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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

HOW TO GET BOOED AT LA SCALA

All the opera boards are clamoring about the incident last week at La Scala, Milan, when the tenor Roberto Algana was booed at the beginning of a performance of Aida, just after his difficult aria 'Celeste Aida'. Alagna, a decent French born tenor is a few sizes short of being a Radames, but I heard the previous performance on line and he sounded fine. This night however, as the booing began he flipped off the audience and walked off the stage. His understudy, in Reebok's and jeans walked out singing and the performance continued without a pause. Opera loves a good scandal and this one has some impressive mileage, thanks to the endless posts on opera-l and the event itself all over YouTube.

The consensus is Alagna behaved like a brat, and ultimately did himself no good. He's been fired from all the performances of Aida, and law suits and press conferences are flying back and forth all over Milan. Just before the third performance, from which he'd been fired remember, Alagna instead sang OUTSIDE La Scala to the amusement of the crowd who no doubt thought him just another panhandler, albeit better dressed.

Did anyone tell Robertino that everyone gets booed at La Scala?
The great tenor Carlo Bergonzi was booed thirty years ago, also in Aida. He too flipped off the audience but continued to sing.
By Act 3 the audience was screaming at him "Perdona Carlo! Bravo!"

And then there's Maria Callas.
Yeah I know we all talk about her too much.
Herbert Breslin is his loads of fun book about working with Pavarotti (The King and I)
says that EMI markets her recordings so aggressively and people buy 'em up so much that everyone's convinced she's still alive, and she'd been dead for thirty years.

Anyway, Callas was Queen of La Scala for years.
Not bad for a Greek girl from 178th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.
One night she was singing Medea. One of her signature roles.
She was in poor voice. The audience began to hiss. 4,000 people hissing.
Then the boos started. Callas came to the line in the opera that she was supposed
to address to Jason: "Crudel! Ha datto tutto a te!" Cruel one, I gave you everything.
What did she do? She ignored Jason, strode to the footlights, lifted her fist to the audience and sang that line in their faces. And the cheering went on all night.

That kids, is how you sing at La Scala.

2 comments:

The MacDezart said...

Bergonzi was one of the greats in what my grandfather used to call "Il secolo delle grande voce", which unfortunately ended about 30 years ago. Roberto Alagna, such as he is, can't be compared except for the booing. Today's singers tend to be very good but none so great as to stand head and shoulders above a herd of other very good singers. Likely because the quality is generally higher for lead singers than it once was. Just an opinion. But to hear Bergonzi at his finest in Ballo in Maschera (1967), there's a clip linked from youtube, here: March05

The MacDezart said...

Bergonzi was one of the greats in what my grandfather used to call "Il secolo delle grande voce", which unfortunately ended about 30 years ago. Roberto Alagna, such as he is, can't be compared except for the booing. Today's singers tend to be very good but none so great as to stand head and shoulders above a herd of other very good singers. Likely because the quality is generally higher for lead singers than it once was. Just an opinion. But to hear Bergonzi at his finest in Ballo in Maschera (1967), there's a clip linked from youtube, here: March05