Wednesday, November 7, 2012
At Milan's famous opera house, La Scala, a new and inexperienced young tenor was making his debut in the role of the Duke in Verdi's Rigoletto.
The role calls for the singing of one of opera's most famous arias -- La donna è mobile.
(At the premier performance of the opera, Verdi made sure that neither the orchestra nor the tenor saw the music until the day of the performance. He was annoyed at the fact that every time he brought out a new opera, the people of Milan would be humming all its tunes for weeks beforehand, so that there could be no surprises on opening night. After enjoying the audience's shock and stunned silence at hearing the jaunty tune for the first time, Verdi is said to have turned around on his conductor's platform and thumbed his nose at them. The aria is now virtually the national anthem of Italy.)
Rehearsals had not gone well -- the young tenor was nervous.
And so it was a complete surprise to the conductor and the cast when, after the tenor sang the aria, the audience kept clapping until it was repeated.
After the second time, the clapping continued, and the young tenor had to sing it a third time.
When the audience continued to clap after the third repetition, the young tenor boldly signaled for silence, and stepped forward to the front of the stage.
He addressed the audience thusly: "Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the signal honor you have given me tonight. As I know you realize, Milan's world-renowned audience has often demanded encores of its favorites, right in the middle of the opera. But you will remember that you did not call back even the great Caruso for any more than three repetitions.
"Now, please -- I feel, as I say, greatly honored at being asked to sing the opera's most famous aria three times, and even more honored that you would request that I do it again a fourth time. But I think it is time now to get on with the performance."
There was silence for just a moment. Then, from far back in one of the highest galleries, came a clear voice calling back:
"You'll do it until you get it right!"
* * * * *
[Note: Fortunately in America, we now have an amendment to our Constitution that precludes any more than one encore.]
Posted by A. S. Haley at 12:36 PM