Thursday, October 5, 2023

Viva La Cieca

Please, please read these memorial tributes to James Jorden—editrix (in his cyberdrag persona as La Cieca) of the notorious Parterre Box queer opera zine—by Zachary Woolfe in the Times and Ben Miller in Van.

Like me, Ben and Zach have risen with generations of opera queens who came of age reading James's proto-Gawkeresque mix of tawdry gossip and incisive criticism, and whose relationship to the art form was shaped by his insistence that the opera house could be more than an Apollonian temple of white marble, that the music drama at its heart it was a real, living thing, filthy and demented and campy and nasty and sexy and sublime.

Years ago, I was asked by the Opera News, the official Metropolitan Opera Guild magazine that James would ultimately—Liza Minnelli-like—outlive, to write about opera resources on the internet, and one of the reasons I'm now embarrassed by that article, as I am by literally everything I have ever written, is that in my brash and rebellious youth, I secretly believed that there was only ONE resource on the internet that mattered, and it was, and I didn't do a very good job of hiding it. 

James was endlessly supportive of the opera bloggers who came after him, including myself. He not only inspired me, he encouraged me, he published me, and he linked to me here and everywhere else I was writing. I can never repay him.

I'm so embarrassed by the way James and I drifted apart. Remember that viral video—was it in Vanity Fair?—in 2017, where a magazine asked their staff what they thought Hillary Clinton should do now that she'd lost the run for President, and one of them said she thought Hillary should take up knitting? James, who had been pro-Clinton in the primaries, fumed on Facebook that it was ageist and sexist and so forth, and I, a Bernie Bro, found it funny and really not all that offensive, and he blocked me, and we were both too proud and petty to re-friend each other again. I always felt stupid looking back on it, but never as stupid as I do now, writing this and crying a little—not for James, of course, who in the influence and inspiration he offered lives on forever, just as surely as he jolted opera back to life for so many of us, but for myself, at having let my old, old, old friend slip away from me forever.

So let's not dwell on that. I'd rather think of that night, years (and years and YEARS) ago, after the opening of an Ariadne revival at the Met (please don't read my stupid review of that, either), when James presided over a roundtable of (then-)young gay opera bloggers, including Zach and me, at that restaurant just off Lincoln Square, and told us, "Looking at you all, I think I know what it must feel like to have children," and I think he did, too. He was the mother of us all. 

Labels: , , ,