Ira SiffCommentator, The Metropolitan Opera
Ira Siff is a native New Yorker who grew up on the standing room line at the old Met, worshipping the great singers of the time – and, of course, listening to the Met broadcasts. While acquiring a degree in visual arts at Cooper Union, his avid interest in opera led to voice lessons and musical studies, and a debut as a tenor in 1970. Ira performed in many new operas and shows at The New York Shakespeare Festival, Judson Poets’ Theatre, Playwrights Horizons and other off-Broadway venues, as well as in various cabarets where he did a one-man show featuring spoofs of opera. In 1981 he founded La Gran Scena Opera Co., and the troupe became an instant hit, their musically skilled, hilarious-but-affectionate spoofs of opera divas winning great acclaim from the press, public and music world. Gran Scena toured internationally through 2002 to many of the world’s great opera houses and festivals. Ira continued to perform as Gran Scena’s prima “donna,” Madame Vera, in a solo spin-off entitled The Annual Farewell Recital, through 2009. It was as Madame Vera that he first teamed up with Margaret Juntwait, for two seasons of mock diva interviews on WNYC’s Weekend Music, and they reunited in 2007 when Ira became the commentator for the Met's Saturday matinee radio broadcasts. Ira also began stage directing opera in 2000, and has been teaching voice and coaching singers on interpretation and style for over 40 years, as well as lecturing on opera and writing for Opera News.