Didn’t you think opera fans were all polite and nice in their tuxedos and gowns? Hey, they booed last night at the end of Luc Bondy’s premiere production of Puccini’s “Tosca.” The stuffed shirts didn’t boo the actors, but the production team — Bondy, et al. So rude!
The old guard opera types didn’t like the new, modern production ordered by Met chief Peter Gelb. They wanted their old Franco Zefferelli sets. Instead, they got a second act that looked like it was staged in the waiting area of a modern art museum. But they still got Puccini, and James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, and sublime performances from Karita Mattila, Marcelo Alvarez, and George Gagnidze.
This was not the night to show off bad behavior to guests in the house — namely a raft of stars and boldfaced names who came to celebrate the opening of the opera season. This group ranged from Christine Baranski, Harvey Fierstein, Patricia Clarkson (Oscar buzzed for Woody Allen’s “Whatever Works”) and Edward Norton to Mischa Barton, Zac Posen, Joy Bryant, Kate Mulgrew, a very pregnant Karolina Kurkova, a somewhat pregnant Leelee Sobieski, Sam Waterston, Billy Joel (with a new date), Ben Foster and Zoe Kravitz, to Tom Brokaw, Martha Stewart, Sir Howard Stringer, Sony Pictures Classics’ Michael Barker, Henry and Nancy Kissinger, Renee Fleming, Howard Rubenstein, Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller, Julie Taymor and Elliot Goldenthal.
The big disappointments: at the last minute both Aretha Franklin and Meryl Streep canceled. Maybe they went to dinner together.
Everyone wanted to know about the booing. “The people next to us were really going at it, too,” observed a wide-eyed Joy Bryant. This hot young actress has just signed to join the TV version of “Parenthood.”
Gelb smartly addressed the issue head-on when he made remarks at the dinner party held later under a tent in Damrosch Park. Basically, old opera lovers don’t like change. I say, get over it, people. The production was excellent.
Meantime, Peggy Siegal planted all these celebs along a long table in the center of the dining room, creating quite the operatic buzz. There was a lot of chit chat all night. Mischa Barton, who seemed lovely and normal, said she loved “Tosca” but was a little tired. “We’re shooting all this week,” said Barton of her new TV series, “The Beautiful Life.”
Edward Norton told me he hadn’t been to the opera in about 25 years. Patty Clarkson brought two pals, a female lawyer and the wife of the conductor of the New Orleans Symphony. They had a ball. Clarkson also told me that Oscar nominee Amy Ryan (”Gone Baby Gone”) who was screwed out of an Emmy nomination for “The Office,” is also about to give birth. Kate Mulgrew reminisced about her breakthrough role on “Ryan’s Hope” and told me about her new series, “Mercy.” Let’s hope her character is on a lot.
I wish I could say the evening wasn’t over until the fat lady sang — but this was New York society, kids. There were no fat ladies. There were quite a few $50,000 dresses, a variety of face lifts, and plenty of good jewelry. But everyone was thin, and hardly anyone had the pasta shells main course. This gang isn’t stupid. The fall season has begun! It’s a sprint to Thanksgiving from here, gotta stay in shape!