- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Boos, applause

American tenor Stuart Neill found out Saturday that he would replace Giuseppe Filianoti in the lead of Verdi’s “Don Carlo” in the season-opening performance Sunday at the famed and sometimes row dy La Scala opera house in Milan, Italy.

La Scala officials decided that Mr. Neill appeared to be “in better shape” than Mr. Filianoti, who had made mistakes during a dress rehearsal.

Critics’ reaction to the gala premiere at La Scala can be summed up in one word: Boring.

The substitution spurred many in the audience to open rebellion against conductor and Milan native Daniele Gatti, emitting whistles and catcalls at his every entrance. A critic for Corriere della Sera called the level of hostility “almost scary,” Associated Press reports.

Mr. Neill received sympathetic, if lukewarm, reviews for his performance, and he will be singing the lead in six more performances at La Scala. Some self-proclaimed critics in the audience weren’t so kind - some booing was heard over the applause as flowers showered on Mr. Neill when he came out to take his bows. The applause lasted just eight minutes, not much for La Scala.

Mr. Neill and Mr. Filianoti are planning to have dinner when the latter is in New York to sing “Rigoletto.”

Obama Collection

Just in time for the holidays and ahead of the inauguration, the Barack Obama jewelry collection is available at designer Ann Hand’s Georgetown and Palisades stores and through her Web site (annhand.com).

“I had different designs in mind for several months, and three weeks before the election, we took a poll, of sorts, based on the sale of pins featuring both candidates,” Mrs. Hand says. “The Obama pins won 2-to-1. That’s when we had the samples made.”

The collection was scheduled to be unveiled Tuesday morning at Mrs. Hand’s flagship store on MacArthur Boulevard Northwest. It includes a crystal necklace with Mr. Obama’s name spelled out, a watch with an image of the president-elect on its face, Obama-embossed “dog tags” and red, white and blue cuff links embellished with the incoming president’s campaign “Change” logo.

“We’ve had about 1,000 orders so far, including many from Europe and from Japan,” Mrs. Hand says, adding that some items also will be available at select Ritz-Carlton hotels.

Has Mr. Obama placed an order? “I imagine he has a few more things to do than to look at pins,” Mrs. Hand says.

Madonna wins

London’s High Court ruled Monday in favor of Madonna, who is seeking about $7.5 million over the publication of private photos of her wedding to ex-husband Guy Ritchie. They were divorced last month.

The court is expected to determine the amount to be paid in damages next year over the photos of her 2000 nuptials to the British film director, Agence France-Presse reports.

Judge David Eady found in favor of the artist, whose legal team argued that the ceremony was “wholly private” and that an interior designer, Robert Joseph Wilber, had copied the photographs while doing work at Madonna’s Beverly Hills home.

The only photographs taken of the wedding were by photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino, who gave them to Madonna, who assembled them into an album and kept them in her home.

Mr. Wilber copied at least 26 photographs from that album, the court was told. Bonnie Robinson handed them over to the Mail on Sunday weekly newspaper on the day Madonna and Mr. Ritchie announced their split.

Miss Robinson, who lives in Los Angeles, was paid about $7,000 for the pictures, 11 of which were published by the Mail on Oct. 19, reduced in size so readers would not know that they were photographs of photographs.

— Compiled from wire dispatches and staff report by Robyn-Denise Yourse

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