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In this glorious summer of cancellations, let’s have a star-free zone

The opera score so far for the month of May:

Anna Netrebko has dropped out of Berlin Staatsoper to be with her son, Munich and Salzburg because she’s unwell.

Natalie Dessay has disappointed the Met and La Scala.

Jonas Kaufmann has withdrawn from a Covent Garden Les Troyens that was built (and sold) around him.

Karita Mattila has pulled out of the Met’s fall Ballo.

This month’s dropouts list ought to serve as a red light to the opera industry. It underlines a dangerous over-dependency on a handful of big names who are variously fallible, over-sensitive and capricious. Cancellation to a soprano is like prison to a professional burglar, a calculated risk.

Unlike the football industry which has a bench full of substitutes of comparable worth on the touchline, opera is forever in the situation of making inadequate replacements – disappointing its public not only with loss of star charisma but also by requiring them to pay premium tickets prices for an artist they might not otherwise wish to hear.

The barometer of disaffection has been rising this summer and will inflame still further as more cancellations are inevitably announced. The solution must be to reduce the dependency on a handful of established stars.

How? By investing more in the promotion of the next rank of singers – many of them equally impressive as the big names. It might be an idea to announce a star-free zone in the middle of the season as a showcase for young talent. It would attract a different audience, younger, more curious, less media-driven, more risk-taking than the old.

The first opera house or festival to try it could be in for a happy surprise.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Andrew Powell says:

    Netrebko and Kaufmann remain listed for joint concerts, with Erwin Schrott, in Münster and London next week:

    http://www.deag.de/classics.html?user_events_pi1%5Buid%5D=699&cHash=40bb9c9c436fde9d6e05d9d8db1e9d52

    • Emil Archambault says:

      Kaufmann has pulled out from these concerts as well (see Intermezzo blog).

      He is down with a tracheal infection, and has not sung since late April. He cancelled the MET, Lucerne, Wigmore Hall, ROH, and the money-making recitals with Netrebko/Schrott. Calling him “over-sensitive and capricious” is unjust and undeserved. Natalie Dessay is sick as well, and struggled to finish the Traviata broadcast.

      Mattila withdrew the role from her repertory nearly a year before the performances began; not a very dangerous cancellation. She is replaced by Radvanovsky, so not a very big loss for the audience (both are stars; I’m not judging Mattila). Again, that’s not caprice or over-sensitivity.

      And, by the way, football clubs do not have two line-ups of stars; the substitutes are clearly inferior to team A. And the teams are just as star-centered: Los Angeles hired Bechkam just for that reason…

  2. Andrew Powell says:

    Netrebko wasn’t much missed yesterday in Salzburg. Cecilia Bartoli won warm applause for an aria from “La clemenza di Tito” and (wearing a dirndl) the Exsultate, jubilate; she sang on four consecutive evenings, all told. Mojca Erdmann did well in the high-lying new (2011) work by Shchedrin; I could not imagine the Netrebko I heard on May 12 and 16 in “I Capuleti” singing this music.

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