Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Why La Scala really is opera's highest temple.

All this drama made me remember heearing, in Milan, that there is a secret passageway between La Scala and the Duomo. Word is, Toscanini used it as a quick getaway from divas' jealous husbands!

Their domestic life must be an opera in itself.

Roberto Alagna's wife, the Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu, is also known for her diva displays. The New York Times writes:

"Mr. Alagna’s wife, Angela Gheorghiu, has just withdrawn from a Royal Opera production of “Don Carlo” in London next season. A company spokesman said she was “uncomfortable” with the role.

"The couple have had their problems in the past. Ms. Gheorghiu refused to wear a blond wig during a Metropolitan Opera tour of “Carmen” in Japan and was replaced by her understudy for a performance. The Met also withdrew a contract for the couple for “La Traviata,” apparently over a dispute about the set design. They have since been invited back."

I've read Roberto and Angela are called ``the Bonnie and Clyde'' of opera, and Gheorghiu has been called 'Draculette.'

But unlike Alagna, Ms. Gheorghiu is a darling of La Scala. So when her husband threatened that the both of them would withdraw from performances there, she can't have been too happy.

Wouldn't you love to be fly on their wall? Impromptu opera!

Singing backup? Do it at La Scala!

The end of the now-infamous Aida performance brought a 9-minute ovation, much of it for the man who took Roberto Alagna's place after the insulted tenor stormed off stage.

Antonello Palombi went on stage still dressed in jeans and a long black shirt. Why wouldn't an understudy have been fully prepped to step into the role at a moment's notice? Curious, don't you think?

Get this: apparently, Palombi was the third understudy in line! Was he just a lot quicker on the draw than the first understudy, was in full costume? Was #1 snoozing, and therefore losing this grand opportunity? All that press!

Three understudies - that we know of. Just how deep of a bench do they have at La Scala, anyway? And remember: the Italian government pays for 90 percent of La Scala's costs! Tickets account for only ten percent of its operating budget. No fundraising. This public radio employee is beyond green with envy!

Here's Corriere della Sera's report, in English, on the December 9th drama.

Gillian Coldsnow

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

And petulance at La Scala!

No tempest in a teacup, this. Tenor Roberto Alagna, singing Radames on Sunday night (December 9) just couldn't stomach the boos coming from the tough loggionisti (balcony spectators) at La Scala and stomped off the stage, leaving his leading lady to struggle through the duet by herself.

Everyone's talking about it. Even people who don't care for opera have heard about it. It seems that the diva tantrums of yore really don't happen very much these days (oh, wait, of course, there WAS Kathleen Battle) - so that this big tenor hissy fit made news all over the world.

I found a blog of an opera lover in Milan who gives all the dirt, and then some (!) on this incident and its continuing fallout. Read Opera Chic for some good old-fashioned opera-drama-behind-the-scenes!

I really love what one opera critic said on the BBC. When asked why Alagna would jeopardize his career by stomping of the stage of THE temple of opera, the critic said, "well, tenors are notoriously fragile creatures."

Gillian Coldsnow

Opening Night at La Scala!!

The La Scala season always begins on December 7th, because it's the feast day of Milan's patron saint, Ambrose.

Don't even think about trying to score tickets for the star-studded affair, which rivals any Hollywood red carpet affair.

The opening show? Possibly Italy's most beloved opera, Verdi's Aida. Director Franco Zeffirelli says it's the best production of Aida La Scala has ever seen.


Was it, as Playbill writes, "the Aida of Aidas?"

Since I couldn't be there (boo!! hisss!!!) I'm sending you to the Beeb for pictures.