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Do you think you’re going to get out of more baby pictures of precious little cutie Catie?  She’s named after moi and her grandmother – Sarah Catherine.  She’s also all of a whole week old today!

The other day, there was an incident at a record signing at the Met’s gift shop. It was blown completely out of proportion by a very nasty, very bitchy opera gossip blog I will call the Party Box. They know who the are. The quality of their nastiness can be found in the articles they did last summer, trying to force James Levine to leave the Met. The things that were said, the innuendo about him, why he was not at the Met was deplorable. The gossips present themselves as knowledgeable music critics, which is a bunch of bull you know what. The lies that were told about Jimmy were so bad that finally he authorized his doctors to release his medical records. A few snots were left with so much egg on their pinched little faces it is amazing they even resemble humans.

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Levine did not deserve their nasty gossip and the lies that they spread. Instead, he needs to be hailed as a profile in courage. What that man has endured would basically stop a lessor mortal, but not him.

“...With patrons and operagoers often asking when Mr. Levine would be back, Mr. Gelb came under pressure to make a decision about Mr. Levine’s long-term status, but he said he would not act as long as there was any shred of hope that Mr. Levine could someday conduct.

Matters became acute this fall, as the Met prepared for its 2013-14 season announcement in February. If Mr. Levine were out, substitutes had to be found. His doctors — two neurologists and a spine surgeon — agreed that their patient was recovering enough to go back to work eventually.

In an unusual display of openness, the Met, with Mr. Levine’s permission, released statements from the doctors. They said that his upper-body strength was stronger than it had been in years because of rehabilitation. He was pain-free and unencumbered by the benign Parkinsonism. “His prognosis is good,” said Dr. Patrick O’Leary, a spine surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.

Given so many dashed hopes in the past that Mr. Levine would come back, Mr. Gelb said, “it has to be really clear that his return is credible this time.”

Mr. Levine said it was difficult discussing his medical issues.

“I was brought up in a time when if you had a difficulty like that, it was just good form to solve it and keep your own counsel, if you could,” he said. “Now we live in a different time.”

He said he was also reluctant to mention his benign Parkinsonism to avoid “the very dire idea” associated with it in people’s minds.

Mr. Levine said he would juggle a heavy load of rehabilitative therapy with his increasing Met duties. In a certain sense, those tasks will merge, he added.

“My life commitment is to the Met, and I love the Met so,” he said. “My doctors also think that besides being able to recommend that I should come back, they are ready to say I’m likely to be helped by it as well.”..”….In the interview Mr. Levine disclosed details about his condition. He remains unable to walk because of the spinal damage and acknowledged what many had suspected for a while: he has a nonprogressive condition related to Parkinson’s disease that causes hand tremors, which his doctors called “benign Parkinsonism.”

Mr. Levine said he would conduct from a motorized wheelchair that he uses. Met technicians are devising a podium that mechanically rises and falls, like an elevator, for Carnegie Hall and the Met pit.

The Met’s plans now call for Mr. Levine to lead a revival of Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte” (nine performances), starting on Sept. 24; a new production of Verdi’s “Falstaff” (10 performances), starting on Dec. 6; a revival of Berg’s “Wozzeck” (five performances), starting March 6, 2014; and the second half of the “Così” run, starting on April 23, 2014. He is also scheduled to conduct three Carnegie Hall performances with the orchestra next season, as well as the concert in May.

Mr. Levine, who even before the fall walked with a cane or used a wheelchair and conducted sitting down, said he was on the mend and hoped to regain limited mobility soon. He said that the fall caused complete paralysis in his legs, but that he has recovered sensation and movement, if not the ability to walk.

“For the first few weeks, I could have been reading a newspaper while somebody was moving my leg, and I wouldn’t have known he was moving it,” Mr. Levine said.

Mr. Levine said that he had had the Parkinson’s-related condition since 1994, and that on its own it did not interfere with his conducting. But he explained that the severe pain from back problems would make it worse, resulting in a more pronounced tremor and greater impact on his legs. A Parkinson’s medication he took, L-dopa, “contributed to the shaking in his legs and left hand,” the Met said in a statement…”

Since this article came out in October, more has been learned about Levin’s condition. His return to the Met only highlights how nasty certain gossips are, and the control they have over the operatic scene.

Several weeks ago this same site gleefully announced that a certain Russian star who was at the Met was having marital problems. Immediately, everyone on the site began writing just vile, ugly things about Anna Netrebko and Erwin Schrott (who is arguably the greatest base-baritone in the history of opera).

The snide little remarks then turned toward my favorite and his wife. They were just so catty, vicious, snide, ugly. And – guess what – the stories that were being spread had nothing to do with Schrott, Netrebko, or Dmitri Hvorostovsky. But – that didn’t stop the nastiness.

When the vileness started on Thursday, The Pink Flamingo began digging. It seems that the gossips were making snide remarks about Angela Gheorghiu, who was required to leave the stage during a performance of Tosca in LA. She was rushed to the ER, where she was dehydrated from the flu. But, in their snide, corkscrew innuendo laden vomit of verbiage, that was no excuse. There were snide remarks that Hvorostovsky was suffering from the same ailment, as if having the flu was a character defect. If so, The Pink Flamingo has a very defective character because I’ve been dealing with it since about the 15th of November, with no end in sight. I can barely make it through the grocery store without nearly passing out, let alone anything else.

Let’s just say the bitches of the ‘Party Box’ think that opera singers owe their fans everything, must scrape and bow to them, then put up with some of the cattiest gossip there is. If you think the nastiness between the far right and the far left is bad, it’s nothing compared to what these people do and say about opera singers. Politics are kind compared to the bitchy creeps of the Party Box. (You will note that I am not supplying a URL, and I should, but I’m not.)

It is quite obvious that the little nasties who criticize the talent are nobodies who will never do anything but criticize their betters. It’s also obvious they know nothing about what goes on when a person goes in to do a signing. It’s not the easiest thing in the world. I’ve been there and done that. I know….

Back in the early 1980s, The Pink Flamingo flew into Houston to attend a recital given by one of the greatest male voices in the history of opera. Right before he took the stage, someone came out to announce that the highlight of the season would be the fact that the (now late) Hildegard Behrens had just agreed to do a recital for the Houston Grand Opera. You want an insult, that was it. Now, The Pink Flamingo is of the opinion that the late German soprano was probably the definitive Brunhilda. I saw her do the Ring, live, several times in New York – but – what was done that night was deplorable.

After that, the reception for this person was terrible. My sister and I went backstage. There was a line about 100 feet long or so. This great, masterful voice, was sitting at a table, signing photos. When he saw me, he stood up, walked over to where I was standing in line, gave me a big hug, introduced himself to my sister, and asked me to visit for awhile. He needed a friendly face, someone to turn to, knowing that a ‘friend’ had his back.

A few years later, when the Met was still doing their tours, my mother and I were staying at the same hotel. Over the years we had become elevator speaking friends with one of the great sopranos of the day. She asked if we were going back stage after her performance that night. I said we would. She saw us and reached out with hugs. “I need a friendly face.” She was to do a record signing the next day, along with Sherrill Milnes (yes, I confess to being of groupie status with him). He was not going to be able to make the signing. Would my mother and I please be there for her. She needed a friend. We were. She immediately came over to visit, asking us to stay for awhile. Finally she looked up and nodded. “I’m okay now.” We were able to leave.

One evening, after a performance that I attended but my mother did not, she was waiting for me, in the parking lot, there in Atlanta. A certain operatic super-star came out and walked over to her. “Thank heavens I see someone I know.” This person just put their arms around my mother, almost in tears.

This is what I don’t get. Nasty little gossips don’t want to acknowledge that opera stars are human, and need to be treated with respect the way they would treat any other professional. I don’t know what happened this week, but I know that the person they are damning is very patient with his fans. Something must have happened, something rather drastic.

As a writer, The Pink Flamingo has done a few book signings. There was one that I did, I wish I had not been forced to do. I was looking forward to it. It was my first group signing. I had finally ‘made it’. I was treated like dirt. There was a certain person trying to make trouble for me, which she did that day. I was nearly in tears, wanting to leave, to run off, say enough was enough, but I was literally and figuratively trapped. Even faces I thought were friendly, were not. It was a horrible experience.

I will never understand what gives certain so-called opera fans the right to think that just because a person sings opera, they have a right to demand that person scrape and bow to them. It should be the other way around. I don’t know about you, but when I am in awe when any where near talent like this.

As far as the credentials for so called critics, one person, perhaps the nastiest, has a degree in music. She plays the flute, and she sings in a chorus. Big fat hairy deal! She even has a spread sheet of all the performances she has attended. I have probably attended more, and almost all of the ones I attended were at the Met, not at some two bit regional opera.

You want credentials? Yes, The Pink Flamingo has them, but what’s the use? I can’t do this:

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