15. June 2010 · Comments Off on In Other Words, Nothing Is Guaranteed · Categories: News

It was, appropriately enough for this most turbulently aquatic opera, the perfect storm: a leading man too ill to perform, his understudy and leading lady laid low by the same bug. One of the highlights of English National Opera’s summer season, Penny Woolcock’s lavish new production of The Pearl Fishers, features stunning projections, billowing waves of silk and teeming crowd scenes. Window-dressing aside, the main attraction of Bizet’s relatively rarely performed score is the famous duet between the two male leads, Nadir and Zurga. And the main attraction at the London Coliseum, to the extent that he is the only cast member named in the brochure, is that Alfie Boe, the “Tony Award- winning tenor”, sings Nadir.

Except that, on Saturday night, he didn’t. As the lights dipped, John McMurray, head of casting at ENO, came on stage to inform the audience that Boe was suffering from a chest infection and would not be singing. As one who had bought four tickets on the strength of Boe’s name on the billboard, I joined in the groans. There was more to come. “Sometimes an illness takes a grip on an opera company”, said Mr McMurray. “And this is one of those times.” Boe’s understudy, Christopher Steele, was also suffering from a throat infection, as was lead soprano Hanan Alattar, singing the romantic heroine, Leila.

These last two, we were told, would battle through as best they could. Very good of them, but you might argue that, at £90 a ticket in the stalls, battling through wasn’t quite what you’d paid for. Still, we were a captive audience by that point, safely ensconced in our seats, away from the box-office staff. Only a few voted with their feet, heading straight back out of the Coliseum, just in time for Steven Gerrard’s goal.

As the first act wore on, it was plain that Steele, clutching a bottle of water, was struggling. He manfully roared out his duet with Quinn Kelsey’s Zurga but the “Je crois entendre encore” aria was painful. It was no surprise when, after the interval, McMurray appeared again to announce that Steele was retiring for the evening, lest he damage his voice permanently.

I read it here.

I just checked out San Francisco Opera’s “everything clause”. It states “Cast, program, prices and schedule are subject to change”.

So there ya go.

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