Live Opera

The Mad, Mad World of Opera!

I wonder how many of you fellow opera-lovers have ever witnessed some "strange happenings" live on opera stages. I have seen a few, but mostly my collection of "Opera Oddities" (incidentally, my all-time best seller) are documentations of various events that have taken place over the years and sent to me by other opera lovers...those who enjoy a good laugh along with their serious interest in the vocal art. I will list a few below and believe me, they DID HAPPEN!

  • New! Margherita Ruffino, whose repertoire also included Lucia di Lammermoor (!) adds a little verismo to the Judgement Scene from Aida.
  • Rita Gorr, at a Dallas I rehearsal, yells at Mario del Monaco for being out of costume.
  • The famous "Dristan und Isolde" -- where Jon Vickers tells the audience (Dallas again..maybe it is the climate?) to "shut up with your damn coughing!"
  • Franco Bonisolli, famous for his outbursts, calls for "Wasser" just before he takes the first high C in "Di Quella pira" in a Hamburg performance. I guess they brought it to him, because he then unleashes a mighty one! (after some booing)
  • I attended a City Opera Cavalleria once, in which a fellow in the audience hated the scenery and yelled, "That's not Sicily, you morons!"
  • Poor Risë Stevens! She sprained her arm playing tennis, and during the third act of a broadcast Met Carmen, Giuseppe di Stefano twisted it so badly that it broke! You can hear her saying, "Put my arm down!" as clear as can be. (An aside to this is that I was supposed to go to see Risë the next day, since we had our annual music club meeting , and my friends has planned a surprise party for me when I arrived back home..well, no Risë club meeting..thanks to how would they get me out of the house? They finally convinced me to see her when she came from the doctor..and so the party did take place..but Mr.Di Stefano almost screwed up my life!)
  • Montserrat Caballé faints halfway through a rendition of "Addio del passato" in 1972 at the Paris Opera. But give her credit at least for trying! Five years later, when she canceled the opening night of Turandot at La Scala, Maestro Zubin Mehta had to go out and announce the bad news to the audience.
  • The funniest soprano in the world (yes, even funnier than Florence Foster Jenkins), Mari Lynn, of public access television fame, reads the letter from La Traviata..which sounds much closer to La TraviYENTA! I played this for Diana Soviero, telling her this was a "Violetta the likes of which she had never seen before" and she almost fell off the couch!
  • More inimitable performances: Madame Lynn sings "Sempre libera"
  • The legendary Olive Middleton (80-something year old prima donna of La Puma Opera) takes the optional "Kitty Carlisle" high C in the Miserere from Trovatore
  • An insane lady in the City Opera audience lets out a blood-curdling "primal scream" just before tenor Henry Price begins act two Traviata aria.Worse than Klytaemnestra being murdered!
  • And speaking of screams, here's a re-engineered version of the final scene from Tosca...

Photos | Zinka Milanov | Virgina Zeani | Regina Resnik | Mad! | Live Opera | Welcome