13 Dec 2006

Don't irritate me, or I'll walk off the stage

After Roberto Alagna's opening aria in Aida, the audience in the gallery of Teatro alla Scala greeted him with boos. Then, very surprisingly, Radames, the role he played, stalked off the stage in response to the rude audience. Daniel Wakin from New York Times reported,

"In the history of operatic hissy fits, what happened at Teatro Alla Scala in Milan during 'Aida' on Sunday night was a bravura performance." (Dec. 13, 2006)

This is the first time we see a tenor walking angrily off the stage in the middle of the performance, and the stand-in was pushed on stage to finish the act without costumes. Can Alagna just leave the stage like that?

How I wish I were there!

I believe every artist deserves proper respect, but in the meantime, he has to show his professionalism and the ability to take catcalls and boos. The audience in the gallery of La Scala, called the "loggionisti", is notorious for their attitudes. These people are the opera aficinados who queue for cheap seats and always express their opinions freely during the performance. They could nod approvingly or shout and boo loudly if the performance is simply not as good as they expected, which is the case that happened on Sunday. Indeed, the loggionisti is rude, but it is their freedom to express their preference. If their actions are far too extreme, the opera house would certainly take good actions to stop them. I just cannot imagine the tenor suddenly stopped his singing, stared angrily at his audience, and then stormed off the stage.

This action is extremely childish and unprofessional. Even the loggionisti disapproved your singing, you still had the responsibility to finish the performance. After all, every audience in that theatre paid to hear your singing and see your performance. The conflict between the artist and the loggionisti is not new. Alagna is not the only one who was booed by the picky audience, Luciano Pavarotti and Renee Fleming were also victims at La Scala. In the infamous case, "Rome Walkout", Maria Callas simply cenceled her performance Norma after the first act at Rome Opera House in 1958. Many great opera singers encountered such disgrace, but none of them dared to leave the stage in the middle of the performance. In my opinion, once you step on that stage, you must do your best to play your role. You are responsible for the completion of the performance. This is the basic requirement for all actors and singers, and this is the respect for both the opera house and the audience.

How could Alagna ask for respect when he was not able to pay his? Of course, it is the loggionisti who started the conflict, but if Alagna completed his duty and presented a great performance, every opera critic and operagoer would speak for him. He would definitely secure his reputation as one of the greatest tenors. Sadly, he did not do so but quit the performance in the most irresponsible way. It is truly "such a shame" as those audience yelled. Due to this incident, Alagna is replaced by Walter Fraccaro, the Italian tenor who has sung in La Scala, the Met, and many major opera houses. I wonder if Alagna would ever have any chance to sing at La Scala agian.

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