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The tenor came in so late, he missed the first act

Lance Ryan, a Canadian tenor at the Staatsoper Berlin, forgot to turn up for Siegfried on Sunday afternoon.

Twenty minutes before curtain, all was panic backstage. In desperation, Daniel Barenboim called the young Austrian tenor Andreas Schager who is due to sing Götterdämmerung later in the week, and asked if he could step in.


Sure, said Schager, but it’s 4 o’clock now I’m on at 6pm with Simon Rattle in Magic Flute at the Philharmonie.

Come and sing the first act of Siegfried, said Barenboim.

So that’s what he did, singing from the wings while an assistant director dressed as Siegfried mimed the role on stage. Schager got a storming ovation at the end of the act.

He came off to find that Ryan had finally turned up. Apparently the Canadian had thought it was a 6pm show. He won’t make that mistake again.

lance ryan

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  1. Gioconda says:

    and he had been singing Fidelio in Vienna the day before on Saturday April 6th…

  2. Fantastic! Bravo Andreas!!!

  3. Greg Von Notias says:

    And they said that it could not be done.

  4. I would like to once again thank Andreas publically for bailing me out of this very embarassing and hopefully unique occasion: to a great colleague and friend.

    • Well done, Lance!

    • Derek Castle says:

      I think it’s ‘publicly’ – and couldn’t they contact you in these days of mobile phones, or were you on a plane?

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        The BZ article Norman linked to says that they immediately called him and found out then that he had thought show time was 6pm. But, apparently, it was already too late for him to make it to the theater in time. So, yes, it looks like Lance does have a phone. I thought you had lived in Berlin. Not enough Deutsch left to read BZ? And BZ is actually rather easy to read, being the simple man’s preferred source of daily news….

    • Dear Lance, this is every singer’s nightmare…I’m glad it was solved so well. And it is a very human mistake. I’m puzzled, though, why no one was able to reach you…
      @Derek Castle: there is some discussion about “pubicly-publically” . See

      • Derek Castle says:

        Marianne, there is such a thing as American spelling (see Webster’s etc.). On checking the internet, Oxford Dictionaries reject ‘publically’ as illogical, as there is no such adjective as ‘publical’ (where there is ‘cynical’, ‘trivial’, ‘partial’, etc.) Never mind, Maestro Rieu is finishing his marathon on Sky Arts 2 at the weekend, so music lovers can return to more serious matters again.

        • Thank you for sharing your knowledge…

        • Wacko Jacko says:

          I think you will find the suffix “ly” comes from old english/german that means “appropriate to, like, suitable” changing a noun into an adjective

          Therefore Public-Public(ly) Cynical-Cynical(ly)

          • Derek Castle says:

            Wacko, I like your style! However, these are adjectives changing to adverbs (unless, of course, you’re pulling my leg!)

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            But who decides that the adjectives are “cynical” and theatrical”, not “cynic” and “theatric” or “public”, not “publical”?

    • Lance–you are a great tenor, and someone I knew from Mozarteum days. I am so proud of your success. (And forgive you for a little mistake as last Sunday’s!) We who love Wagner always await your fine assumptions of the big Wagner rôles! Cheers!

    • Lance, things go wrong. Some time you will help out a colleague. Keep your chin up and keep singing. The world needs the gifts you have to offer.

    • Fabio Fabrici says:

      Mr. Ryan, you are a great artist. I had the pleasure of hearing and seeing you in the previous Siegfried in Berlin Staatsoper end of March, including the 1st Aufzug. Best Siegfried interpretation I have personally encountered so far, and there were quite a few.

      But if you want to have a career that spans more than a few years in the circus, do not sing Fidelio in Vienna and next day Siegfried in Berlin, unless you have extraterrestrial genes or have new technologically enhanced vocal chords. Your managers love the money one of the best horses in their staple rakes in this way, but you will be dead as a singer very soon.

      All the best, good luck, break a leg!

    • Dear Lance, helping a great colleague and friend was a pleasure for me. All the best, Andreas

  5. Congratulations, Andreas! I feel for Mr. Ryan. One day, he may look back at this and chuckle. Not today (or tomorrow), I assume.

  6. Mark Stratford says:

    When Barenboim conducted Bruckner VIII last year in London, the back desk of cellos missed the performance because they thought there was a Mozart Concerto in the first half (like before the 7th symphony the night before). But the Berlin no-show was of far greater magnitude.

  7. Schager is a great singer….good publicity for him! But I do not understand why someone can sing in Vienna the night before….travel to Berlin and get on stage as Siegfried. Sheer overstimation, does not help the voice…

    • Gioconda says:

      that was exactly my point. All that rush doesn´t help neither the voice nor nerves and good preparation…

  8. Derek Castle says:

    Norman, sorry to be nit-picking, but you especially should know that the Deutsche Oper is an entirely different beast in West Berlin. The Staatsoper (currently under massive renovation) in Unter den Linden, in the old East Berlin, is where Barenboim is Music Director. Their temporary home is in the Schiller-Theater.

    • I wrote Staatsoper.

      • John Groves says:

        The Staatsoper’s current home(the Schiller Theatre) is only a few hundred yards from the Deutsche Oper.

        • Derek Castle says:

          Having lived in Berlin for some time after the building of the Wall, I think it’s of some significance that the Deutsche Oper was in the West, whereas the East Germans had both the Staatsoper and the Komische Oper in East Berlin – or, as they preferred to call it ‘Berlin, Hauptstadt der DDR’.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            You are probably right – but what is (was) that significance?

          • Derek Castle says:

            Michael, just that the Deutsche Oper (a modern building and the only available opera for Western Berliners after the Wall went up) comes from an entirely different tradition to the original Staatsoper, which the East Germans/Russians appropriated after the War. Perhaps the latter neglected the fabric of this neo-classical building to such an extent that it is now in need of serious renovation. So I just found it amusing that Norman, or his amanuensis, got the two mixed up. That’s all.

          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            The latter “neglected” the staatsoper so much, that they actually rebuilt it from the WWII ruins, it opened in 1955. They neglected it even further, so they renovated it for three years thoroughly in the 1980s.
            And the main reason for today’s building activities is the enlargement of the auditorium, not a renovation.

          • Derek Castle says:

            Thanks, Fabio. It was very naughty of me to jump to conclusions (having seen so much desolation in East Berlin) and blame the Communists for ‘letting everything go’, without taking the trouble to do a bit of research. Mea culpa!

      • Derek Castle says:

        Norman, I know I’m slowly losing my marbles, so I checked the original post, still in my inbox, which reads “Norman Lebrecht, 10.30am – Lance Ryan, a Canadian tenor at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, forgot to turn up for Siegfried….”
        I clicked on ‘Read more of this post’ and, hey presto, Mr Ryan had become a tenor at the Staatsoper. Did someone else write your headline for you?

    • Marvin Tougat says:

      Wow, Derek. 0 for 2 with the nitpicking. Rough day.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Derek, sorry to be nit-picking, but there is no hyphen in Schiller Theater – at least not anymore! :-)

      • Derek Castle says:

        Michael, you’re right. (Schiller Theater) Entschuldigung vielmals! One last nit: how can I be ‘probably’ right? My poor computing skills didn’t lead me immediately to Norman’s link to the BZ. Now that I’ve read the article, I feel that, after 33 years in Germany, I might even manage the FAZ, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, or -who knows? – Die Zeit!

      • In this case, Derek is not that wrong. Yes, the institution (actually, it ceased to exist as an institution 20 years ago) spells its name without a hyphen. However, according to the rules of German orthography, this is wrong, for, as you English speakers might already now from Mark Twain, John Cleese or someone else who was into jokes on this, the German language loves to lengthen its words. So, the orthograhically correct options are “Schiller-Theater” or “Schillertheater”.

        Nevertheless, even Berlin’s most imposrtant local newspaper seems not to know how to deal with this:

        • Derek Castle says:

          Simon, thank you for your support. However, a trawl through the internet seems to show that ‘no hyphen’ seems to be the most popular version, even on Wikipedia and the Staatsoper’s own website. They do use a hyphen when it’s used adjectivally, as in ‘Schiller-Theater AG’ or ‘Schiller-Theater Werkstatt’. Anyway, with the unstoppable advance of no gaps ‘computer-speak’, we will soon accept ‘coventgarden’ and ‘royaloperahouse’ as normal.

          • Indeed. It’s not unusual that German institutions do not follow this rule when spelling themselves. And this issue is even more complicated, because the institution “Schiller Theater” ceased to exist in 1993. The institution “Staatsoper” uses the no hyphen spelling as well, and on the building itself the name is written without a hyphen, too.

            However, the official register of monuments in Berlin uses the spelling “Schillertheater” and cites a book that spells “Schiller-Theater”:

            And the German Wikipedia uses “Schillertheater”, too: (Apparently there was no lengthy discussion on the spelling, as I would have expected…)

            So, there are good arguments for any of the three option.

          • Derek Castle says:

            Simon, I just happened to look at the BZ Online today, where the front page story is all about the travails of the builders working on the renovation of the Staatsoper. It will not re-open in the autumn, as originally planned, nor in the autumn of 2014 as hoped, but now in the spring of 2015. Latest excuse: unforeseen rotting wooden supports underground which need more strengthening. (Total cost: nearly 250 million euros). Barenboim is pulling his hair out. He refers to the scandal of the new, but still unopened, airport. I was promised by Easyjet that I would be landing there last summer, but have since had the inestimable pleasure of travelling true ‘cattle class’ twice through the old, dilapidated Schoenefeld Airport. If you add to these woes the catastrophe of the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, on which building began in 2007 at a predicted cost to the city of 77 million euros and has now escalated to an impressive 575 million, with the hope of it opening in spring 2017!, you can see that not all is as rosy in Germany as we sometimes imagine. And we complain about this country!

          • Derek, oh yes! Large scale projects seem to be something that does no longer work in Germany. Don’t forget the Stuttgart railway station!

            By the way, which country are you referring to by “this”?

          • Derek Castle says:

            Sorry, a bit presumptuous of me to think that most posters live in the UK.

          • Indeed, there are people outside the UK who love classical music and have some basic knowledge of the English language. :-D

            The point is that we saw the great Heathrow-T4 show and couldn’t leave the title for the greatest airport innauguration failure with you!

            Personally, I am looking forward to the planned direct train connection between Frankfurt and London. There’s a great chance that Germans and Brits will mess it up together!

          • Derek Castle says:

            Simon, I can’ t wait! I went from London to Paris by train last autumn on the Eurostar. Wonderful! An hourly service, no travelling out to and hanging around at airports, no sitting like sardines for three hours, belted up, waiting for storms to clear, as happened to me last summer. Trains to Germany without having to change in Belgium. Bliss! (But not in my lifetime, I fear.)

          • Derek Castle says:

            Simon, certain in the knowledge that I am already chief candidate for the ‘Nitpicker of the Year’ Award, may I most humbly suggest that it should be – perhaps – ‘inauguration’? :)

          • Concerning the reopening of Staatsoper Unter den Linden: The latest official deadline, announced in December, was October 2015. But meanwhile officials admit that even this new deadline is “very critical”, with already no reserve whatsoever left, and hint at summer 2016 as a possible scenario.

            This also affects the planned renewal of Komische Oper (I recommend the toilets there: sheer nostalgia), during which again the Schillertheater is to be used as temporary home of the company. Obviously this will be possible only after Staatsoper could finally move back.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          I didn’t know John Cleese was one of the people who defined German orthography rules! That explains a lot. He is probably also behind the bungled spelling reform from the 1990s. :-)

          However, orthography rules do not apply to names of institutions, especially not artistic ones. You can call them whatever you like and spell them in whatever way you like. So there is no “right” or “wrong” there. “Right” is what the people who represent or run the institution decide is the correct way. With or without hyphen, alternate spellings etc. For instance, “Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester” but “NDR Sinfonieorchester” but “Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks”. Or even “hr-Sinfonieorchester”. The latter I find a little silly but they apparently think the HR, sorry – hr – looks cooler with small letters…

          Of course, it doesn’t really matter all that much. I just wanted to tweak Derek because he found so much to nitpick in other peoples’ posts. Or is it “other people’s posts”? :-)

          • Michael, you’re of course right with the institutions argmuent (though I don’t see why there should be any difference between artistic and other institutions). However, as I wrote above, this case is more complicated because the institution “Schiller Theater” no longer exists. So, it’s to be discussed whether the spelling of the former institution still applies to the building.

            By the way, concerning your orchestra examples:
            “Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester”: correct spelling, “Berliner” is an adjective, and “Sinfonie-Orchester” is a correct alternative to “Sinfonieorchester”
            “NDR Sinfonieorchester”: orthographically incorrect, hyphen needed
            “Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks”: perfectly correct
            “hr-Sinfonieorchester”: correct, apart from the small letters

            Did I already say that I love off-topic discussions? Thank you, Norman, for allowing this.

          • Lovin’ it!

          • Derek Castle says:

            Michael, you know it’s “other people’s posts”. Your German will tell you that ‘peoples’ are nations (Völker). Anyway, what was the topic? Oh, yes – “Lance misses first act of ‘Siegfried’ !” (I’m afraid I can only do ‘smilies’ on e-mails. I need a course, but please take one as granted.)

          • Derek Castle says:

            Michael, truly fascinating. Agree totally about ‘hip’ hr (Hessischer Rundfunk). As I said recently, it’s becoming cool to go small. Look at Facebook (if you dare), where (young) posters use a small ‘i’ for ‘I’. Saves pressing the Caps button, I suppose. In our family we have heated discussions whether it should be MacDonald’s or McDonalds. You say: “It doesn’t really matter…” Please! This is what we geeks live for! (Thanks, Norman, from me, too.)

  9. Another colleague says:

    Lance, this is Laurie, your Ariadne director from NY, and a big fan, as well, of your Strasbourg Götterdämmerung! This happened to Luis Lima years ago in a Boheme I directed in San Francisco. I’ll never forget his distress, and how badly we all felt for him. This is just to put it out there to you and any comment readers here that this can happen to even the most professional and serious colleagues; which I know are! And one day you WILL look back and smile at this – for now, I’m sending you a big vote of confidence for all your future performances. And BRAVI to both Mr. Schager AND the AD (been there, done that – NOT easy)

  10. christailes says:

    Lance i have to say you are really cute

  11. David Kaplan says:

    Could it have been that the military time format caused some confusion? The North American memory has a way of perverting 16:00 into 6pm; at least it did once for me when I missed a flight while in the airport in Frankfurt– I thought I had all the time in the world to sit and read.
    Best wishes,

  12. Jenifer says:

    Hilarious if true, and good work all around etc. But, just a question from an outsider to this cosy little chat surely if you are on at 6pm you are in theatre before 4pm ….

    • Marvin Tougat says:

      Not necessarily, Jenifer. Depending on the production and the role, call time could be anywhere up to and even after the downbeat. I’ve rarely seen a call time 2 hours or more before downbeat.

  13. Lance is a great professional and a delightful colleague, and what happened could have happened to any of us, after all we’re all human…………. As excellent as Derek (AD) and Andreas were, I was relieved when he turned up for act 2: certainly made my job easier again……… :-)

  14. Niall Hoskin says:

    Having once been caught out by an unexpected start time – 7 pm instead of 7.30 – I sympathise hugely. I had the galling experience of watching the rest of the concert from the BBC van…
    This is the production coming to the BBC Proms this summer, isn’t it? Let’s hope they all set their watches to British Summer Time. Looking forward to hearing more about casts for those performances.

    • Yes that’s right; but we don’t know yet whether it will be semi-staged or just Konzertant……… we will however be informed of the dates and time…….. ;-)

    • Shhh…isn’t there an embargo on Proms info until next week?!

  15. Look, I realize that s### happens in life. But I’m extremely unsympathetic to an artist not showing up on time for an engagement. As Lance discovered there are others — waiting in the wings — to take over. While I’m sure he won’t make that mistake again, but he has performed regularly throughout Europe and should have known better. Sorry, no sympathy vote here.

    • And PAM wins today’s Judgmental Perfectionist Who Never Makes Mistakes award. Look for your halo in the post, PAM. Have fun polishing it.

    • We all make mistakes, Pam. Even you.

    • Ever missed a meeting, PAM? An important appointment? Guess what: just because one is a performing artist doesn’t mean one is immune to making a mistake. Only difference: the mistake is a public one, and publicized further…

      I believe the main focus of all this should be the extraordinarily collegial actions of the jump in singer, who earlier that day had sung rehearsals of Götterdämmerung with Barenboim…sang Act 1 of Siegfried on zero notice, jumped in a cab (presumably) to the Philharmonie, where he proceeded to sing the 1. Geharnischter in Zauberflöte with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Phil.

      I would like to add my bravo to Mr. Ryan for making a public statement of thanks to his replacement on this site. Classy.

    • PAM, come on. Nobody was killed. This is an honest mistake, and the sort of mistake that has happened before with other highly respectable musicians too. Maria Joao Pires once found out, that she had prepared another Mozart piano concerto than the conductor and orchestra she was supposed to perform with. She discovered it on stage, and was able to play the other concerto. Fortunately she did not have to deal with you…

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        I saw that, it was in a documentary about Chailly and Mahler, I think. But I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on. There were people sitting in the audience but it certainly wasn’t a concert since everybody was in plain clothes (Chailly with a towel around his neck!) and they wouldn’t have played the concert without a rehearsal anyway. Maybe it was some kind of open rehearsal?

        I didn’t understand though why he “made” her play the d minor concerto. Couldn’t they just have gotten the material for whatever concerto she had prepared from the orchestra library?

        I once went to a rehearsal of the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker with Marek Janowski in which he introduced the soloist, Christian Zacharias, and then told the orchestra that they had just found out that while Chopin’s second concerto was on the program, Zacharias had prepared the first one. Oops… So they took a short break, got the material from the library, and then rehearsed the first concerto with him. Much easier for the orchestra and conductor to switch to another concerto than for the soloist!

  16. David Boxwell says:

    People who aren’t opera singers on stage miming parts sung off-stage by opera singers: just another day at the Metropolitan Opera’s “Rheingold.”

    • Stephanie Blythe says:

      Mr. Boxell-

      Excuse me? To what are you referring in Rheingold?

      • Ms. Blythe – Let me take this opportunity to thank you for your performance in this Ring, which I have found to be spectacular. I look forward to Mr. Boxwell’s response, which I am sure will be rapidly forthcoming! ;)

    • When did that occur in the Met’s Rheingold? I believe I missed that scene.

  17. These days, too many people don’t apologize for their own actions nor thank those who bail them out. I was impressed with Lance’s response to an embarrassing situation.

    • Here, here! I could not agree more.

      • Derek Castle says:

        Janey, please support the ‘Society for Good English Usage’. ‘Hear, hear!’ (listen!) was shouted by Members of (the UK) Parliament in the days before they descended into their modern-day, childish attempts to drown out the opposition by ranting in a manner that many football fans must admire.

        • Derek, You are correct that my spelling was wrong. Thankfully, I do not have any pretensions to perfection, requiring it neither from myself nor from others.

          • Derek Castle says:

            Janey, I’m sorry that you don’t think perfection is a goal worth striving for. In language, I’d just call it ‘accuracy’. This blog mainly concerns the Arts. I support the many amateur/youth music groups in and around Birmingham UK. Nevertheless, I don’t in any way feel pretentious (moi?!) for enjoying Kaufmann in ‘Carmen’ or Callas in ‘Tosca’ or the Thomanerchor, Leipzig, in ‘St Matthew Passion’. Isn’t it a human trait to seek perfection – or, in a religious sense, Heaven?

          • Derek, Perfection is unattainable by human beings. To pursue it, therefore, would be folly, and I know very few people who do. I believe each one of us should strive at all times to be the best we can be, understanding that we will often be in error. Just as we make mistakes, so, too, will others. I, therefore, have no need to correct them.

          • Derek Castle says:

            Janey, I agree completely that perfection is unattainable. That’s what makes the human condition so exciting – striving, as you say, towards it, “doing the best one can”. Isn’t that what determined instrumentalists and singers, such as those I mentioned, aim to do in their careers? However, I don’t “feel the need” to correct others. If I make mistakes, I’m more than happy to stand corrected. I used to say ‘less’ instead of ‘fewer’, e.g., and was quite happy to be corrected. You may find linguistic errors unimportant in the great scheme of things (Syria, world poverty, gun control – just some of the things much more worthy of our attention), but I can see no harm in trying to maintain standards in English. Just look at Facebook and comments on the internet to realize that we’re on the slippery slope. (And I’m talking about people who have English as their first language).

  18. Nice story, indeed.

    By the way, what did they tell the audience? Did they really say “Lance hasn’t shown up so far, and we don’t know why”?

    • Another colleague says:

      Wow. people are SO judgemental. Folks: you try singing Siegfried……

      • I didn’t mean to judge anybody. I think Lance deserves respect for the way he handles this (and, by the way, he’s a great singer indeed).

        But, nevertheless, my curiosity makes me ask the question I’ve asked – no judgement whatsoever intended.

    • Emil Archambault says:

      According to Intermezzo, that’s exactly what they said.

  19. Screen Name says:

    For those who didn’t click through to Lance’s web page and thence his blog, he gives his list of 10 reasons for coming late here. A true Siegfried indeed.

    • Wonderful!

      “2. I was busy playing with my horn.”

      “5. I got lost under the stage.”

      “10. Better late than never.”

    • Derek Castle says:

      Yes, very amusing. He appears to have been forgiven. (And Google Translate has been doing overtime!)

  20. Fidelio one night and Siegfried the next? Burning candle at both ends?

  21. I love “storming ovation” as an auditory image. Good one, Norman!

  22. I would have paid the double for the admission price to have seen this even more fantastic Siegfried in improvisated double cast. Such an excitement, such an richness on forms (singing behind the curtain….!), old good theater, plenty of surprise, still alive, and the more a beautiful story out of live and allegory how music can give us evidence that we are all parts of one flow…unforgettable! No reason for shame! – Gratulation!

  23. Marianne says:

    Congratulations to Andreas, a brilliant stand-in.
    I’m sure as a trained singer, he knew perfectly well the extra strain his voice would undergo from stepping into the breach. He hardly needs patronising advice from the likes of you. Thank you, Andreas, for standing in. We would go to hear you anywhere, any time.

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