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Subject: Re: Boheme in English
From: George Rios <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:George Rios <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 21 May 2017 15:38:46 -0400

text/plain (63 lines)

Vishnevskaya sang her Met debut Butterfly in Russian.  And here’s a story I posted some 
years ago that I witnessed (long).

The recent post about multi-language performances reminded me of a horrific cancellation 
story that I experienced first hand with the Opera Company of Philadelphia during its 1979-
1980 season.  It was a double bill of Ravel's L'Heure Espagnole and Pagliacci, mounted for 
Teresa Stratas.  Jon Vickers was cast as Canio and the director was Fabrizio Melano.  The 
two performances were to take place on a Tuesday evening, March 11 and Friday evening, 
March 14, 1980.

>On the previous Friday, March 7, Vickers cancelled his appearances as Canio.  Giuseppe 
Giacomini, after having sung Don Carlo that same Friday night at the Met, agreed to replace 
Vickers and travelled to Philadelphia the next day to sing the dress rehearsal on Saturday 
afternoon.  Stratas also sang the dress rehearsal of both opera.

The following Monday afternoon, Stratas informed the company that she was not feeling 
well.  At 3pm on Tuesday, she cancelled.  Carmen Balthrop was hired to sing Nedda, but 
Stratas' cover for the Ravel opera unfortunately was in Toronto, and the last available flight 
had departed for Philadelphia at 2:30.  OCP called the Met and inquired if any soprano on 
their roster had Concepcion in her repertoire.  The only Met soprano who had ever sung the 
role, albeit in English, was Alma Jean Smith.  She had sung it during her student days at 
Indiana University years prior.

Around 5pm, she boarded a train which pulled out of New York's Penn Station, then it 
abruptly stopped and sat there for an hour or so.  It then pulled back into the station and 
engines had to be changed.  This delayed her arrival so much that the evening's conductor, 
Richard Woitach was forced to conduct various Rossini overtures while the disappointed 
audience waited, after having heard general manager Ed Korn announce the cancellation of 
the evening's two stars.  Meanwhile, Melano polished the blocking with the assistant stage 
director, Kay Walker, so that Ms. Walker could walk the role of Concepcion wearing Stratas' 
costume, wig, and with score in hand.   Ms. Smith, having arrived at last from New York, 
was visible to the audience, as she stood on stage right, in street clothes, behind a music 
stand, singing the role of Concepcion in English (while everyone else sang in French).  
Imagine how James Hoback felt singing a duet in French to a mute Concepcion but hearing 
Concepcion's lines sung in English from a distance).

Ms. Balthrop was not able to receive any direction from Melano for her Nedda as he was 
busy helping Ms. Walker.  During intermission and the Prologue of Pagliacci, he then worked 
with Ms. Balthrop.  Near the end of the duet with Silvio, her blouse parted in the back and 
she basically had to hold it together with one hand behind her back until her exit.  Then 
Melano continued giving her blocking backstage during Vesti la giubba and the Interlude but 
was not able to finish and had to run back and forth from offstage right to offstage left 
whispering cues to her (and we're talking rubber chicken and a real raw egg being used 
during the Colombina scene!).

Tthe cover for Concepcion came in from Toronto and since, Giacomini wasn’t available, 
Ermanno Mauro sang Canio.<

And then they all sang Stravinsky's "Tilim bom".

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