign the petition, you support Putin’s crackdowns. Attending opening night is as if you’re personally arresting gay people and removing their children from their custody. Who are they to make operagoers take sides in a fight they may not want? Who appointed them the arbiters of what is correct?

(There is also the not inconsiderable fact that people who publicly oppose Putin have a nasty habit of getting arrested, maimed, or killed. Think Alexander Litvinenko. Or Anna Politkovskaya. Or Viktor Yushchenko. Or Alexei Navalny. Maybe the reason Netrebko and Gergiev haven’t spoken publicly about this issue is because they don’t want to, you know, DIE.)

If this boycott seems justified to you, then surely you will have no problem with these:

  • Anti-smokers protesting Carmen
  • Sex worker opponents blacklisting La Traviata and Lulu
  • Advocates for the disabled objecting to Rigoletto and Das Rheingold
  • Animal rights activists offended by The Cunning Little Vixen
  • Planned Parenthood picketing Die Frau ohne Schatten
  • Coulrophobics united against Pagliacci
  • Satanists complaining about Faust
  • Masonic/Illuminati conspiracy theorists up in arms about Die Zauberflöte

Figure out other ways to fight for LGBT rights in Russia, as we should. But leave the performing arts alone.