Scrambling but Undaunted the Met Opera Sings Through Omicron

How have they done it? Keep it going that is? Not diverge from their schedule? Maintain the quality of their performances? Since late November the NY Met has performed three dozen plus performances, with two dozen scheduled for January alone, involving hundreds of people and thousands of audience members. Much more than crossing t’s and dotting i’s, it is a Master Class in organizational skills, strict adherence to health protocols, creative casting and sheer determination. The message…What Goes In = What Comes Out! 

Scrambling but Undaunted, the Met Opera Sings Through Omicron

The variant has upended Broadway, ballet and concerts. But the Met has yet to miss a performance, thanks to strict rules, fill-in artists and luck.

The Metropolitan Opera has looked to its deep bench of replacement singers to survive the Omicron surge, including the baritone Michael Chioldi, who has jumped into the title role of Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”
Credit…Ken Howard/Met Opera

The Metropolitan Opera had to scramble to find a replacement for its “Magic Flute” conductor after she tested positive for the coronavirus last month. When a wicked stepsister in “Cinderella” tested positive shortly before a performance in late December, the Met enlisted a soprano from another production to sing the role from the wings while a dancer acted it onstage.

And earlier this week, when the star of its new production of “Rigoletto,” the baritone Quinn Kelsey, exhibited cold symptoms, the Met insisted on using an understudy, even though Kelsey had not yet tested positive for the virus and had just received some of the best reviews of his career.

The Met’s prudence paid off. Kelsey later tested positive, and the rest of the cast had been spared a close contact.

The Omicron variant has toppled a slew of Broadway shows, disrupted dance productions, postponed festivals, forced the cancellation of dozens of concerts, and closed the mighty Vienna State Opera for almost a week. But it has yet to stymie the Metropolitan Opera, the largest American performing arts organization, which has not missed a performance this season.

Undaunted by the sharp rise in coronavirus cases, the Met has staged more than three dozen performances since late November, including productions of “Tosca,” “The Magic Flute,” “Cinderella” and “Rigoletto.” More than 3,000 people, who wore masks and showed proof of vaccination, filled the auditorium on New Year’s Eve. Rehearsals are in full swing for another two dozen performances this month, each involving hundreds of people: solo singers, orchestra players, chorus members, dancers, actors, stagehands, follow-spot operators, dressers and makeup artists, among many others.

More than 3,000 people, who wore masks and showed proof of vaccination, filled the Met for the premiere of “Rigoletto” on New Year’s Eve.
Credit…Richard Termine for The New York Times

“We’re doing everything we possibly can to keep the Met open,” Peter Gelb, the company’s general manager, said in an interview. “I’m determined not to cancel a performance.”

The Met’s success so far in managing the surge can be attributed to a number of factors: strict health protocols, a robust system of understudies, the advantages that come from its structure as a large repertory company that mounts a different opera each day — and, to be sure, a dose of luck.

“There’s a sense of, ‘We can do this!’” said Sarah Ina Meyers, who directed the revival of “The Magic Flute,” which completed a nine-performance run on Wednesday with the help of far more cover artists than usual. “We’re trying to lift each other up.”

Still, Meyers added, after weeks of grappling with last-minute cast changes, drafting and then tearing up plans, “there is profound hope that we can go back to the normal level of crazy.”

The Met’s health protocols are among the strictest in the performing arts. The company now gives all employees P.C.R. tests three times a week, recently began having singers wear face masks even at dress rehearsals, and soon will require employees and audiences to have received booster shots to enter its building.

The company had a robust system of fallbacks even before the pandemic struck, since its singers must be at their physical best to fill its cavernous opera house without the aid of amplification, and illnesses, whether hay fever or flu, have always required last-minute substitutions. Unlike Broadway, where shows often assign one actor to serve as an understudy for multiple roles, the Met appoints at least one cover for every role, greatly reducing its chances of having to cancel.

Being a huge repertory company helps, too. Since it stages a different opera each night, with several titles in rotation onstage and others in rehearsal at any given time, the Met has a large pool of singers and crew members to draw on when a crisis erupts.

And since the company performs a great deal of standard repertory, often in productions that remain the same for years, when a singer falls ill it is usually possible to find another who already knows the part (and even the staging) well. There tend to be several days between performances of each title — so a mild illness might only require missing a couple of shows.

Kirkus Reviews, the gold-standard for independent & accurate reviews, has this to say about

What Goes Around Comes Around:

A stable, positive, non preachy, objective voice makes the book stand apart from others in the genre. A successful guide that uses anecdotes to reveal powerful truths about life.

~ Kirkus Reviews

“The author gives readers not just points or principles to ponder, but real human experiences that demonstrate them!
Kirkus Reviews
Buy What Goes Around at Amazon

“I’ve read a number of books that focus on sharing a similar message, including “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, “The Answer” by John Assaraf & Murray Smith, “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield, “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill, and I must say that I find Rob’s to be my favorite. – Sheryl Woodhouse, founder of Livelihood Matters LLC

Scrambling but Undaunted the Met Opera Sings Through Omicron

Scrambling but Undaunted the Met Opera Sings Through Omicron

So, Chapter Two of the Jeffrey Epstein saga comes almost to a close. Almost, because we won’t know the final ending until we hear the sentencing, which is likely to be a doozie!

Sure, there will be an appeal and there have been shockers in the past, think R. Kelly in 2008. But this is not likely to be one of those.

So Ghislaine, was it worth it? The ride you had with your buddy Jeff, that is? Did the two of you simply mock the concept of Karma, Cause & Effect, What Goes Around Comes Around, different ways to say the same thing? Did you just buy his line that you were  “Teflon Twins” and they’d never get you. What?

Please tell us, explain so there’s some way to think something good and worthwhile about at least you, cause its sure hard to find in this wreckage!

Colombo Family Crime Boss and 12 Others Are Arrested, Prosecutors Say

An indictment unsealed on Tuesday accuses the organization of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort a labor union.

Credit…Jesse Ward


For two decades, the leadership of the Colombo crime family extorted a Queens labor union, federal prosecutors said — an effort that continued unabated even as members of the mob clan cycled through prison, the family’s notorious longtime boss died, and as federal law enforcement closed in.

Over time, what began as a Colombo captain’s shakedown of a union leader, complete with expletive-laced threats of violence, expanded into a cottage industry, prosecutors said, as the Colombo organization assumed control of contracting and union business, with side operations in phony construction certificates, marijuana trafficking and loan-sharking.

On Tuesday, 11 reputed members and associates of the Colombo crime family, including the mob clan’s entire leadership, were charged in a labor racketeering case brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

All but two of the men were arrested Tuesday morning across New York and New Jersey, prosecutors said. Another was surrendered to the authorities on Tuesday; another defendant, identified as the family consigliere, remained at large, prosecutors said.

The indictment accuses the Colombo family of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort an unnamed labor union that represented construction workers, using threats of violence to secure payments and arrange contracts that would benefit the crime family.

The charges are an ambitious effort by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to take down one of the city’s five Mafia families. In addition to the union extortion scheme, which is the heart of the racketeering charge, the indictment charges several misdeeds often associated with the mob, including drug trafficking, money laundering, loan-sharking and falsifying federal labor safety paperwork.

Detention hearings for the defendants in Brooklyn federal court continued into the evening Tuesday, as they entered not-guilty pleas to the charges; prosecutors had asked the court to keep 10 of the defendants in custody.

“Everything we allege in this investigation proves history does indeed repeat itself,” Michael J. Driscoll, F.B.I. assistant director-in-charge, said in a statement. “The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well.”

Around 2001, prosecutors said, Vincent Ricciardo — a reported captain in the family, also known as “Vinny Unions” — began to demand a portion of a senior labor union official’s salary. When Mr. Ricciardo was convicted and imprisoned on federal racketeering charges in the mid-2000s, prosecutors said, his cousin continued to collect those payments.

Starting in late 2019, prosecutors said, the senior leadership of the Colombo family became directly involved in the shakedown, which extended to broader efforts to siphon money from the union: for example, manipulating the selection of union health fund vendors to contract with entities connected to the family, and diverting more than $10,000 each month from the fund to the family.

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Andrew Russo, 87, who prosecutors describe as the family boss, is accused of taking part in those efforts, as well as a money-laundering scheme to send the proceeds of the union extortion through intermediaries to Colombo associates. He was among nine defendants charged with racketeering.

Mr. Russo appeared in court virtually from the hospital Tuesday; he is set to be detained upon his release, pending a future bail hearing.

The family’s infamous longtime boss, Carmine J. Persico, died in federal custody in North Carolina in March 2019.

Federal law enforcement learned of the extortion scheme about a year ago, prosecutors wrote in a court filing Tuesday; investigators gathered thousands of hours of wiretapped calls and conversations recorded by a confidential witness, wrote the prosecutors, who also described law-enforcement surveillance of meetings among the accused conspirators.

The authorities said they repeatedly captured Mr. Ricciardo and his associates threatening to kill the union official. “I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids,” Mr. Ricciardo was recorded saying in June.

On another occasion cited by prosecutors in the memo seeking his detention, Mr. Ricciardo directed the union official to hire a consultant selected by the Colombo family, saying: “It’s my union and that’s it.” Prosecutors said his activities were overseen by a Colombo soldier and the consigliere who remains at large.

Much of the activity outlined in the indictment took place while the defendants were either in prison or on supervised release for prior federal mob-related convictions. Theodore Persico Jr., described as a family captain and soldier, was released from federal prison in 2020 and, despite a directive not to associate with members of organized crime, “directed much of the labor racketeering scheme,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Persico, 58, is set to inherit the role of boss after Mr. Russo, prosecutors wrote.

Several of the defendants were named in what prosecutors described as a fraudulent safety training scheme, in which they falsified state and federal paperwork that is required for construction workers to show they have completed safety training courses.

One of the defendants, John Ragano — whom prosecutors say is a soldier in the Bonanno crime family — is accused of setting up phony occupational safety training schools in New York, which prosecutors said were “mills” that provided fraudulent safety training certificates to hundreds of people.

In October 2020, prosecutors said, an undercover law enforcement officer visited one of the schools in Ozone Park, Queens, and received, from Mr. Ricciardo’s cousin, a blank test form and an answer sheet; weeks later, the agent returned to pick up his federal safety card and paid $500.

The purported schools were also used for meetings with members of La Cosa Nostra — the group of crime families commonly known as the Mafia — and to store illegal drugs and fireworks, according to the indictment.

Mr. Ragano wasn’t charged on the racketeering count, although prosecutors also sought his detention pending trial. In addition to the racketeering count, several defendants, including Mr. Ricciardo and his cousin, were charged with extortion, conspiracy, fraud and conspiracy to make false statements.

William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.


An earlier version of this article misstated the number of people identified in an indictment as members of the Colombo crime family. It is 11, not more than a dozen.