Parish paper puffs queer opera blog

The New York Times has done a big favour to its Parterre Box pals with a pre-Christmas puff piece.

It makes one significant connection:

At the Met, which long shunned Parterre Box, it now has press seats, just like any other major news outlet. Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, wrote in an email that his house and the zine have “a symbiotic relationship.”

“If not for the Met, Parterre would have an existential problem,” he added. “There would be nothing to complain about. And if not for Parterre, some of our most outspoken fans would be without an outlet to vent.”

How very comfortable for them both.

Read on here.


share this

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on google
      • 1. I know the cool kids say it, and they claim, sitting in their little committees, to have ‘reclaimed’ it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t offensive to many gay people. We don’t authorise the little cool kids to determine our language.

        2. In fact I was pointing out the conjunction of “puff” (itself a derogatory term for gay people, especially in its UK version of “poof”). It was typical of old telly sitcoms to add shrieks of laughter to such words and conjunctions of them.

        • Paul —

          Surely you know this, but “puff piece” is a standard term referring to press releases/ promotional pieces masquerading as journalism.

          They commonly show up when someone has a performance, new album, or movie coming up. It’s publicity.

          I also noticed the proximity of the word “puff” to the word “queer,” but I can’t quite reach far enough to turn it into a homophobic slur.

          • not in the US it isn’t. puff piece is what AT writes routinely about the MET in the NY TImes. Nothing to do with anyone being gay.

          • Paul – were you talking to me? If so, then: Yes I am. But as I read down the comments, I see that the term “puff piece” has been explained to you several times.

      • Doubt very much that it is used in that context here. And the coolest that NL gets is in his frostiness to Gelb’s tenure at the MET.

  • From this somewhat odd post, I learn that SD does not like the Met, the NYT, and Parterre Box. The first of these I already knew, of course, but I’m not sure I really need to know any of it.

      • For the news about classical music, which are very often entertaining, enlightening, interesting. Whenever there is a post about the Met, I know almost always in advance what it will say. But that, fortunately, does not reduce everything else to shambles. Thanks for all the great posts, but I could do without the constant Met-bashing as well. On the other hand, I expect it by now, so no permanent harm done.

      • Well, not for posts of this sort, obviously. But among the chaff, which I think is considerable in its various modes, I do find the occasional grain of wheat, and for such do I look. The problem with your reflexive response is that, while I commented upon only this particular post, you imply that such as this is the meat and potatoes, the raison d’etre, of the blog. You are a man of determined views, as am I, and perhaps that is how you do indeed view your blog. But, if so, I think you are setting the bar too low.

  • My my… “puffs, queer”…
    this Wiki info will make things a bit more comprehensible for non Americans:
    Parterre box is an ezine devoted to opera, about which it cultivates a campy, critical, strongly opinionated attitude with explicit gay overtones. The publication was founded by the New Yorker James Jorden in 1993[1] during a period of under-employment as an opera director.[citation needed] It appeared for a number of years in print form, but now it is solely published on the Web, where it is considered an influential opera blog.

    • The queer term is taken from the NY Times, a newpaper. Puff is a term journalists use for shameless promotion.

      • Yes, “puff” is used for shameless promotion. When I was a journalist we spoke of a ‘free puff’. But in old-sitcomese, it puns on “poof”.

        As for “queer”, clearly the NY Times has bought the wee cool kids’ claim to have ‘reclaimed’ the word. On the bus to do some shopping this afternoon, I shall while away the time by reclaiming “faggot”.

        • Yes, “puff” is used for shameless promotion. When I was a journalist we spoke of a ‘free puff’. But in old-sitcomese, it puns on “poof”.

          Begging your pardon, but this conversation is happening in journalese, not old-sitcomese. This is a little like reading an article in German, seeing the word “rot,” and deciding that the author is equating death and decay with the color red.

          In the NYT article, one of the illustrations [] shows the cover of the first issue proclaiming “Queer Opera.” The NYT isn’t using any term that Parterre Box didn’t use first (and repeatedly).

          • “Begging your pardon, but this conversation is happening in journalese, not old-sitcomese. This is a little like reading an article in German, seeing the word “rot,” and deciding that the author is equating death and decay with the color red.”

            It’s not like that at all. I was talking about the conjunction of “puff” and “queer” in the headline on SD.

  • That site is a veritable cesspool. It’s either their way or the highway. And the overall tenor (or should I say soprano) is not as tongue in cheek as the zine’s owner sells it. In other words, they have an agenda to promote their favorites (witness the recent daily posts on their Anna Netrebko). What their commenters and others who read on the sidelines fail to see or acknowledge is that opera and its practitioners (meaning singers, mostly) are not defined (and shouldn’t be) by the irony and contradiction of gay men dictating what is and what is not appropriate or suitable to their liking. In other words, and this is in particular about female singers, the females who play along (read Netrebko) with these men’s misogynistic notions of femalehood become fair game for adoration regardless of the quality of their singing or value or lack of of their art. That’s the crude bottom line over there.

    • Some, but not many, speak very highly of you too. Parterre is what it is, a collection of people, not all of whom are gay, who riff off each other, and display their preferences/predjudices like many others who are caught up in the world of Opera, itself hardly a rational milieu. NL asks another contributor here why they read SD, the same question might be asked of you and Parterre, as given your posting history, you are not exactly free from pursuing your own personal preferences. The difference being, I suppose, that you cast your net significantly wider in the search for a studied negativity of the many performers who do not come up to snuff. You are entitled to your opinion as are the Parterrians, who at least leaven theirs/ours with a touch of humour sometimes bitchy, mostly missing elsewhere.

  • “Mr. Gelb was less sentimental: ‘Parterre’s readership is sufficient to warrant press tickets.’ ”

    Didn’t SD report surpassing the million mark this year? New York here NL comes!

  • If you are interested in Met productions, then Christopher Corwin is worth reading. But the illiterate and ignorant commentary by PB readers and others, including “our own JJ”, is depressing. And the degree of vituperation that the site indulges in is frankly squalid.

    • As a regular at the Met and frequently involved in “what did you think?” conversations with strangers who I bump into next to me or at the bar I can say without fear of contradiction that Operagoers who think they know something about Opera can be some of the nastiest people you will meet. There are nice people too but when Karajan said Vienna was a city “full of opera critics” he could have been talking about other places too…

    • “Our own JJ” rarely comments directly on PB, he delegates that to his alter ego. As himself he writes reviews in the “Observer” that are always worth reading, showing his knowledge and feeling for Opera, and certainly are certainly more objective than the fawning reviews of the chief critic in the NYT. “illiterate”, “ignorant”, “squalid” , display a certain lack of irony about a fanzine which is what it is and is out and proud, a term you probably find as distasteful as the site you force yourself to view.

  • Let’s face it, the other thing about that zine is that its participants well know, and all too well, that the great singers are gone. So in their despair, which mirrors that of the Metropolitan O management, they are now allied to the cause of propping up what is flagrantly there no longer just like the Met is forced to do. The symbiotic relationship Gelb speaks of is basically one of survival in an era of unprecedented artistic drought. So the new twist for Parterre is one of coddling to its paying sponsors through censorship of anything that is non conformant to their narrative. Soon they will become another Opera-L. Obsolete. The irony and hypocrisy in all this is staggering unless you live in abject denial or on LSD.

    • Your oft stated view that the great singers are gone, may well be true, for you. But for many of the current audiences the singers available are the only ones they can hear live and recordings are always a pale alternative.

      In 40 years of opera going I have seen many marvellous productions of operas performed by artists who would probably not past muster by your rigorous standards. The ‘Great’ singers, whoever they were, did not figure in my experiences mainly due to financial constraints at the time they were singing, assuming of course that there have been any at all in the last 40 years? Now I can afford the occasional luxury of a seat in the stalls it appears that I have to make do with an artistic drought. Well, for me and I suspect many like me, it doesn’t feel that way. I don’t feel cheated that I have missed a golden age in the same way you seem to feel frustrated by the dearth of talent currently to hand.

      But speaking heretically there is more to the Lyric stage than at best a handful of rarified canaries, however genously endowed, turning up for another outing of their signature role in a production designed to please the cognoscenti whose pleasure is in comparing it with his/her last outing or a previous singer from another age.

      The MET under Gelb is trying to refashion the experience. He faces an uphill task given the barn he has to fill but he has access to most of the best singers available but he is in no different a position than his international peers. If they all struggle under the same yolk then you may be right that he and they are on the road to obsolescence but I’m more optimistic than that. But then I’m not just a canary fancier.

    • Who happens to be alive now can’t be compared with the best that ever existed, and recorded in the studio. If we could go back to a particular year, say 1967 – we’re giving up quite a bit just to have some singers in their prime, perhaps only pressed on bad vinyl. It’s a luxury to go with the 1983 recording of this, the 1959 recording of that, etc. – to hear everyone in their prime, whenever we want. Even then, there aren’t many opera recordings with a completely “perfect” cast. There’s always one singer who isn’t quite at the level of the others – and in many cases you’re forced to listen to the undesirable singer in order to hear the others… Now, in live performance, it’s not much different. One can bet there will be a less desirable singer, and we all have our tastes… But the alternative is not seeing opera live – not allowing some new singer the chance. Maybe their voice is different or inferior in some way – but why might it be good, why might it be better? That’s why we have to keep going and trying.

  • IMO, a critic’s job is to be knowledgeable and opinionated, and to wear his or her biases proudly on display so that readers can decide based on the review, whether they would like the performance or not.

    PB certainly provides much more knowledgeable and opinionated writing than the NY Times does; but even so, I have to say the times critics do their job (as I described it above). I can be pretty sure that if Tommasini likes something, I will find it boring; if Woolfe dislikes something, I’ll probably think it’s good. Corinna de Fonseca-Wolheim (sp?) seems like someone I can agree with — at least I can read her reviews without rolling my eyes.

    I find the viciousness/ bitchiness of PB entertaining, not to be taken seriously. It’s like SportsCenter for queens — everybody yelling their opinions, and trying to be louder and more extreme so they’ll be noticed.

  • After reading the NYT piece I realized that J Jorden was the founder of PB which I rarely look at. However, I always thought that JJ’s reviews in the NY Observer were the most interesting reviews of vocal music in the city. I will now look at PB more frequently. I am not sure what all the Sturm & Drang above was about. Why can’t we have diverse opinions on opera?

  • The dilemma is the pretentious Jorden has risen well above his pay grade. Uneducated, he wears a chip on his shoulder dealing with his subscribers who typically have degrees. Jorden has been a shill for Gelb for years and it is rumored that Gelb has paid him to plant pieces on his site. [redacted: abuse]

  • I believe most of the controversy concerning the site centers around the nastiness of the moderator. When he’s been in the wrong mood, he has been inexplicably vicious to posters. I think the acrimonious belligerence, at times, could have warranted medical attention. He has rarely tolerated dissent well. Yet that he provides this site for free for so many people to share has to be taken into some consideration. We’ve all seen him attack posters for provocations and infractions serious or not. It’s why I stopped contributing: my connection to music is meant to alleviate the difficulties in life, not aggravate them.

    That said, since Parterre has become more commercially recognized, the moderator’s attacks and capricious silencing of free speech have diminished. This may also be because many people who didn’t mind courting controversy were expunged or stopped posting. Many among us also attempt to avoid pushing his buttons. There are certain topics, such as regie productions, that are simply too volatile to discuss there dispassionately.

    Alongside the moderator’s exceptional wit and cleverness, the best thing about Parterre is the ability to read the erudite posts of fellow opera-goers. Most of the regular posters–recognized authorities and “amateurs” alike–are simply fascinating to read and I will always enjoy the discourse, the wit and the sheer joy of their writing. One can’t get that anywhere else and the moderator is to be praised to the skies for providing the forum. For that, I will be a lurker as long as I am allowed. When the moderator publishes his own work, and promotes that of others, the site is at its most invaluable.

    • vicious is right. at times the reason is inexplicable as you say but at other times it’s very clear. anything critical of Netrebko gets one bumped off – fast!

  • Passionate people holding passionately personal views were long excluded from the established and conventional press, no matter the subject or profession or industry. Ralph Nader was one of the first to break through to being a recognized and universally respected public figure because of his out-spoken, and factually accurate, views about consumer products that were manufactured to be risky to health and safety. Jorden’s printed zine, and now on-line blog, has consistently been blunt, clever, and knowledgeable about the show business of opera. Much as I have other issues with the Met’s General Manager, Peter Gelb, his quote in this commemorative article is spot on and shows a maturity, openness, and reasonableness Jorden hasn’t always faced from the Met administration. It bears restating whenever each of us, or any business, are faced with beliefs we don’t like or want to see, and it’s the quote that caught my attention looking at today’s Slippedisc: “Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, wrote in an email that his house and the zine have ‘a symbiotic relationship.’ ‘If not for the Met, Parterre would have an existential problem,’ he added. ‘There would be nothing to complain about. And if not for Parterre, some of our most outspoken fans would be without an outlet to vent.’” This is the whole idea behind free speech — not less speech is tolerable, rather more speech teaches, embarrasses, and can bring us closer to rational, thoughtful dialogue and prevention of reifying error than can censorship, no matter how otherwise authoritative. I canongratulate both the NYT for recognizing dissident voices and James Jorden, in particiular, for perserverance, vision, charm, cleverness and thoughtful cussedness!

  • A puff piece (verb is only implied) is an article promoting a performer that appears around the time of the performance, usually a PR-promoted article. You can hardly call the NY Times’ first article about a 22-year-old online phenomenon like Parterre a puff piece! Had the article been about Slipped Disc, I’m sure you wouldn’t have called it a puff piece. James Jorden is a serious critic who also happens to publish an entertaining and informative blog for all kinds of people who are passionate about opera. For instance, at the end of the Otello broadcast from Munich last week, there were 321 comments already posted about it on the site. As for the comments themselves, I’ve read far nastier comments on Slipped Disc–racist, right-wing, and personally insulting comments. It’s amazing to me that something as glorious as music could inspire such small-minded negativity. If SD devoted itself more to music and less to gossip, scandal, and schadenfreude, it might gain more respect. As it is, only Anthea Kreston gives the site the class it should be aiming for, and the occasional pieces about music history, and Lebrecht’s record of the week pieces. More music, please, less dissonance!

  • the less said about this site, parterre, the better, that Gelb gets involved with that trash and psycho owner is remarkable

    • not really – it’s just expedient. the Met will do anything and everything these days to flog tickets. often at very large discounts – most recently all over the house. this is done via ticket discount websites. For example here

      Playing ball with the host/hostess of Parterre makes perfect sense in the situation. At least that site’s readers actually go to the opera!

  • >