I am an opera buff, I am not ashamed to admit. I have seen operas in New York, Florida, London, Prague, Italy, and more. But not all evenings went as well as I had anticipated.
New York Metropolitan Opera, January 1996
My father and I were so excited to be at this gala event at the Met, where Jessye Norman was going to be performing in ‘The Makropulos Case’. We had the best seats ever – right in the center of of the orchestra.
The lights dimmed, the curtain came up and there was the tenor, Richard Versalle, up on a 15 foot high ladder singing the opening aria. It was a stunning set, with giant file cabinets, etc. All of a sudden, he stopped singing, and fell backward, making no sound, and landed on the stage with an awful thud. The audience was at first very quiet, and I thought, well, maybe this part of the show? But then almost immediately the audience erupted in loud exclamations, and the curtain was quickly lowered. Sadly, Mr. Versalle had suffered a massive heart attack…. and died right there in front of us!
It was unimaginable. And horrible.
Of course, the performance was cancelled, and my Dad and I went to a local pub to recover and drown our sorrows!
Verona Opera, Arena di Verona, July 1998
I had been so looking forward to seeing Carmen in this Roman amphitheater that was built in the 1st Century. It was a beautiful evening, and my friend and I, with my son and his friend, had great seats right on the main floor. The stage is massive, able to accommodate horses, all sorts of other animals, and a huge ensemble. It was breathtaking. But as the opera continued, I began to realize there was something wrong with the tenor’s voice. It progressively got worse, and my friend leaned over and asked, “Is this the way it is supposed to sound?” uh, no.
The act ended and I assumed they would substitute an under-study. But apparently there wasn’t one! So they made an announcement over the loudspeakers (really!) asking if there were any tenors in the audience!!! And yes, incredibly enough, there was one! But instead of going on stage, he sang from the orchestra pit….and the tenor on stage LIP-SYNCED!!!!
I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I witnessed the ONLY lip-synced opera in history!!! and I do not recommend it! But it made for a good laugh!
PS. a friend in Washington DC was going to invite me to the Kennedy Center (he had season tickets) but after these two mishaps, he said, “Oh no! you are the Typhoid Mary of opera! I can’t let you anywhere near the Kennedy Center.” sigh.