(I checked Snopes and so far nothing is there … could this be true? Sigh.)

Dear Helen Killer,

I love your site and was thrilled to hear of your “win” against PayPal. I recently had a heartbreaking experience of my own with them.

I sold an old French violin to a buyer in Canada, and the buyer disputed the label.

This is not uncommon. In the violin market, labels often mean little and there is often disagreement over them. Some of the most expensive violins in the world have disputed labels, but they are works of art nonetheless.

Rather than have the violin returned to me, PayPal made the buyer DESTROY the violin in order to get his money back. They somehow deemed the violin as “counterfeit” even though there is no such thing in the violin world.


19. December 2011 · Comments Off on Ouch … & Scary · Categories: Opera, Ouch!

Opera singers … they astound me … and they sometimes have to deal with dangerous situations. I’ll stay seated in my little chair, thank you very much.

Officials at New York’s Metropolitan Opera say mezzo-soprano Wendy White was recovering Sunday from an 8-foot fall during a performance.

White was taken to a Manhattan hospital Saturday night after tumbling from a platform above the famed Met stage while singing the role of Marthe in “Faust.”

I read it here.

More information. It appears she is okay.

The perils of singing opera, I guess.

28. July 2011 · Comments Off on Ah Those Wonderful Transpositions · Categories: Opera, Ouch!

Sometimes an opera work has two key options for an aria. Very seldom do we have to worry about this, but this last year we DID have to keep track of who was on stage for one of the parts (our operas are double cast). I’ve always wondered what might happen should the message not get out about which part to play. Now I know:

I’m sure they were all horrified, but oh MY this makes for a good laugh now. (In the moment it must have been incredibly frightening. But hey, stuff happens. We all live through it.) Thanks to Paul for bringing it to my attention!

07. May 2010 · Comments Off on Yikes! · Categories: Ouch!

Gustavo Dudamel had pulled a muscle in his neck while conducting Dvorak’s Cello Concerto on the first half of the concert, and would be unable to continue on the second half. This with the tour coming up. Associate conductor Lionel Bringuier, 23 years old, stepped in to conduct Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” Symphony, as they say, on short notice.


… and here is the review.

06. January 2010 · Comments Off on Uh-oh · Categories: Ouch!, Reviews

A pity, then, that finesse slipped a bit in the concert’s second half. Various ailments afflicted portions of Mozart’s Symphony No 29. The most virulent was the common peril of period instrument performances: sour intonation. Sometimes, in the middle movements, the exposed first oboe gave a reasonable impersonation of a chicken in pain.

Oh dear. Reviewers sometimes have a way with words, don’t they?

… but when the singers drop in it’s not such a great thing. Fortunately the singer was okay, and no one else was injured. (I’ve been in three productions where a cast member came into the pit; a chorus member, a musical theatre actor, and a ballet dancer during the Nutcracker Russian number (the guy just tumbled his way in and that was the scariest one).

An opera singer was rushed to hospital after tumbling into an orchestra pit during a performance at a British festival.

Puerto Rican Ana Maria Martinez sustained minor injuries in the accident while playing the title role in Rusalka at the world-renowned venue near Lewes, East Sussex.

A Glyndebourne Festival spokeswoman said she was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure but discharged after being checked over by an orthopaedic surgeon.


(Thanks, Jillian, for bringing this to my attention!)


A 13-year-old schoolboy stabbed his music teacher with a kitchen knife, leaving the blade stuck in the teacher’s back as he made his escape.

The pair had just finished a private violin lesson at a middle school near Venice when the pupil allegedly turned on the teacher, stabbing him once in the back.

Fabio Paggioro, 36, had reportedly told the boy, ”See how you manage to do well when you put the effort in”.

I read it here.

21. December 2008 · Comments Off on “Cringingly Bad” · Categories: Christmas, Ouch!, Videos

So says the newscaster in the following video:

Ah, you say you want it in it’s pure, no-word form? Fine then:

I received an email yesterday from a former student. The person had attended a Beauty and the Beast performance and had wondered if I’d be playing. BUT … the oboe “didn’t sound like you”. Seeing my name in the program the student decided I must have played English horn.

Well, I played both, of course.

Now how to interpret that?

Either I sounded so bad on oboe the student couldn’t believe it was me, or the oboe sounded better than the student thinks I sound …?

I, of course, go with the former.

It’s sort of like a person saying, “Hey, I thought you were in front of me at the mall yesterday, only the person was too fat to be you!” … and you were at the mall. You know?

Yes, I tend to take things in the negative. I’m an oboist, after all!

But anyway, it was a weird email to get, and I did write back to say, “Hmmm. What does that mean?” or some such thing.

15. March 2008 · Comments Off on Ouch! · Categories: Links, Other People's Words, Ouch!

In an interview with The Times, Kennedy attacked the practice by which many conductors spend only a few weeks with an orchestra, saying: “How many will develop an orchestra rather than feeding off its achievements? They’re straight off for the dollar. Round the corner to get a better job. All they’re interested in is strutting about, wielding a bit of power.

“A conductor can galvanise the troops and evolve an artistic programme and identity of style. If they only give five or ten weeks a year [to an orchestra], how can they do that?”

He declined to name any particular conductor, but added: “It’s difficult to think of an exception.”

You can read it here