David Rendall is one of the most successful British tenors of recent decades, performing at Covent Garden, the Met and other major houses. In response to the appalling stage mishap at Klagenfurt that has put a Tosca in hospital, David has written to Slipped Disc relating the events that ended his life on stage, one night eight years ago.
Hi Norman and all other readers,
I understand that quite a lot of you had no idea about my accident at the Royal Danish Opera on April 5th 2005 at 2315. It was caused by human error, and to my thinking by way of lack of correct training. The Royal Danish Opera left their old home at the Kongelege Theatre in January 2005 to go to the new ‘Operaen’ across the water ( a gift to the Danish public by Maersk). At the old theatre they pulled ropes to change sets and at the new theatre they pushed buttons on computers to move whole stages from side to side, back to front and from basement to the top.
In Aida act 3, judgement scene, I had to descend down a ladder through a trap door to the ‘Tomb scene’ in the basement. Once in position on top of a truncated pyramid 20 feet above what would be stage level the tomb was sealed by an approx. 3ft square, 4-5ft high filler representing the tomb sealing rock. There was no interval or break between act 3 and 4 as they wanted it to be a continuous flow dramatically and musically.
The stagehand in charge of the scene changes pushed the wrong button on a computer and instead of two stages going up (which would have revealed me in the ‘tomb’ to the audience), the stage which I had just left started to go across to the wings. Now, because there was this rather large piece of mock rock between the two sets, the top sets movement crushed it and tore the roof of the set I was in. With all the debris falling on me, I was knocked off the pyramid and down the stairs to the floor below, some 15 to 20 feet. It was pitch black and I was screaming and nobody came to my aid. I eventually crawled to the rear of the set and tried to get away from danger. Only then did a stage hand appear. By the time I arrived at stage level by stairs, in agony, an announcement had been made to the public that the performance had to be stopped due to technical reasons but nobody was hurt. The audience were shouting that the performance should continue in concert form.
To cut a long story short, I had to have a total hip replacement because my femeral head (left) was severely damaged and after 2-3 months had completely disintigrated. I also had to have my left knee replaced and I received shoulder, hand and nerve surgery. In 2010 I was told by my hip surgeon that he had to take the first prosthesis out as it was poisoning me (Chrome & Cobalt) and implant a revision of Titanium and ceramic. I have not recovered from this operation as the quality of the bone has been severely compromised. I take numerous drugs but a year and a half after the revision it has still not recovered and I have to walk with crutches.
It took a year for the theatre to admit liability, and 7 years down the line, I have not received compensation. I am suing the Minister of Culture as the theatre is owned by the Government and are not insured independantly.
My life is hell and I miss my life on the stage.
Theatres are not employing me as I am unable to do what stage directors require, and to top that, my agents took me off their rosta without even informing me. Such is the life of of a singer.
I send my best wishes to all who have suffered stage accidents as I do to my colleagues who haven’t.