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Another life-threatening incident in Wagner

It is a historical fact that three conductors died during Tristan. Any number of spectators have been carried lifeless out of Bayreuth. That’s the risk you take in doing Wagner.

The hazard extends, apparently, to any show connected to the old monster.

Simon Callow is doing a performance called Inside Wagner’s Head at Covent Garden’s Linbury Theatre. On the opening night, he struck the anvil a mighty blow with a hammer. Sparks flew. So did a sliver of anvil.

It flew, mercifully, over the heads of the unwitting audience, embedding itself in the leg of an innocent usher.

We are told on good authority that it took surgeons three hours to remove the Wagner prop.


callow wagner

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  1. Donnerwetter!

  2. Perhaps there needs to be the equivalent of a Surgeon General’s Warning: Wagner may be hazardous to your health! :)

  3. Michael Schaffer says:

    Sinopoli died during a performance of Aida at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. That is the risk you take in doing Verdi.
    I know Mottl and Keilberth died during Tristan performances. Who is the third victim.

  4. Not to take away from the magical qualities of Wagner’s music, but I suspect the risk here is simply sitting on your rear in one place for extended periods. The Surgeon General probably already warns people who’ve suffered from blood clots and embolisms not to get on very long flights etc., because that sort of sitting can trigger an embolism and getting help on a plane is not easy. In other words, it’s the sheer length of Wagner’s pieces that’s deadly.

  5. Gary Carpenter says:

    The first Tristan, Ludwig Schnorr, died after four performances.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      I see. The sources I found online though suggest that he died of an infection or a stroke or a combination of health issues not long after – but not during – the last performance. Does that count, too?

  6. Marc-André Roberge says:

    I am sure that the “innocent usher” would have greatly preferred to see the sliver of anvil embed itself in a wall as much as the members of the “unwitting audience” were happy that it “mercifully” flew over their heads.

  7. I nearly died of boredom during the Met production of Parsifal…but I’m not a Wagnerite…

  8. During a performance of Simone Boccanegra for Glyndebourne back in the eighties, I was wielding a sword during the Council Chamber scene and had just fended off an attack from one of the chorus when I heard a peculiar whizzing noise. Looking up at my sword which had parried the blow, I saw to my horror that half the blade was missing. Fortunately it was later found lying in one of the aisles without any traces of blood…!

  9. Prewartreasure says:

    The opera Lohengriin has had it’s share of fatalities too.

    In 1993, from the 6th row of the Festpielhaus at Bayreuth (in the days when the establishment were capable of producing watchable productions) we (that is my daughter and I) witnessed the sudden demise of a member of the congregation from a seat which was even closer to the stage than ours!

    We watched with due reverence as this poor man was taken away: the unmistakeable sound of heels being dragged on a wooden floor could be clearly heard by those around us, but the band played on, as they say.

    It was the sudden and spectacular appearance of Paul Frey in the title role which sealed this poor man’s fate.

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