TV & Radio
January 2, 2007 - 7:06 PM
First same-sex union registered in Switzerland
The first same-sex partnership was registered on Tuesday at a registry office in Ticino after the entry into force of the new federal partnership act.
As of January 1, gay and lesbian couples are able to have their civil union officially recognised thanks to a new federal law passed in 2005.
According to the Italian-language RSI public radio station, the couple who registered their partnership have lived together for 30 years but wish to remain anonymous.
"The ceremony was moving and very well organised by the register officer," said Donatella Zappa, from the pro-gay marriage association "Imbarco immediato", who attended the ceremony.
"The couple who got married today are already quite old and have been looking forward nervously to what is the crowning moment of their lives," said Zappa.
The federal partnership law, which came into force on January 1, legally recognises same-sex marriages throughout Switzerland. Under the law, same-sex couples will be able to register their partnership at a registry office.
The civil union between gay couples remains distinct from marriages by name, but the new law means gay couples will have the same pension, inheritance and tax rights and obligations.
Foreign partners will receive residency. But the naturalisation process will not be made easier as with married couples.
Adoption and fertility treatment is forbidden and partnerships can only be dissolved by a court.
swissinfo with agencies
In June 2005 the Swiss voted in a national referendum by 58 per cent in favour of registered same-sex partnerships, which the "yes" campaign described as "wonderful".
To register their partnership, couples have to be over the age of 18, not already married or linked by a registered same-sex civil union, and not be parents. One of the two partners must be Swiss or have Swiss residence.
The union is recorded in front of a registry officer, but each partner does not have to say the traditional "I do".
Registered partnerships have existed in Geneva since 2001.
Pink Cross - gay association (German, French) (http://www.pinkcross.ch/index.html)
URL of this story: http://18.104.22.168/eng/swissinfo.html?siteSect=105&sid=7396788
The New York Times
January 1, 2007
An Opera at the Met That’s Real and ‘Loud’
By ANTHONY TOMMASINI
Even before the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday matinee of Mozart’s “Magic Flute” began, this family-friendly version of Julie Taymor’s 2004 production looked to be a huge success. Children were everywhere, a rare sight at the venerable institution. They were having pictures taken in front of the house, dashing up and down the stairs of the Grand Promenade and, before long, sitting up in their seats all over the auditorium.
Peter Gelb, the Met’s new general manager, whose multifaceted outreach efforts have already become a model for opera companies everywhere, has rightly stated that the major impediment to making this art form accessible to children is that most operas are simply too long. So besides translating the text from German into English, the solution here was to cut the production, which normally lasts 3 hours 10 minutes, down to 100 minutes without an intermission.
Actually the matinee clocked in at close to two hours, but few of the children seemed to mind. The audience was remarkably attentive and well behaved. Of course one strict Met protocol — if you leave the auditorium, you are not allowed re-entry until intermission — was wisely ditched for the day, so children could take restroom breaks.
Shortening the score involved what must have been painstaking decisions. The overture and several entire arias and ensembles were cut. Other arias were abridged through some very deft trims. Otherwise the Met went all out. The cast was excellent, and James Levine conducted.
The very free English translation by the poet J. D. McClatchy was clever and singable. Papageno, still without a girlfriend and miserable, asks forlornly: “Is my face just one big puddle? Aren’t I cute enough to cuddle?”
The Papageno, Nathan Gunn, was certainly cute enough. This dynamic baritone exuded charm and cavorted about the stage like an acrobat. At one point he tried to flee danger by scurrying up the side of a huge plastic tube he was trapped in, only to slide back down, landing with the floppy-limbed aplomb of a Charlie Chaplin. He seemed the darling of every child in attendance (and the audience included Mr. Gunn’s five).
The stupendous bass René Pape was Sarastro. A lovely, clear-voiced lyric soprano, Ying Huang, in her debut role at the Met, was an alluring Pamina. Matthew Polenzani brought his sweet tenor voice and wholesome appeal to Prince Tamino. The agile coloratura soprano Erika Miklosa was a vocally fearless and aptly chilling Queen of the Night. As the wicked Monostatos, the trim tenor Greg Fedderly was unrecognizable with his flabby, fake pot belly, which induced giggles every time he exposed it.
I am on record as being no fan of Ms. Taymor’s production, which to me is a mishmash of imagery, so cluttered with puppets, flying objects and fire-breathing statues that it overwhelms Mozart’s music. But this show was not presented with me in mind. So let me offer the reactions of three young attendees. Amitav Mitra, my neighbor, who is 8, came as my guest. And Kira and Jonah Newmark, 9 and 7, the children of friends, were also glad to share their critiques afterwards.
For Amitav, this was his first opera. Though Jonah had seen opera videos at home with his sister, he too was trying the real thing for the first time. Kira, a burgeoning opera buff, has attended, as she put it, “real three-hour operas,” most recently “The Barber of Seville” at the New York City Opera.
Not surprisingly Ms. Taymor’s fanciful sets, costumes and puppets won raves from this trio of critics. But their most revealing comments were about the singing and the story.
The singing “was loud,” Amitav said. Jonah added, “It was too loud.” Kira more or less agreed. I pressed them about this. Today, when children hear amplified music everywhere, often channeled right into their ears through headphones, how could unamplified singing seem too loud?
Amitav clarified their reactions when he said that the singing was “too loud for human voices,” adding, “I never thought voices could do that.”
So their reaction was not a complaint about excessive volume, but rather an attempt to explain the awesome impression made by Ms. Miklosa’s dazzlingly high vocal flights as the Queen of the Night, or Mr. Pape’s unearthly powerful bass voice, or the amassed chorus in the temple scenes. It takes a while for young opera neophytes to adjust to such mind-boggling voices, to realize that this strange, unamplified “loudness” is actually amazing.
The other common reaction concerned the story, which all three children enjoyed. Kira, though, was struck by the gravity of Prince Tamino’s dilemma. “Tamino was a little too serious for me,” she said, adding: “He never does anything that’s funny. He takes things seriously.”
I think Mr. Levine, who conducted a glowing and elegant performance, would be pleased by Kira’s reaction. Mr. Levine made certain that some of the opera’s most somber episodes were included, like the long scene in which the confused Tamino is confronted by the austere Speaker (David Pittsinger), a stalwart member of Sarastro’s brotherhood, at the entrance to the temple.
Like most fairy tales “The Magic Flute” is a mysterious story of good and evil. Naturally, Ms. Taymor’s production makes the opera’s monsters quite charming, like the puppet bears who are enchanted by Tamino’s magic flute. And the boys singing the kindly Three Spirits (Bennett Kosma, Jesse Burnside Murray and Jacob A. Wade) are turned spectral and eerie, with their bodies painted white and Methuselah beards.
This “Magic Flute” was the first Met opera that was transmitted live in high-definition video to some 100 movie theaters around the world. Ultimately the point of this technological outreach is to entice newcomers into attending opera performances. The children I spoke with are likely to be back.
Summarizing his reactions to “The Magic Flute,” Jonah said, “I don’t think it’s going to be the best opera I’m going to go to in my life.” What he meant, explaining further, was, “I’m, like, going to go to others that will be even better.”
The shortened “Magic Flute” repeats today, tomorrow and Thursday at 1 p.m.; (212) 362-6000 or metopera.org. Performances are sold out, but returns may be available.
Family `Flute' and simulcasts debut at Metropolitan Opera
By RONALD BLUM
Associated Press Writer
December 31, 2006, 6:14 PM EST
NEW YORK -- Judging by the masses of smiling children who streamed out onto Lincoln Center Plaza after a family-friendly, shortened version of Mozart's "The Magic Flute," opera may have just gotten an influx of younger fans.
Starting Friday, the Metropolitan Opera began presenting an English-language performance of "The Magic Flute," trimmed to about 100 minutes, aimed at attracting families. Saturday's performance was beamed from Lincoln Center in high-definition simulcast to about 100 movie theaters around the world.
The debut of the cut-down version of Julie Taymor's colorful 2004 production was so popular it sold out. But for all its planning, the Met appeared to be somewhat unprepared for its shorter audience _ it ran out of booster seats in the orchestra 20 minutes before the start.
Given the breadth of the simulcast venture, there was no way to judge the success. The Met said it was encouraged by sales, final figures won't be available for several days. The quality of picture and audio was high, although technical problems prevented the simulcast from being seen at theaters in Burbank, Calif., and Jacksonville, Fla.
To adapt and pare down "Die Zauberfloete," the German-language original that runs slightly more than 3 hours, including intermission, the Met hired poet J.D. McClatchy. His English version emphasizes rhyme, meter and fun over exact word-for-word translation. For Papageno's duet with Papagena, McClatchy rhymed "lovey" with "turtle-dovey."
Purists may quibble with the many cuts _ which range from entire scenes to verses within arias _ but the full German version is being staged at night for those who want the complete production. Taymor said some cuts still were being debated in the final week, and the final version came in at about 105 minutes, 15 over the original projection. She and McClatchy kept true to their vow of not "dumbing down" the opera, which appeals to all age levels.
With oversized bear puppets and dancing pink flamingos wowing the audience as much as the sublime music, Taymor's staging has been popular. Music director James Levine, who led his usual polished performance, had a top cast to conduct. Nathan Gunn, in Papageno's green bird suit, was a frenetic delight. Matthew Polenzani brought a bright tenor and dignity to Tamino, the prince who is destined to marry Pamina. Soprano Ying Huang gave an endearing account of Pamina, whose role is perhaps cut the most in the English version. Erika Miklosa, in her imposing headdress, easily tossed off the Queen of the Nights Fs _ her two arias weren't cut at all.
Morris Robinson sang Sarastro on Friday, and the American bass sounded far more comfortable in the English version than he did in the German last season. Rene Pape sang Sarastro at the Met for the first time in Thursday night's German performance, then sang it in English on Saturday. He added a gravitas to the role, and while a German accent was evident, he brings a greatness to every role he performs.
The family version was conceived in the final years of Joseph Volpe's run as Met general manager and Peter Gelb, who took over in August, said a new production of Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" will be next season's holiday offering. While Gelb plans to rotate "The Magic Flute" and "Hansel and Gretel" as holiday offerings, he should consider broadening the project. Many children no doubt would love to hear cut-down English versions of other favorites, such as "The Barber of Seville" and "Carmen."
On Saturday, Taymor and Gelb watched the high-definition simulcast from the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center before hustling across the street during the final scene so Taymor could make it on stage for the curtain calls. There were some glitches at the start of the simulcast, with the timing of the subtitles slightly off, but the sharpness of the subtitles got better as the opera went on.
The performances were the first English-language versions of Mozart's masterpiece staged by the company at the Met since 1977.
Five additional operas are scheduled for Saturday afternoon simulcasts, with Bellini's "I Puritani" (Jan. 6) and Tan Dun's "The First Emperor" (Jan. 13) up next. In addition, there will be an encore of "The Magic Flute" in theaters on Jan. 23, a day before it is televised by PBS.
Mozart, Now Singing at a Theater Near You
Matthew Polenzani as Prince Tamino in the Met’s shortened version of Julie Taymor’s production of “The Magic Flute.”
René Pape, center, as Sarastro, with Ying Huang as Pamina and Matthew Polenzani as Prince Tamino. To introduce children to opera, “The Magic Flute” was cut to 100 minutes.
The New York Times
January 1, 2007
Mozart, Now Singing at a Theater Near You
By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON
In movie theaters across the United States on Saturday, people did an odd thing during the main attraction: They clapped. They clapped between scenes and when certain characters left the screen.
“I did at the beginning too,” said Walter Perron, 88, a retired chemist who was at the Walter Reade Theater in Manhattan. “And then I thought: Who am I clapping for?”
But habits die hard. The show was a live broadcast, in high definition, of Mozart’s “Magic Flute” at the Metropolitan Opera, the first of six productions to be broadcast from the Met through April.
“The Magic Flute” played at 100 theaters, most of them scattered throughout the United States and Canada, with seven in Britain, two in Japan and one in Norway. Though the box office receipts are not all in yet, the broadcasts seemed to be a success, with an average audience capacity of 90 percent, the Met’s press office said. Forty-eight of the 60 American theaters were sold out in advance, including those in Boston; Phoenix; Louisville, Ky.; Pittsburgh; and New Brunswick, N.J. Six of the 28 Canadian theaters were sold out, as were all of the locations showing it in Britain, as well as the theater in Norway.
The production selected first for broadcast was in many ways the surest bet. The director Julie Taymor’s take on “The Magic Flute” played to sold-out houses when it was initially presented at the Metropolitan Opera in 2004. To capitalize on that success, the Met, under Ms. Taymor’s guidance, fashioned a 100-minute version in English (down from three hours in German) as a more child-friendly production. Did the broadcasts, as envisioned, attract people new to opera? Hard to say. Interviews at several theaters around the country suggest that the average viewer was already familiar with opera, if not an aficionado. But none of the viewers had had the chance to munch on popcorn at a local cinema in the presence of a live, Met-level performance of the aria “Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön.”
“This is a good opportunity to see opera without a lot of stress,” said Erika Homann, who was at a sold-out theater in Livonia, Mich., just outside Detroit, with her husband, their 8-year-old son, 5-year-old daughter and 11-year-old niece.
Audiences tended to be middle-aged or older, though many parents, like Ms. Homann, brought young children. Several viewers said that they had attended productions by local opera companies but had never gone to the Met, which was a plane ride, hotel and $100-plus ticket away. These performances cost $18 a person.
“I have been dying to go to the Met for years,” said Leighanne Duaro, 47, of Hazel Green, Ala., who was at a theater in nearby Huntsville with her two children, ages 18 and 22, and her sister. “This is the closest thing you can get to going to the Met, to see the production and not be there.”
The broadcasts did not all go off without a hitch. A theater in Jacksonville, Fla., canceled the showing because of technical problems. Viewers in Lincolnshire, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, had to move at the last minute to another screen in the theater complex.
The broadcast in Burbank, Calif., was plagued with stops and starts, sound problems and, at one point, a screen going completely blank. But though an usher offered refunds, most of the audience stayed to the end, making jokes whenever another glitch occurred and cheering during the curtain calls.
“I think it was just the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced,” said Shawnet Sweets, 45, who works in the box office of the Los Angeles Opera. “Even with the technical difficulties it was O.K., because that happens in live productions. There’s always a mishap.”
There is a difference between seeing opera onstage and on screen, several attendees said. The camera chose the viewpoints and often closed in on a particular character rather than panning to show the whole scene.
“One thing I wished I could have seen more of was how the sets worked,” said Martha Edwards, 63, who was at the theater in Lincolnshire.
But even those who had nits to pick were quick to add that they enjoyed the show and were planning to buy tickets to future broadcasts. (“The Magic Flute” will be rebroadcast, though not live; also on the schedule are Bellini’s “I Puritani,” Tan Dun’s “First Emperor,” Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” and Puccini’s “Trittico.”)
Some viewers even questioned why the Met hadn’t tried this already, praising the idea and lamenting the dwindling audience for opera. Few put it better than William T. Robinson III, a 66-year-old retired music teacher, at the theater in Huntsville.
“If you go to many classical performances, you see that a lot of them are senior citizens, baldheaded and white,” said Mr. Robinson, who is black and was wearing a hat. “I think there is a need to create a new audience and get more minorities to come to these kind of activities.
“Otherwise,” he added, “how are you going to get to the Metropolitan Opera from way down here in Huntsville, Alabama?”
Nick Bunkley contributed reporting from Livonia, Mich.; Kyle Whitmire from Huntsville, Ala.; Libby Sander from Lincolnshire, Ill.; and Michael Parrish from Burbank, Calif.
For gay culture, L.A. rivals S.F. in importance, new book says
- Wyatt Buchanan, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, January 1, 2007
Los Angeles is not a city that struggles for attention, and its massive population dwarfs San Francisco's, but when it comes to the popular understanding of gay and lesbian history, the City of Angels might as well be under the bay.
Two prominent historians are trying to change that. In a 361-page tome called "Gay L.A." that chronicles that city's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender past, journalist Stuart Timmons and scholar Lillian Faderman have made a case for adding Los Angeles to the pantheon of gay culture that now centers on New York and San Francisco.
"I think the idea that San Francisco was 'it' on the West Coast definitely needs to be reformulated, just in fairness," said Timmons, who was raised in the East Bay and has lived in Los Angeles for 30 years.
Topping the list of Los Angeles' contributions to the nascent gay and lesbian community are the formation of the nation's first "homophile" organization, the Mattachine Society, in the early 1950s and later the establishment of what is now the country's most significant gay community center; the publication of the Los Angeles Advocate, which would become the nation's first gay magazine; and the creation in 1968 of the Metropolitan Community Church, which today has 300 congregations in 22 countries and is the largest gay and lesbian organization in the world. More gay-oriented organizations have been founded in Los Angeles than in any other city in the world, the authors found.
"To put it in a word, without Los Angeles, we wouldn't have institutions. We wouldn't have the institutional press and we wouldn't have the institutional church," Timmons said. "It has been somewhat of a national model, and models have to come from somewhere."
Yet San Francisco and New York are credited far more often as the main pillars of the American gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
The arguably most prominent events in gay history did happen in those two cities -- the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village 1969 and the election of Harvey Milk to San Francisco's Board of Supervisors in 1977 and his assassination a year later.
Timmons and Faderman argue that Los Angeles' geography has played a large role in its historical obscurity.
"L.A. is 450 square miles. It's so much easier to get the word out when something is happening in San Francisco. Wild things happen in Los Angeles, but they are vitiated by the fact that the city's so huge," said Faderman, who is on the English department faculty at Fresno State University.
According to a UCLA study published in October on the size of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender populations in U.S. cities, based on census data, Los Angeles had 442,411 gay residents in 2000, while San Francisco and the Bay Area had just over 256,000. New York City had the largest population, at just under 569,000.
In addition to its size and diffuseness, Los Angeles' gay scene is distinct for its ethnic diversity, its wealth and its proximity to Hollywood, which has shaped the world's understanding of the gays and lesbians.
The proliferation of organizations for Asians, Latinos and African Americans makes Los Angeles' gay and lesbian community perhaps the most diverse anywhere. There are enough people from different parts of the world that, for example, a group for gay and lesbian Vietnamese people split into two: one for people who speak Vietnamese and the other for those who speak English. Such diversity challenges the popular representation of the community as dominated by gay white males.
The authors focus on several celebrities they describe as "un-straight," including Greta Garbo, Tallulah Bankhead, Joan Crawford and Katherine Hepburn, and credit them with, among other things, popularizing the wearing of pants by women, which was common among lesbians. Hollywood has been both praised and scorned for portrayals of the gay community and is famous for its "closet," with constant rumors -- still -- about who is gay.
But Faderman and Timmons say the images shown in films have been more important than the personal lives of celebrities. They point to the success of films like the Oscar-winning "Brokeback Mountain" and the proliferation of gay and lesbian story lines on television.
"This area is now the stuff of drama and those messages and images are so unstoppable now and not hinged to the fortune of any actor," Timmons said.
Los Angeles has begun making up for its past obscurity, said Nan Alamilla Boyd, author of "Wide-Open Town," a book that chronicles the early history of gay San Francisco.
"With the way L.A. has developed and matured, it's really important in the present, which makes its past really significant and important to understand," she said.
Sometimes referred to as the ATM of the gay rights movement, the city is a major fundraising venue for gay and lesbian causes.
"I think there are some grounds to say that L.A.'s place in it all hasn't been recognized, but you could say the same thing about Chicago, Atlanta or Miami," said Terence Kissack, former executive director of San Francisco's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Historical Society.
The authors said there is plenty of unexplored history to examine in gay and lesbian California in general and the relationship between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
"I think that even more than New York, California is the place people from around the world dream of going to," Faderman said.
Highlights of gay culture, history
New York: The modern gay civil rights movement marks its beginning in a police raid in June 1969 at a bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn that triggered several days of riots. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people around the world commemorate the incident's anniversary every year with parades and other events.
Also in New York, ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, started in 1987. That group's chapters across the country held demonstrations and protests that raised public awareness of AIDS and forced politicians to take action in the crisis. It has long been home to the nation's largest arts scene, and it has the country's largest LGBT population.
Los Angeles: The nation's first "homophile" organization, the Mattachine Society, was founded in the early 1950s in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Advocate, started in 1967 as a newspaper, became the nation's first gay magazine. The city also is home to the Metropolitan Community Church, which today has 300 congregations in 22 countries and is the world's largest gay and lesbian organization. More gay-oriented organizations have been founded in Los Angeles than any other city in the world, the authors found.
San Francisco: This city fostered the nascent rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, with the formation of the Daughters of Bilitis, the Society for Individual Rights and the Council on Religion and the Homosexual. When the Mattachine Society moved to San Francisco in 1955, all the national gay and lesbian organizations were based here.
The city's rich gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history also includes the election in 1977 -- and assassination a year later -- of Supervisor Harvey Milk, the formation of the Gay Games in 1980, the creation of the rainbow flag in 1978 and the creation of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
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