Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Ruffling the Met's Feathers

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Ruffling the Met's Feathers

Article excerpt

What is black, white, pink, and read all over? What is the hottest, most outrageous, most subversive, and often the most perceptive publication on the performing arts scene today? It's very likely Parterre Box, which bills itself as "the queer opera `zine."

The circulation is "500, with an incredible pass-along rate," boasts James Jorden, the openly gay New York City-based founder, publisher, editor, and chief contributor. But the influence of the do-it-yourself periodical, now in its 28th, roughly bimonthly, installment, is shocking and delighting opera fans and opera professionals of all sexual orientations throughout the country. At last, someone is telling the truth about a form of entertainment that, because of its sheer grandeur, receives a polite wave of the finger from critics who should (and often do) know better when they encounter a disaster. Anything that costs up to $200 a ticket (at least at the Metropolitan Opera) can't be all bad. In the words of the Maria Callas character in Terrence McNally's 1995 play Master Class, "they only did their best." Right?

Uh-uh. "A lot of singers think like investment bankers," Jorden, 43, declares. "I am looking for people who sing what they feel. It's not easy to be that frank in front of 4,000 people; it's a painful, draining experience. Look at the genuine divas today. Look at Deborah Voigt, Aprile Millo, Diana Soviero, Catherine Malfitano, Denyce Graves, Gwyneth Jones. Even if it's not always the greatest singing, it's exciting. You come out of a performance with your teeth chattering."

Jorden's molars weren't dancing back in 1993, when he conceived the idea of Parterre Box. "It was Maria Callas's 70th birthday, and nobody was saying a damn thing about it," he recalls. "I was going stir-crazy and seeing a therapist. He also had a patient who promoted punk bands by putting out `zines. …

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