At this rate, the surgeon general could issue a warning that singing at the Metropolitan Opera is hazardous to one’s health. According to the Associated Press, illnesses have knocked out stars at dizzying speed, with six singers making unscheduled debuts in leading roles over 13 days. Three tenors appeared as Tristan, one of whom stopped the show when a set malfunction sent him tumbling into the prompter’s box, while tenor Ben Heppner missed the first four performances because of a blood-borne infection that abscessed in his pelvic region. Yikes!
Some singers spend years waiting a chance to sing on the Met’s stage, working their way up at regional theaters with the hope they can become the next Luciano Pavarotti or Birgit Nilsson. Various viruses have catapulted those waiting in the wings into the spotlight, usually with not even a single stage rehearsal.
Angela Meade, a 30-year-old soprano still in vocal school, hadn’t sung a single professional performance before her debut Friday night as Elvira in Verdi’s “Ernani.”
A little more than 16 hours later, tenor Robert Dean Smith sang Tristan in a performance simulcast to theaters worldwide. He jetted in from Berlin on Thursday, had a few piano rehearsals Friday and planned to head back to Europe on Sunday. Even Met General Manager Peter Gelb joked that the revival of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” was “cursed.”