December 11, 2006

Where you pay $2,637 for your seat and see the tenor storm off when he hears boos and the understudy, wearing jeans, thrust onto the set of "Aida."

La Scala.

20 comments:

Wickedpinto said...

He was born in France, no wonder he retreated, and blamed everyone else.

Balfegor said...

That's just awful. I am at a loss as to what to comment on -- the fact that $2,637 is a ridiculous price for a seat, even at a superlative opera house, for a superlative company; that walking off in the middle of a performance is astonishingly unprofessional; or that "Celeste Aida" is possibly my favourite bit of Aida, and doesn't it just bring a tear to your eye? So sweet.

Tibore said...

Oh man!... when I was a student, I worked at the campus opera house, and I never saw anyone get booed. The absolute worst that would happen would be tepid, nearly insubstantial applause, but never derision. Wow. What a tough crowd.

Hehe... word verif: htvlfy. He Totally got Vilify-ed

Michael Farris said...

Alagna is a lyric tenor with a touch of spinto. He has no business singing Radames (a dramatic tenor role far too heavy for his light instrument). To put it in purely dramatic terms, imagine Jessica Alba trying out the part of Lady Macbeth.

But opera casting for about the last 20 years (at least) has taken fame and physical appearance into account far more than musical or vocal appropriateness. It's not opera anymore, it's slopera.

Michael Farris said...

"I worked at the campus opera house, and I never saw anyone get booed."

Americans are reluctant to boo (even when their instincts tell them it's appropriate).

Italians traditionally boo freely and enthusiastically and may cheer and boo the same (even very beloved) singer on the same night as their vocal fortunes wax or wane. A singer who can't take being booed has no business at La Scala.

hdhouse said...

Michael Farris said...
"A singer who can't take being booed has no business at La Scala."

Contrare. A singer who deserves to be boo'd has no business at La Scala.

ohhh and by the way spinto and lyric are redundant he says with a touch of the drammatic lol

Pogo said...

The audience should just be glad Twyla Tharp wasn't involved, and that the understudy didn't come out singing "Kill the wabbit!Kill the waaaabit!".

And geez, jeans? For $2,637 a seat I would have wondered whether the costumers weren't skimming some of the prop money.

Richard Dolan said...

The only thing I have seen at the Met even remotely comparable was an opening night performance of Norma about 25 years ago. Opening night at the Met is a very big deal in opera-land. All the glitterati show up; it's hard to get a ticket; and though they are priced less than the $2,600 at La Scala, they are still far above the Met's normal ticket price.

Renata Scotto was singing Norma, and her opening aria was "Casta Diva" -- a notoriously difficult bel canto exercise. Scotto was nearing the end of her career, and should never have attempted the role. As she began to sing, that reality was all too obvious. To make matters worse, before she sang a note, some nut sitting in the family circle (i.e., at the very top of the house) yelled out an insult in Italian, praising Maria Callas and comparing the unfortunate Scotto to a barnyard creature. (He was later escorted out of the opera house.)

As she launched into Casta Diva, Scotto's tonal control abandoned her entirely, and rather than grand if florid singing up and down the scale, she produced a series of shrieks. The audience began to snicker and laugh -- even worse than boos. My wife and I were mortified watching the sheer cruelty of the event play out. Scotto barely made it through the aria, and for the rest of Act I, sang barely a note. The duets with Adalgisa became solos; the trios with Pollione and Adalgisa became duets. After the end of Act 1, she recovered enough to sing (more or less) the balance of the opera, and received a warm ovation at the end -- not so much for her singing that night, but because she was a great diva who deserved better than she got. As I remember that season, she withdrew from the balance of the performances of Norma. But unlike Alagna (whom I've heard at the Met and regard as a fine tenor but who suffers from over-the-top publicity and all the expectations that can create), Scotto had the decency to stick out the entire performance.

Michael Farris said...

"Contrare. A singer who deserves to be boo'd has no business at La Scala."

Pavorotti had no business at La Scala?

"by the way spinto and lyric are redundant"

Not precisely, lyric is the lightest voice, spinto a little heavier and dramatic heaviest. Some would claim that spinto is rather a subcategory of lyric but it's still heavier than a plain lyric. Radames isn't the heaviest tenor role but it's too heavy for Alagna who really should have people around him who know better.

PatCA said...

wickedpinto, you're too funny! But it's true -- operagoing is a blood sport in Italy. It's an operatic experience.

I heard of a Callas performance where she sand Vissi d-arte 11 times in a row because of sustained applause! This poor sod found out the opposite is true, too.

PatCA said...

Oops...

As for the money, an opera fan friend here realized she could fly to Italy and see a real opera with the money she saved from not paying the premium that the local opera house demanded for good seats, so why not?

Wickedpinto said...

Everyone else is smarter, but I'm the one with the funny.

dick said...

They are doing far too much of this shoving the poor singers into roles that are far beyond their abilities just because they are the latest flavor. Unfortunately too many of the singers don't have anyone around to stop ruining their voices and as a result we have instances like this one. I agree that Alagna should never even attempt Radames with his instrument.

Back in the day when there Tebaldi, Callas, de Los Angeles, Scotto, Bjoerling, etc were in their prime, the people would sing the roles that they would never attempt in the opera house for the recording companies. Thus we have Bjoerling doing the big arias from Otello which he never sang in public on record and are blessed to have them. Alagna should have at least sung Celeste Aida on record first to see if he can handle it. After all that is almost the first thing out of his mouth in Aida and if you are not fully warmed up for it you can really screw it up - and apparently he did.

Anonymous said...

wickedpinto - renaissance man.

MadisonMan said...

I hope the understudy got a bonus.

tjl said...

"They are doing far too much of this shoving the poor singers into roles that are far beyond their abilities."

I don't think anybody forced Alagna to take this on. He knows perfectly well what he can sing and what he can't.

At least the audience got a good story they can tell their friends.

hdhouse said...

tjl an opera buff?

staggering. the mind boggles.

i'm still amused over the "touch of spinato"...i just love it. soooo droll.

tjl said...

I see that hdhouse's music criticism is every bit as well-informed as his political meanderings.

Tibore said...

"He has no business singing Radames (a dramatic tenor role far too heavy for his light instrument)."

Light instrument... you know, in other contexts, that can be taken as insulting his... um, *ahem*... manhood.

Just sayin'...

SWBarns said...

The BBC has video of the exit:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/nolavconsole/ifs_news/hi/nb_rm_fs.stm?news=1&bbram=1&bbwm=1&nbram=1&nbwm=1&nol_storyid=6174779