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Subject: Re: Old fashioned prompters
From: Alain Letort <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alain Letort <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 16 May 2018 19:29:42 -0400

text/plain (76 lines)

Dear Listers,

The only time I ever experienced an old-fashioned prompter occurred on 16 July 1999 at 
São Paulo’s ornate Theatro Municipal (TMSP), where then-Lister Lynne Price and I attended 
a performance of Carlos Gomes’s “Lo Schiavo,” sung in the original Italian.  (Carlos Gomes 
was a Brazilian composer who studied in Italy for several years with Giuseppe Verdi — yes, 
*that” Verdi — thanks to a generous grant by the Emperor of Brazil, the kindly and music-
loving Dom Pedro II, or Dom Pedro de Alcântara of Braganza and Habsburg-Lorraine.)

The TMSP had announced that the two lead singers would be American, Aprile Millo as Ilara 
and Louis Otey as Iberê.  As I wrote on Opera-L the next day, 17 July 1999, “Aprile Millo, 
who was supposed to sing the Sunday matinee in São Paulo, bowed out at the last minute,
owing to (we were told) the death of her adoptive father.  Already in 1995, the last time she 
was scheduled to appear here (in “Otello”), Ms. Millo canceled at the last minute.”

Stepping in for Ms. Millo at the very last minute was another American singer, Nina 
Edwards, who unfortunately had not had the time to fully learn her role.  Mr. Otey did sing 
and knew his part inside and out.

This explains why,as I wrote on 17 July 1999, “A major irritant throughout the performance 
was the constant, loud prompting that emanated from the orchestra pit. Whether it came 
from the conductor or a pit prompter, or both, and whether the prompting was addressed at 
the singers or the orchestra, was unclear, but it certainly was distracting and gave the 
performance the feel of a dress rehearsal.”

One of the cast members later confided to us, over dinner at my São Paulo apartment, that 
the TMSP had had nothing to do with this production other than renting out the theater to 
an “ad hoc” independent company, the “Opera Brasil do Maranhão,” based in the northern 
city of São Luís and headed by Fernando Bicudo.  The orchestra and chorus came from Belo 
Horizonte, in the State of Minas Gerais.  The production was plagued by numerous 
“contretemps” and last-minute snafus.  In particular, cast changes were still being made 2 
days before opening night.   This would explain why there was a prompter in the pit, since I 
do not recall any other occasion when the TMSP used one.

Interested Listers may wish to refer back to my Opera-L review of 17 July 1999, which is 
full of funny details of the numerous “confusões” and “bagunças” (snafus) surrounding this 
production.  “Confusões” and “bagunças” are an integral part of the charm of living in Brazil, 
once you learn to take them in stride with a sense of humor.

In spite of the “confusões” and “bagunças,” Lynne Price and I had a very good time, and 
figured this would probably be the only time we would ever get a chance to hear a live 
performance of “Lo Schiavo” in an opera house.

Cheers and best wishes,


Alain Letort
Washington, D.C.
Des Ungeheuers Höhle

On Wed, 16 May 2018 13:33:30 -0400, David Kubiak <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>I was listening recently to two live performances, the Milanov/Tucker
>'Chenier' duet at the Met farewell, and a 1958 Naples 'Butterfly' with
>Tebaldi (who, by the way, is in spectacular voice).  In both cases the
>prompters virtually shout every word to the artists, including every word of
>'Un bel di'.  Have people ever wondered about/discussed how singers managed
>to maintain their dramatic characterizations with all this distracting
>talking coming at them constantly?
>David Kubiak

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