Alagna walks off stage at La Scala!

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Alagna walks off stage at La Scala!

Post by Lance » Mon Dec 11, 2006 5:42 pm

December 11, 2006

MILAN, Italy - Tenor Roberto Alagna broke his contract by walking out of a performance of Franco Zeffirelli's "Aida" at La Scala after being booed, and he will not sing for the remaining scheduled performances, a spokesman for the opera house said Monday.

Alagna stunned the audience and his colleagues by marching off the stage after the audience booed him following the opening aria "Celeste Aida" on Sunday night. An understudy in jeans took over immediately.

Despite his reaction, Alagna told a news conference Monday that he intended to sing as scheduled Thursday. But management at the famed opera house said that would not happen.

"It's been brought to our attention Roberto Alagna's intention to return to La Scala for the next performance," spokesman Carlo Maria Cella said. "His behavior has created a rift between the artist and the audience, and there is no possibility of repairing this relationship."

Cella said Alagna had technically broken the contract, and that the legal office would evaluate what action to take.

"He did not leave because he was sick; he left voluntarily," Cella said.

La Scala general manager Stephane Lissner released a statement earlier criticizing Alagna for "an obvious lack of respect to the public and the theater," but he also was critical of the audience's behavior.

"I have always maintained that artists are at the center of a theatrical project and we are here to support them, to guarantee the best conditions for them so that they can do their jobs," Lissner said.

Alagna rejected accusations that he did not sing well.

"I finished without the slightest error and from the balconies came a 'bravo!' and right after that boos and whistles," Alagna told reporters Monday. "I thought the audience would have defended me, but it didn't. So I obeyed the audience that demonstrated that it did not want me.

"If I don't have the joy of singing, I can't do it. I have to quit," he said. "To sing with whistles and boos, you risk singing off-key."

He also had told La Repubblica newspaper: "I do not deserve this kind of reception."

"What else could I do?" Alagna told Italy's Tg5 news. "Did I have to stay there ... until my voice broke?"

Thursday night's opening of "Aida" was a much-anticipated event, with Italian Premier Romano Prodi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel among the many prominent figures in attendance.

That audience applauded for more than 15 minutes after the final curtain fell, standing to cheer Zeffirelli, conductor Riccardo Chailly and a cast led by the Lithuanian mezzo-soprano Violeta Urmana in the title role and Alagna as Radames.

But the second performance did not go quite as smoothly.

Alagna came onstage and began singing. After a "nervous start," according to people in the audience, Alagna started on the "Celeste Aida" aria, which prompted a chorus of boos and whistles. Alagna stopped, looked at the audience, then walked off the stage.

Understudy Antonello Palombi, still in jeans, rushed out.

Lissner apologized to the audience before the opening of the third act.

"In many years at La Scala I had never seen anything like what happened tonight," Chailly told reporters after the performance.

The next performance was scheduled for Tuesday night.
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What do you think? Should Alagna have walked out of not? —Editor
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Post by Ralph » Mon Dec 11, 2006 7:47 pm

I posted this on another thread devoted to Zeffirelli'seturn to la Scala.

I don't think it's ever professional to walk out unless conditions make it unsafe to perform. Period.
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Post by Ralph » Mon Dec 11, 2006 7:55 pm

Yahoo! News
Tenor walks off stage at La Scala

Mon Dec 11, 4:43 PM ET

Tenor Roberto Alagna broke his contract by walking out of a performance of Franco Zeffirelli's "Aida" at La Scala after being booed, and he will not sing for the remaining scheduled performances, a spokesman for the opera house said Monday.

Alagna stunned the audience and his colleagues by marching off the stage after the audience booed him following the opening aria "Celeste Aida" on Sunday night. An understudy in jeans took over immediately.

Despite his reaction, Alagna told a news conference Monday that he intended to sing as scheduled Thursday. But management at the famed opera house said that would not happen.

"It's been brought to our attention Roberto Alagna's intention to return to La Scala for the next performance," spokesman Carlo Maria Cella said. "His behavior has created a rift between the artist and the audience, and there is no possibility of repairing this relationship."

Cella said Alagna had technically broken the contract, and that the legal office would evaluate what action to take.

"He did not leave because he was sick; he left voluntarily," Cella said.

La Scala general manager Stephane Lissner released a statement earlier criticizing Alagna for "an obvious lack of respect to the public and the theater," but he also was critical of the audience's behavior.

"I have always maintained that artists are at the center of a theatrical project and we are here to support them, to guarantee the best conditions for them so that they can do their jobs," Lissner said.

Alagna rejected accusations that he did not sing well.

"I finished without the slightest error and from the balconies came a 'bravo!' and right after that boos and whistles," Alagna told reporters Monday. "I thought the audience would have defended me, but it didn't. So I obeyed the audience that demonstrated that it did not want me.

"If I don't have the joy of singing, I can't do it. I have to quit," he said. "To sing with whistles and boos, you risk singing off-key."

He also had told La Repubblica newspaper: "I do not deserve this kind of reception."

"What else could I do?" Alagna told Italy's Tg5 news. "Did I have to stay there ... until my voice broke?"

Thursday night's opening of "Aida" was a much-anticipated event, with Italian Premier Romano Prodi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel among the many prominent figures in attendance.

That audience applauded for more than 15 minutes after the final curtain fell, standing to cheer Zeffirelli, conductor Riccardo Chailly and a cast led by the Lithuanian mezzo-soprano Violeta Urmana in the title role and Alagna as Radames.

But the second performance did not go quite as smoothly.

Alagna came onstage and began singing. After a "nervous start," according to people in the audience, Alagna started on the "Celeste Aida" aria, which prompted a chorus of boos and whistles. Alagna stopped, looked at the audience, then walked off the stage.

Understudy Antonello Palombi, still in jeans, rushed out.

Lissner apologized to the audience before the opening of the third act.

"In many years at La Scala I had never seen anything like what happened tonight," Chailly told reporters after the performance.

The next performance was scheduled for Tuesday night.
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Post by GK » Mon Dec 11, 2006 7:56 pm

The real question is why La Scala put him in that role. He doesn't have the voice for Radames. Perhaps its best that he walked out. If he couldn't manage the more lyrical "Celeste Aida", how could he possibly get through the dramatic music in Act 3?

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Post by Lance » Mon Dec 11, 2006 10:38 pm

GK wrote:The real question is why La Scala put him in that role. He doesn't have the voice for Radames. Perhaps its best that he walked out. If he couldn't manage the more lyrical "Celeste Aida", how could he possibly get through the dramatic music in Act 3?
He and his lovely wife, Angela Gheorgiu, are both earning a reputation of being hard to work with because of their diva/divo status. Maybe the success has gone to their heads. You know what happened to Kathleen Battle!?! This isn't the 30s or 40s when great divas made demands, which were mostly met. And, as someone stated, WHY would they put Alagna in a role he can't handle vocally? The Italians are nobody's fool when it comes to opera. There must've been a good reason for them to boo and hiss, though it was not kind of them to show their disdain for his vocal prowess - or lack of it.
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Post by CharmNewton » Tue Dec 12, 2006 12:42 am

He and the rest of the cast were applauded for 15 minutes on opening night. Sounds strange to get booed so early at the second performance. Is tgere more to this than just his singing?

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Dec 12, 2006 1:37 am

Lance wrote:There must've been a good reason for them to boo and hiss, though it was not kind of them to show their disdain for his vocal prowess - or lack of it.
Maybe they booed because his wife wasn't singing. But then why did they cheer the first night? One never knows with the regulars at Italian opera houses. You recall the clacks hired by the respective managements of Tebaldi and Callas to cheer or boo, depending on who was singing and who was paying. ATC interviewed a reporter from Corriera della Serra who said Alagna wasn't coming back for the next performance. Let's hope Palmobi doesn't have to sing it in jeans - kinda ruins the mood.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Dec 12, 2006 1:43 am

GK wrote:The real question is why La Scala put him in that role. He doesn't have the voice for Radames. Perhaps its best that he walked out. If he couldn't manage the more lyrical "Celeste Aida", how could he possibly get through the dramatic music in Act 3?
Our buddy in Bountiful, Ken Ariotti agrees with you. Here's what he emailed me tonight:

Alagna has no business singing Radames anyway.
He's definitely not a heroic stage presence, let alone a voice, which
is very nice, but should stick to lighter roles. Because he was
raised in France though Italian, his French operas are beautifully
rendered. But Radames, in Aida---uh uh.
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Post by Ricordanza » Tue Dec 12, 2006 6:41 am

"What else could I do?" Alagna told Italy's Tg5 news. "Did I have to stay there ... until my voice broke?"
What he could have done is act like a professional and complete the performance. There's no excuse for walking out under these circumstances.

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Post by miranda » Tue Dec 12, 2006 10:02 am

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translation:
"A very good evening to all these gentlemen in coat and ties ... BUUU! ... Bring back 'La Gioconda'!!! ... Parbleu! They are booing me. Really????? These ignoramuses! ... Oh well sisters, I have had enough. I am leaving.... Hey Radames, what the $^*&&*# are you saying? ... Amneris, listen to me, let him go, he's completely cuckoo.... Yes, but how are we going to finish without the tenor.... No fear, young girls! Let me finish these two spaghetti and I'll take care of it.... I told you, we didn't have to worry.... Oh yes, thank goodness, I almost had a heart attack, my friend.... See, I am ready! It's no problem.... BRAVOOO!!!! That's how you sing. Not that 'Little Hercules'!"

Posted, once again, from Alex Ross's great blog.
Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

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Post by Ralph » Wed Dec 13, 2006 8:10 am

A tantrum too far

First tenor Roberto Alagna storms out of Aida, then his wife Angela Gheorghiu quits the Royal Opera House. Are they too big for their boots, asks Martin Kettle
Martin Kettle
Wednesday December 13, 2006

Guardian
It is the perfect grand opera story. A superstar tenor sings underwhelmingly at the world's most exacting opera house and storms off stage with a shake of the fist amid a torrent of booing. An understudy in jeans is thrown on in his place and has a night of triumph. Roberto Alagna's walkout from La Scala's season-opening Franco Zeffirelli production of Verdi's Aida is an opera story with everything - and with the bonus that it confirms all our prejudices about the art form, too.

As it happens, many of the world's greatest opera singers, past and present, are remarkably normal, nice people. You will wait a lifetime to hear stories of Renée Fleming flouncing around, Bryn Terfel throwing a tantrum, or Placido Domingo storming off the stage. Though they are at the pinnacle of the operatic world, they just don't behave that way. One of the indisputably greatest sopranos of the 20th century, Joan Sutherland, was famous for getting on with her knitting when she wasn't needed.

But the world prefers its opera stars to be divine monsters. And opera's so-called "golden couple", Alagna and his wife Angela Gheorghiu, have become increasingly willing to oblige. Management are driven mad by the demands of the Burton and Taylor of the operatic world, but they know the duo are a bonanza at the box office. Both sides ramp up the process: the top houses compete furiously for the stars' services; the stars become ever more outrageous in their behaviour. And so it goes on, until something snaps.

Which occasionally it does. Alagna's walkout on Sunday was denounced by La Scala's artistic director, Stephane Lissner, as a "blatant lack of respect for the audience and the theatre", and Alagna was substituted in last night's third performance of the run by Walter Fraccato rather than Antonello Palombi, whose heroics on Sunday won him a nine-minute ovation from the Scala audience. But Alagna has said he will be back for tomorrow's performance. "Roberto Alagna ritorna vincitor," he announced yesterday, quoting the famous line "Return as a victor" from Aida itself. The stage is now set for an epic confrontation with Lissner. Will tenor power prevail? Or will Alagna be sent packing?

The careers of both Alagna and Gheorghiu rocketed a decade ago. He looked like the hottest young tenor around, the destined successor to the Pavarotti-Domingo-Carreras generation, and was duly dubbed "the fourth tenor". She took the operatic world by storm in La Traviata under the late Georg Solti at Covent Garden in 1994, and seemed to be the lyric soprano the world had been waiting for since Sutherland's retirement. When the two married, they became the darlings of the opera houses, the record companies, opera-goers and the accountants.

But they were rarely the darlings of the directors - Jonathan Miller once dubbed them the Bonnie and Clyde of opera. Alagna was respected early on for his fine singing in the French repertoire, but his attempts to make himself the dominant Italian tenor of the era proved more difficult. Gheorghiu's career began to overtake his in the late 1990s, as she added more punishing roles - Nedda in I Pagliacci and Tosca - to her repertoire. But neither of them has disarmed the critics in the same way they have captured the public imagination. When Gheorghiu sang Tosca at Covent Garden for the first time this summer, the Guardian's Tom Service thought her acting underplayed and her singing underpowered.

Alagna's walkout from La Scala comes at a time when a lot of the glister has gone from the one-time golden couple. The previous Scala regime under Riccardo Muti fell out with Gheorghiu as early as 1997. The New York Met's recently retired general director, Joe Volpe, had a bust-up with her. Now it seems the soprano has fallen out with Covent Garden. Rumours that she was dropped from a forthcoming production of Verdi's Don Carlos - because music director Antonio Pappano was so angered by her failure to turn up for rehearsals at this year's Tosca that he has declined to work with her again - have been flatly denied. Covent Garden insist Gheorghiu decided to withdraw. "She wasn't quite sure that it was a role for her ... and she was slightly uncomfortable with it," said a spokesperson. Either way, the doors of the big houses are being bolted one by one.

Opera history is crammed with monstrous behaviour by publicly adored singers. A century ago, prima donnas with every bit of Gheorghiu's hauteur - and more talent - behaved in a tyrannical manner that she can only dream of, Nellie Melba being one of the leading examples. Callas's angry temperament was legendary. The record producer Walter Legge, a man used to getting his way, called her "vengeful, vindictive and malicious" - and Callas was not above violence against managers who criticised her.

In the generation before Alagna and Gheorghiu, opera divas such as Jessye Norman and Monserrat Caballé were notorious for the demands written into their contracts (Norman even specified the make of Rolls-Royce in which she was to be collected from the airport), and for the disdain they showed directors. More recently, Cecilia Bartoli has carried on the tradition.

Opera houses usually try to stop stories of demanding behaviour getting into the press. But the veil was lifted when Volpe fired the soprano Kathleen Battle from the Met in 1994, publicly citing her "unprofessional actions". Battle stories are legion - such as the one in which she rang the Boston Symphony Orchestra management to complain that the Ritz-Carlton had put peas in her pasta, or the occasion she phoned her management in New York from a limousine in California to instruct them to call the chauffeur to turn down the car's air-conditioning. After one show at the Met, the soprano Carol Vaness told Battle as they took their bows that, on behalf of everyone else in the show, she hoped they would never work with her again. When Volpe announced that he was firing Battle, the cast cheered and applauded. Battle's manager reminded Volpe that his predecessor was always known as the man who had fired Callas from the Met. Do you want to be known as the man who fired Battle, he demanded? Volpe had the perfect reply: "Kathy Battle is no Maria Callas."

In the end, that's what it comes down to. If the singer is truly great, then most managements will put up with anything. If they're not, there comes a time when even the most income- and celebrity-conscious management decides to let the diva hang. There may be fewer great singers than ever around these days, but have Alagna and Gheorghiu had a tantrum too far?
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Post by Ralph » Wed Dec 13, 2006 8:12 am

Tenor who quit will sue La Scala

John Hooper in Rome
Wednesday December 13, 2006

Guardian
The tenor Roberto Alagna, who walked out of La Scala in mid-opera after being booed, claimed yesterday he had been under physical risk from the audience.

"What if they had thrown stones at me, or some crazy person had attacked me?", he told Reuters. "La Scala should have protected me. The show should have been suspended. Instead they carried on as if nothing had happened. After all, John Lennon ended up being killed."

Alagna stormed off the stage on Sunday during the first act of Franco Zeffirelli's production of Aida after being whistled and booed by some of the theatre's famously demanding loggionisti, the subscribers who occupy the cheapest seats. His understudy, Antonello Polombi, took over the part - dressed in jeans - and won loud applause.

La Scala's management said another tenor would be taking over Alagna's role.

French-born Alagna said he had told La Scala he was ready to return to the show but the opera house had turned him down for breach of contract. "They sent me a letter saying that the contract is annulled and that they are not going to pay my expenses. So I went to my lawyer today and we are going to sue them."

La Scala declined to comment, saying legal advisers were studying the case. Alagna is being represented by what he described as "an outstanding American lawyer" he would only identify as "Pizza."

It is thought to be the first time a singer has walked out during a performance at Milan's opera house other than for ill health.

Alagna's decision to leave the stage was ridiculed by the director, who said "a tenor ought not to lose his temper like a little boy". In an interview with the newspaper Quotidiano Nazionale, Zeffirelli said he was considering dropping the singer from a forthcoming production. The famously explosive Alagna, who is of Sicilian parentage, had been lined up to sing in Zeffirelli's Traviata at the Rome opera house.

The veteran director said: "I do not believe I can agree to work with a tenor who has acted in such a fiercely, stupidly rude way towards La Scala."
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Post by Ralph » Wed Dec 13, 2006 12:06 pm

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Post by Sporkadelic » Wed Dec 13, 2006 12:10 pm

I suspect that the latest Guardian story as posted in this forum may be subtly different from the original. I can't quite put my finger on it, though.

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Post by Ralph » Fri Dec 15, 2006 8:45 am

This guy is a real goofball.

*****


Ousted tenor returns to La Scala
12/15/2006, 7:14 a.m. ET
The Associated Press

MILAN, Italy (AP) — Tenor Roberto Alagna, canned by La Scala for storming off the stage amid a chorus of boos during a performance of "Aida," returned to the opera house and gave an impromptu performance — outside in the piazza.

Alagna sang a few notes from "Madama Butterfly" on Thursday evening as "Aida" was going into the fourth act. He originally was to have performed the role of Ramades in the season's third staging of Verdi's masterpiece, but the opera house canceled his engagement for walking off the stage during Sunday night's performance.

Wearing a scarf and holding a rose, he waved to onlookers.

Alagna had said he would turn up at La Scala anyway — and did.

"I love this theater. Many years ago, I sang "La Boheme" two days after the death of my first wife, you can imagine in what condition. This time, however, they have left me alone," Alagna said, according to the daily La Repubblica.

Alagna has complained that no one backstage encouraged him to continue the performance on the night he was booed, and that the music went on without him.

"While I was singing, I wasn't well. My legs were trembling and my blood sugar was zero. But they didn't stop, not even one minute. No one came to my dressing room. I could have collapsed," he said.
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Post by Ralph » Fri Dec 15, 2006 10:47 am

The Times December 15, 2006

Arts

Relax, Roberto. Boos are part of the game
Roberto Alagna is the latest of many singers to be heckled. He should have stuck it out, says Neil Fisher

Poor, poor Roberto Alagna. If the puppyish French-Sicilian tenor had stuck with his original engagement for December — singing Don José in Covent Garden’s new Carmen — his only competition would have been the horse, donkey and chickens populating Francesca Zambello’s production.

But instead he flounced off to bigger things. And singing the role of Radamès in Verdi’s Aida, the opening production of the season at La Scala, Milan, he made a fatal mistake — clashing with the notorious section of the crowd known as the loggionisti, the ones you really have to try to win over if you’re going to have any future at Italy’s shrine to grand opera.

Unfortunately Alagna didn’t try very hard. At the second performance in the run the boos came early, just after his first aria, Celeste Aida. And Alagna’s only response was to give a sarcastic salute and walk off, leaving the understudy to leap into Franco Zeffirelli’s production wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

Outrageous behaviour from the Milanese mob? If you venture into the lions’ den, prepare to get bitten. For all Alagna’s sad back-pedalling since the explosion — “my throat was closed off . . . I couldn’t even speak a sound” — the overriding impression is that he just couldn’t cope with the criticism. And so he did the unforgivable: he fled.

Roberto, relax. Plenty of artists greater than you have been booed. Just last week the demigod Plácido Domingo got rough treament from the normally benign crowds at the Metropolitan Opera, New York. His crime? He was conducting, not singing, and he didn’t allow the particular soprano he was accompanying to hold on to her silky high notes for long enough. Visibly shaken, he knuckled down. The American soprano Renée Fleming, booed at La Scala in 1998 for adding extra frills to her arias in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, toughed it out, even after her conductor had fainted midway through the performance.

Alagna could have shown the same diligence. Or he could have given as good as he got. Generally it’s opera directors who suffer the brunt of the booing these days — considered fair game because of the perceived liberties they take with our favourite classics.

When it came to dealing with the jeers of the audience at the municipal theatre in Rio de Janeiro, the avant-garde opera director Gerald Thomas gave a novel riposte: he pulled down his trousers and displayed his buttocks. Franco Bonisolli, an Italian tenor who had even less self-awareness than most of his kind, tried a similar manoeuvre after a Viennese audience booed him for hanging on to a high B in Rigoletto for more than was considered appropriate.

Would that have silenced the loggionisti? Perhaps not, but it was on the right lines. Renata Scotto, an Italian soprano at her best in the 1970s, knew the score. Singing with enough fire and venom to incinerate any catcaller in the amphitheatre, she matched it with an attitude that said she was boss. “Siete gente di merde!” (literally: you are people of sh**), she shrieked at the good burghers of San Francisco, after they’d given Pavarotti more applause than her in a performance of Ponchielli’s La Gioconda — an opera that is, after all, all about the heroine.

What’s the lesson? “An artist can react, but with spirit,” Zeffirelli drily commented on the Alagna fracas. “I mean, soccer players don’t leave a game if the audience boos them.” The veteran knows the score: booing is part of this half-crazy sport, and Alagna should know the rules.

Diva demands: the opera stars who pushed things too far

THE DIVAS . . .

Kathleen Battle

After she was fired by the manager of the Metropolitan Opera in 1994, staff donned T-shirts saying “I survived the Battle”.

Angela Gheorghiu

Alagna’s wife has had her fair share of spats — most notably when refusing to sport a blonde wig in Carmen at the Met.

Jessye Norman

Unsuccessfully attempted to sue a music magazine for alleging that she had got trapped in swing doors on the way to a concert.

. . . AND THE DIVOS

Franco Bonisolli

Missed an (unwritten) high C in a performance of Il trovatore — so he came out in front of the curtain and sang the note on its own.

Franco Corelli

Left the stage and jumped into the box of an audience member who was booing him, furiously brandishing his stage sword.

Jonathan Miller

Complained bitterly and publicly when Cecilia Bartoli was allowed to sing two alternative arias in his production of Le nozze di Figaro at the Met.
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Post by Ralph » Fri Dec 15, 2006 3:08 pm

The Alagna Performance: An Eyewitness Account
By Kevin Wells
MusicalAmerica.com
December 15, 2006


MILAN -- Roberto Alagna had a chance to redeem his lackluster performance as Radames opening night when he stepped out onto the stage for Sunday's second performance at La Scala. He lost it when he precipitously abandoned the scene after a less than enthusiastic response to "Celeste Aida." Having been in the audience both Sunday and Thursday nights, here's a first- person account that may shed some light on his breach of professionalism.

Radames' opening aria is a thankless task even for someone well-suited for the role, let alone a tenor with a lyric voice trying to push it where it was never meant to go. On opening night, he took the aria at a snail's pace and still managed to fall out of synch with the orchestra. His efforts to darken and add weight to the voice paid few dividends. Any held note wobbled, and attempts to sing piano often ended up choked off and hoarse. High notes were forced and hollow, at times frayed, and often over or under pitch. The orchestra almost came to a halt so he could prepare for the final B flat-- "un trono..." full stop "...vicino al sol !" Other tenors such as Franco Corelli have broken the phrase that way but in tempo and with much better results than the loud, shredded note Alagna let fly. The audience nonetheless seemed to make allowances for opening night nerves, so the applause was warm, but polite and short.

The rest of the evening was uneven with recurring intonation and rhythmic issues. Stamina also seemed a factor with him barely audible or dropping out altogether in the Act II ensembles and with a puzzling moment in the ACT III duet (after singing "fuggiam, fuggiam, fuggiam" with Urmana) where he froze and looked catatonic until a fairly loud, "Aida!" from the prompter roused him to begin his next phrase. Even so, Act III found him at his best, although an ill-advised choice to sing the repeated phrase "il ciel" at the end of "O terra addio" in mixed voice left a negative final impression.

Alagna's solo curtain bow was applauded with little enthusiasm and a few boos. The tenor seemed to take it all in good humor looking up and bowing deeply, then flashing a big smile and a thumbs-up sign.

Reviews were mixed, to say the least. Some thought Antonello Ceron, who sang the messenger, had twice the voice of his commander and would have made a better Radames. The online forums were unforgiving, referring to Alagna as "Ercolino" (the pocket Hercules). From comments he made in interviews, Alagna gave indications he was well aware about what was being said about him online as well as in the press. So when he made his entrance Sunday night, he looked wary and nervous, very much like someone who wished he were somewhere else. There were some improvements to his aria -- the tempo was brisker; the singing more straightforward -- no lingering over badly executed dynamic effects, and the final B-flat was taken without breaking the tempo -- all in all a better but still only passable effort. There was no attempt at subtlety, though; he just belted it out. The final note was loud but hollow, forced and veered sharp. The applause was perfunctory. However, this was the "Turno A" subscription crowd, basically old line Milan. Its is as reserved and undemonstrative as the Monday night subscription audience at the Met. I doubt the second coming of Caruso would waken their enthusiasm.

What happened next took place in a flash, not more than a minute. In the midst of the applause, what sounded like a lone voice from high up on the left launched a loud "Bravo!" This immediately triggered an outburst of boos from a handful of people in the same area of the house and one loud whistle. Unlike a classic La Scala uproar, this was limited and of short duration. No other part of the audience took up booing nor did they counter with a crescendo of applause either. However, a "Vergogna !" or two was directed at the boo birds from the boxes and orchestra. Alagna stood up, faced the upper right of the theater and gave a mock military salute (from conversations heard at intermission, some in the audience interpreted this as him saying, "Go to hell"). Then he turned to exit stage left, tearing off and throwing down his head dress. There must have been no way offstage, so he turned, ripped off his wristbands in frustration, and crossed the entire width of the stage to exit.

Ildiko Komlosi, the Azucena, makes her entrance toward the end of the repeat of the aria, observing Radames from the shadows, then descending a short flight of stairs to join him stage left. She was in position as Alagna crossed in front of her to exit. She looked flabbergasted, her gaze fixed on Chailly, who began the short introduction to "Qual insolita nel tuo sguardo" as Alagna's trailing cape swept out of sight. She gathered herself and began. Just as she finished singing, "Tanta luce di gaudio in te destasse!," a burly, bearded fellow with unkempt wavy hair down to his shoulders came on dressed in black jeans and an untucked black shirt, looking bewildered, and singing, ""D'un sogno avventuroso... " He turned out to be Antonello Palombi, scheduled to sing Radames in the third cast. He remained in street clothes until Act II, Scene 1 gave him time offstage to get into costume and make-up for the triumphal scene (Acts I & II are performed without intermission in this production). Only when Palombi appeared did the audience realize Alagna had left for good. Shouts of, "Vergogna !" and "Buffone !" contended with the first few lines of the Radames - Amneris duet, along with persistent shushing sounds. These soon abated.

Meanwhile Alagna was already giving interviews as he exited the stage door and spinning like a seasoned political operative: Everyone had told him before opening night that he was singing like a god; Chailly loved him, Zeffirelli loved him, Lissner loved him, audiences around the world loved him -- why not La Scala? The public didn't appreciate his effort; didn't want him; not only was he booed but the rest of the audience did not come to his defense and support him with applause, so he left. On Monday, he gave an extended TV interview in which he backpedaled and expressed his intention to attend rehearsals and sing his next scheduled performance on the 14th. He said he now understood the phenomenon of booing at La Scala that and that he shouldn't take it personally. The interviewer neglected to point out that he was no stranger to the theater and its quirks and should have known all this.

However, once Lissner served notice he had breached his contract, Alagna descended into full-fledged grassy knoll paranoia talking about mysterious threatening phone calls, unknown figures making karate chop motions in his direction as he entered the theater Sunday night, and other signs that the La Scala was conspiring to force him out. When that didn't fly, he gave physical problems a whirl -- my throat closed up, my blood sugar plummeted, why didn't Chailly stop the performance to check on me?; that's what Muti did when Domingo nearly fainted in “Otello” -- they could wait an hour for Domingo and not a few minutes for me?, and who was that mysterious tenor in full costume warming up in my dressing room when I came in Sunday night?

This unnamed tenor warming up has become the subject of much speculation. Was Alagna delusional ? Palombi had entered in street clothes. Interviewed after the performance he said he was backstage chatting with the stage manager and had never had a chance to warm up. So who was this other tenor? In any case, "Rototò" (Alagna's French nickname, meaning "burp") really jumped the shark when, in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, he styled himself the potential victim of physical violence at the hands of fans and invoked John Lennon's murder as a somehow analogous possibility. Kremlinology was never this much fun.

Alagna and La Scala are now talking through lawyers while the tenor has become ready fodder for the Jay Lenos and David Lettermans of Italian media. The abiding irony of all the focus on the tenor is that he was not the worst member of this flawed cast. Carlo Guelfi was. All the uproar generated by Alagna's antics since opening night has obscured the fact that he was totally overparted as Amonasro.

Kevin Wells has worked in Italian media for the past 18 years as a freelance translator and production assistant.
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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

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GK
Posts: 467
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Location: Silver Spring, MD

Post by GK » Fri Dec 15, 2006 11:50 pm

If the flabbergasted mezzo came out as Azucena, a character from another opera, Il Trovatore, it would have added to the fiasco :lol: Obviously Mr. Wells meant to say Amneris.

Harold Tucker
Posts: 510
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Location: Ludlow, Kentucky

Post by Harold Tucker » Sun Dec 17, 2006 11:03 am

I am going to pretend that Alagna just wanted Palombi to have his big break. He is too great a talent to be hanging around backstage in blue jeans.


From the Cincinnati Enquirer| Sunday, December 17, 2006
Tenor steps in after lead is booed
BY JANELLE GELFAND | JGELFAND@ENQUIRER.COM
When tenor Antonello Palombi saw superstar tenor Roberto Alagna stalking off the celebrated opera stage of La Scala during a performance of "Aida" last Sunday night, he knew that something had gone terribly wrong.

"I saw him walking near me, and I thought, 'Where are you going? No, please, don't do this! Uh oh! What is going on?' " he says.

For the understudy of a starring role, stepping in at the 11th hour can be terrifying. But jumping in at the last minute - in the middle of a duet, with the orchestra still playing - is almost unprecedented in the opera world.

Palombi, who sang Cavaradossi in Cincinnati Opera's "Tosca" last summer, was "covering" for Alagna in the role of Radames at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy. But during the ruckus - booing from La Scala's notorious upper-balcony aficionados after Alagna's singing of the famous aria, "Celeste Aida," followed by his quick exit - Palombi had just stepped into a dressing room.

When Palombi was thrust onstage, he was more perturbed about his black jeans and shirt than whether he could sing the role. He arrived just as Amneris was finishing her half of the duet with Radames.

"One second later would have been too late. The performance didn't lose one crumb, not one note," Palombi says via cell phone from the opera house. "I remember I felt really uncomfortable, but not because I had to sing, but because of what I was wearing."

In fact, Palombi had been in the theater early for costume fittings. At the time, because no one knew whether Alagna would show up for his performance, Palombi decided to stay and warm up his voice "just in case." When Alagna appeared, Palombi was relieved.

He said he heard Alagna's "Celeste Aida," which sounded "totally normal," but then stepped away. The audience was still screaming and booing when Palombi was pushed onstage.

"When I started to sing, they continued to scream. After my first high note, I heard the audience say, 'Shh! shh!' And after that, no noise," he says. "I was absolutely relaxed. This was my first step onstage at La Scala. ... I remember the smile on the face of the conductor (Riccardo Chailly) because I continued the moment correctly."

He sang the entire opera, and at the end of the performance, the crowd cheered for nine minutes.

"I'm not a hero. I just did my duty," he says.

His only regret? Palombi, who lives in Pisa, was to have made his La Scala debut during another performance of "Aida."

"I knew I was losing my debut at La Scala with my family and friends around me. This broke this magic moment. It is the top of a career for a singer to sing in the temple of music that is La Scala."

SIGNED FOR 'DON CARLO'

Cincinnati Opera plans to bring back Palombi in the title role of Verdi's "Don Carlo" in the 2009 summer festival season, confirms Evans Mirageas, artistic director.

"If there can be a guy story about Cinderella, this is a Cinderella story," Mirageas says of Palombi's premature debut at La Scala. "I have not heard of someone literally walking off in mid-aria, and like a tag team (saying), 'Take the baton, and finish the show for me.' But if anybody could do it and do it with grace, it's Antonello."

See a video: www.youtube.com; search "Alagna Scala"

RHYTHM AND BOOS

Since Roman times, Italian audiences have been known to give unpopular performers the boot. Nineteenth-century Italy even saw a series of "opera riots," occasionally staged for publicity.

Elsewhere:

1830: "The Dumb Girl of Portici," a patriotic opera, incites the audience into mob action on the streets of Brussels, leading to the Belgian Revolution.

1849: A feud between actors Edwin Forrest and William Charles Macready intensifies when they appear in dueling New York performances of "Macbeth." Forrest fans attack the Astor Place Opera House where Macready is performing. The National Guard arrives; 31 people die in the melee.

1913: Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" ignites a riot when Parisian spectators are scandalized by its pagan themes. Stravinsky himself flees the theater.
Clark

| Copyright 2006, Enquirer.com

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