an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Last night, the tenor sang the baritone part as well

There was a bit of a crisis at Madrid’s Teatro Monumental last night during Mendelssohn’s Elijah, when David Wilson-Johnson was taken seriously unwell in mid-performance with Carlos Kalmar and the RTVE orchestra and chorus.

What on earth was to be done?

Ayayayay, tweeted one participant. We need an emergency Elijah! ocrtvenvivo One singer in the audience? Baritone preference .

Total emergency concert OCRTVEnvivo tweeted someone in the orchestra.

It was a Titanic SOS. Would anyone get there in time?

Step forward tenor Christian Elsner. Without so much as turning a hair, Christian simply sang both parts, one to the other, to audience jubilation.

I burst into tears of emotion, tweeted the soprano.

We asked Chrstian Elsner exactly what happened. He replied: ‘David Wilson-Johnson was not able to go on after the duetto with the widow and left stage…and I stood up and sang his full part AND mine.’

Is David okay? ‘I hope so…’ replies Christian. ‘They told me that I have only to sing the tenor part today.’

Good man.

UPDATE:  David Wilson-Johnson, it appears, was suffering from the effects of a pain-killer he was given to quell a migraine. He was treated in an ambulance outside the hall and heard the rest of the performance from there. ‘The medics were astonishingly friendly efficient and adorable,’ he tells us, ‘and my colleagues at the rtve have been so warm and helpful today…I only hope I can pull something extra special for them out of the bag in a few hours time…..’

It should be a high-octane broadcast tonight.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Rosana Martins says:

    Christian Elsner is a top singer and deserves everyone’s gratitude for saving the performance!

  2. Rafael García says:

    He is indeed.
    It’s not only that he was brave enough to finish the concert doubling roles. We are not talking about a “he made the better he could considering the circunstances” thing. He really made the night.
    Sung brilliantly his own part, and sung with command and attention to the phrasing and mood (not just reading) the Elijah role.
    It became obvious he just really loves singing, for he couldn’t help singing parte of the ending choruses.
    Gosh!!! He just couldn’t get enough :-)

  3. María Isabel says:

    I was there (tweeting my heart out). My hands were literally shaking when I saw Mr. Wilson-Johnson head to the door and leave the stage! I see the programme at that point and… almost all the songs coming were Elijah solos!
    OK, the tenor takes over and it’s unbelievable… then I see the programme again and alas! A quartet is approaching!
    At this point the tenor turns ever so slightly towards the bass section of the choir and of course… one of them steps forward and sings the Elijah part in the quartet. That had to be one of the climaxes of the night.
    Thanks for posting this. :-)

  4. richard carlisle says:

    Great story and a glimpse into the real character of opera performers; thanks to all for getting the incident publicised.

  5. Laurence Glavin says:

    I’m sure that Mr.Elsner did a wonderful job as described above. But I was wondering if there was a member of the bass section of the chorus who might have been able to step in? In Boston, the high-level choruses (Tanglewood Festival Chorus; the Cantata Singers) have members with operatic experience.

    • You can believe me when I say you that the own bariton who left the chorus to play the quarttets is a very experimented soloist singer, not only with operatic experience, even more with symphonic and oratory. And he is not the only one. Mr. Elsner took the iniciative before Maestro Carlos Kalmar, and that was all!

  6. María Isabel says:

    The choir of the Orquesta y Coro de Radio Televisión Española are also professionals and most of them have soloist careers / experience. However, do realise that this happened “on the go”, while the concert was running. There was no stop, the flow of the music went on seamlessly. There was no time to agree who would be Elijah, as it were. The bass who did the quartet (his name is Miguel Ángel Viñé), just happened to be in the first row standing next to the tenor soloist (the soloists were positioned behind the orchestra in front of the choir).

    This was the beauty of it. No words were spoken. It just happened. :-)

  7. thanks, dear Christian, you saved my bacon last night……but am glad I didn’t land you in it again tonight… are a true pro and chum…thank you……enjoy the weekend with Sir Rattle! and I will avoid aspirin in the future…… jumbo xx

  8. And THAT’S why you carry your own migraine meds with you when you travel! So much is available in the pharmacies in Spain, but it just not be the right thing.
    Kudos to Mr Elsner and to the chorus for carrying on in heroic fashion!! I wish there were more of these types of stories as opposed to the ongoing sagas of” who’s cancelling this run”, or “who’s not singing tonight”.

  9. This is the kind of situation where might come in useful. Is there an equivalent in Spain I wonder?

  10. harold braun says:

    Bravo! Christian Elsner rocks!!!

  11. Awesome story and great eyewitness accounts. Not many are brave enough and calm enough to carry others’ parts, and I’m glad someone from the choir could help out, too. Such teamwork! Such passion and dedication! Such skill! I reiterate my mantra: “There’s more to music than music!”

an ArtsJournal blog