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James Jorden, Creator of an Essential Opera Blog, Dies at 69

James Jorden, Creator of an Essential Opera Blog, Dies at 69
  • PublishedOctober 4, 2023

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At first, Mr. Jorden distributed copies of the zine at the Tower Records store near Lincoln Center and at the Met — tucking them into brochures in racks in the lobby and leaving them in bathroom stalls. On one occasion, caught stuffing the racks before a performance of “Salome,” he was ejected from the theater by security guards.

That pugnacious, underground spirit fit the era. “It was a very activist time in the gay community, in terms of fighting back against AIDS,” Richard Lynn, a longtime contributor, told The New York Times in 2018. “And I view Parterre Box as part of that bigger cultural trend. It wasn’t afraid to be in your face or confrontational or angry. I felt it was therapeutic.”

James Glen Jorden was born on Aug. 6, 1954, in Opelousas, La. His father, Billy Wayne Jorden, worked for the Louisiana State Highway Department, and his mother, Glenora (Jory) Jorden, was a high school teacher as well as a local theater director and actress. (He is survived by two brothers, John and Justin Jorden.)

Mr. Jorden got his start in opera modestly, costuming a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore” when he was in a gifted-and-talented program in his teens; his co-designer was a young Tony Kushner. After Mr. Jorden’s mother grew tired of his constantly playing his recording of “Pinafore,” she bought him “Carmen,” and his obsession turned to opera in general.

In 1976, while attending Louisiana State University, he hitchhiked to Dallas to hear the Met on tour and saw the soprano Renata Scotto in the three leading roles of Puccini’s triptych “Il Trittico.”

“That turned me around,” Mr. Jorden said in the 2009 interview. “I saw what the possibility was. And I actually choose that date as the birthday of La Cieca” — his draggy Parterre Box alter ego, named after the blind mother in Ponchielli’s “La Gioconda.”

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