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Super Humans by Ulrica PAGE FIFTEEN

QUANDO M'EN VO

As the summer season gets underway Ulrica is once again in her element gathering tidbits of gossip as if they were roses in bloom.

Hottest news of all is that blue-eyed director/AD Mark Streshinsky is be about to make his SFO debut as a Super waiter in one or more of the upcoming La Bohèmes. So far Mark has steadfastly refused to get pie on his face but has shown some talent for the plate tossing that has been somewhat unpredictable this time around… Rumour has it that the matinée performance on Bake Sale Day, Sunday, June 13th, will be Mark's official debut.

The final dress of Bohème on Tuesday evening was quite a giddy affair with a house full of high school students having a good time in the upper levels, and a festive atmosphere amongst the Supers cashing in their lightwalking credits down in the Orchestra Sides. But why, if Supers in a show are offered the chance to bring a guest to their final dress, are those names not included on the guest list? There were several instances of Supers' friends almost being turned away and/or being banished to Balcony Rear…

Opening night went swimmingly, with John F. “Digital” Martin taking one of the waiter parts again (filling in for Scott Sanford who was in New Orleans planning his October wedding)… John F. got off to shaky start (but a surefire Hammy nomination) as the table he carries on during the scene change got tangled up in some wires attached to the set! Disaster was skillfully averted and everything went flawlessly after that… Back in Wigs and Makeup a member of the women's chorus was overheard saying “the waiters were superb tonight” to which Ulrica adds a hearty “Hear, Hear”… After their parts were done the entire Super contingent headed over to Jardiniere for much needed drinks...


In his recent Spearhead interview dresser Joe Harris names Bohèmian Frank Lopardo (Rodolfo) one of his favorite tenors, and the Supers on that production agree. Frank went out of his way to meet the Supers at their first rehearsal and has been friendly and accessible ever since… The new cast is vigorous, exciting and singing fabulously. With new staging from Sandy Bernhard it's well worth another look, audience members…

Sandy was scheduled to leave town the day after opening to head to, among other destinations, the Puccini Festival in Lucca, Italy. Watch out for details of more Super acting workshops from Sandy later this year.

Also on opening night a crew from CBS' 60 Minutes was filming backstage for a piece on “Sassy Sexual Dynamo” Anna Netrebko, who is causing quite a stir as Musetta, especially amongst the men of the SFO chorus. Her diamond-encrusted, torn-at-the-knee D&G jeans and a series of sky-scraping high-heeled shoes have been of particular interest, it seems… No idea when the 60 Minutes episode will air so keep checking your TV Guides.

All About Ljuba

Anna's Musetta is a real show stopper, but Ulrica feels she must take a moment and pay homage to the wildest Musetta of them all, “sexy Bulgarian” soprano Ljuba Welitsch. OTT Ljuba came on the international scene in the late 40s in a Dali-designed Salome at Covent Garden and shortly thereafter made her Met debut as the scorching-est Judaen princess ever to hit that stage. Tickets were among the most sought after in New York theatrical history. (Ljuba parties on but Callas disapproves, above).

In 1952 Met General Manager Rudolf Bing reluctantly agreed to let Ljuba sing Musetta in one performance only; as punishment to soubrette Patrice Munsel who was threatening to leave the company unless she was given some Mimis to sing. No sooner had he “grimly agreed” to Patrice's demands than he shrewdly called La Welitsch and offered her the Musetta. Knowing she would be horribly upstaged, Patrice “changed her mind and virtually fled the country” leaving verismo pro Dottie K (Dorothy Kirsten, in plaid, with Ljuba) to take over. According to Bing, Ljuba “delivered a performance which could be said to define the difference between a mischievous courtesan and a raucous whore.” Ljuba jumped on tables, forced Marcello to carry her on his shoulders, elbowed people out of the way and “just behaved shockingly”*

Much like the performance where a leaping Tosca bounced back above the castle ramparts, everybody has since claimed to have been at that performance of Bohème.

Ljuba crashed and burned vocally before long, sadly ending her operatic days as the Duchess of Krackenthorp in Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment. But for a short time she blazed brilliantly and her unforgettable Salome exists in live recordings (clip1) and her temperament revealed in the shouting match at the end of this studio recording of Mahler's Ruckert Lieder (clip2). Warning! Audio clips are large files.

Elsewhere on the Scene

On the Faust Project front, the SFO premiere of Busoni's Doktor Faust could be the summer season's most revelatory offering. Reports are in that the wedding scene costumes and wigs look “very drag queen” and we in San Francisco would know that. The set is a bipolar spread encompassing a dark and dowdy church hall and a stark, sterile neon lit laboratory. Ulrica wonders if any audience members will show up expecting to hear the Jewel Song.

Lightwalkers reveal that the Vixen set follows a similar postwar “Fedoras” aesthetic with its chicken guano–covered stalls and dank, underground train station waiting room, but by all accounts it is an entirely charming and winsome piece featuring our beloved chorus women taking on the roles of exploding chickens. For the context on that you'll have to see the opera…


* 5,000 Nights at the Opera by Sir Rudolf Bing Hamilton; (NY: Doubleday, 1972)

Meanwhile fans of Charlie Lichtman, Andrew Korniej, and Marcel Delgado will want to head to the Victoria Theater at 16th and Mission on Friday, June 25th to see their numerous appearances (and one close up, Mr. DeMille, of Charlie) in the community produced film, Una Pelicula de la Mission (“The Mission Movie”) which had its gala opening on Friday night in an outdoor screening attended by about 500 moviegoers and one seemingly drunk Supervisor. The film is highly recommended as an endearing, honest and uplifting look at life in San Francisco's Mission District and anyone who is familiar with that part of town will enjoy recognizing the local landmarks.

Much fun was had at the Yerba Buena SFO concert Memorial Day weekend. As with any other free offering (see above), Supers were out in force, mingling with the performing Adler Fellows and SFO faves like Bohème's consummate Alcindoro Peter Strummer, graciously there to applaud his younger colleagues. Vocal highlights included Nikki Einfeld's courageous and accomplished O luce di quest'anima, Christina Lamberti's soulful rendition of Lisa's morbid Pique Dame aria, debutant Scott Hendricks' two powerful Verdi pieces (from Traviata and Falstaff ) and the effervescent Fledermaus champagne finale.

Among the Supers there was “Opera Mom” Pat Beresford. Pat fears that her supering days are over as she has been suffering some visionary setbacks of late. Pat has given so much support to the artists and Supers at SFO over the years that we all hope it can be returned to her in spades during this challenging time. It will take a lot to defeat that redoubtable spirit of hers and I'm sure I speak for all of the Supers when I wish Pat strength and good health. Ulrica did notice, however, that no matter how poor Pat's eyesight may be she still has the uncanny ability to find the best looking baritones around…

While hanging out on the corners of 18th Street and Castro, Ulrica is accustomed to getting eye-opening handouts for the latest dance club or circuit party, but she was taken aback last week when she was handed an invitation to an opera party organized by indefatigable party-giver Ggreg Taylor. It's an opera-rave-cum-masked-ball entitled “Forgotten Opera,” taking place on Saturday, June 19th at the Regency Center on Van Ness. Go to their website for more details and photos of last year's event.   Aforementioned Adler Fellow Nikki Einfeld will be there performing coloratura gymnastics alongside some top DJs. Ulrica would love to be to be there also but, alas, will be attending The Marriage of Figaro at LA's Dorothy Chandler Theater that night.

Traveling Supers

Tom Carlisle, just back from England and Burgundy, submits this snippet of news from London's ENO:

The English National Opera has advised staff members against using favored theatrical terms of address like “darling,” fearing that in some contexts they “may constitute sexual harassment.” The policy and others are set out in a document called “Dignity at Work.”…Said a spokesman, “We live in a litigious society. Whilst it may be acceptable between friends, it would be thought of very differently if the term is used by a senior colleague and accompanied by a wink.”

Watch out for Tom's upcoming account of a Covent Garden Rosenkavalier from hell.

F-Laurel Winzler is, at this very moment, staying up all night in St. Petersburg, attending the White Nights festival. Before leaving she asked Ulrica to look into her crystal ball and see if there were any handsome Russians or Swedes (she also stops in Stockholm) in her near future… Jim Dyvad recently returned from a castle tour of Germany and Denmark where he joined in the festivities surrounding the wedding of Crown Prince Frederick and Mary Donaldson… Bill Klaproth is currently enjoying the pleasures of the Orient in Beijing and beyond…

In contrast, Ulrica feels worldly and well-traveled whenever she can take BART to Berkeley…

Website Updates and Super Archaeology

The Spearhead editorial team promises me that their review of 1991's Super extravaganza War and Peace will be updated soon. They've had a lot of contributions and it's just a question of formatting them. They send thanks to everyone who submitted material.

Watch for Super Committee election results on these pages, very soon. Remember ballots need to be mailed in by June 11th.

While cleaning out her garage, Super Renee DeJarnatt dug up a pile of Hammy Awards circa 1989. They were designed by a Super of that period, Richard “Kermit” Du Val. Renee reminisces, “Kermit was a lovely man and quite a character and wit. He died of AIDS in 1990.”   She also came across a mammoth Super banner, approximately 12 feet long. It will be hanging at the next bake sale as our smaller, gold lamé model has yet to resurface after going MIA after a January bake sale.

Interesting to note in Mike Harvey's first birthday summary of this website that the US Government is a frequent visitor to Spearheadnews.com. What can they be looking for - surely not pictures of ersatz opera stars in funny costumes and bad wigs? Could it be that, with all the acronyms floating around SFO these days (ASM, PSC, AD, OCA, PCA   etc.), they are mistaking our Spearhead for a WMD? Or are they hoping to find new foreign policy ideas from the promised War and Peace retrospective?


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