This page was last updated on: October 18, 2007


Aida, New York Metropolitan Opera, 16 October 2007
Roberto Alagna as Radames and  Dolora Zajick as Amneris

Alagna returns to 'Aida' to 'put away the ghosts' of Milan fiasco, Associated Press, 17 October 2007
A Gilded Understudy With a Lot to Prove, The New York Times, 18 October 2007
Roberto Alagna ovationné dans "Aïda" à New York, Agence France-Presse, 18 October 2007


Alagna returns to 'Aida' to 'put away the ghosts' of Milan fiasco
Verena Dobnik, Associated Press,  17 October 2007

On a day's notice, with no rehearsal, Roberto Alagna jumped in for an ailing tenor to sing "Aida"  10 months after he stormed off an Italian stage when he was booed in the same role.

The incident at Milan's La Scala last December triggered a worldwide uproar. In the next episode, played out Tuesday night at the Metropolitan Opera, Alagna got a standing ovation.

The 44-year-old French-born son of a Sicilian bricklayer was filling in for tenor Marco Berti, who fell ill on Monday. When the call came from Met General Manager Peter Gelb, Alagna said, "I took it as a sign from God."

"Tonight, I have finally put away the ghosts of Milan that have haunted me," he said during a midnight interview in his dressing room.

"It was a betrayal at La Scala! They closed the door on me, they abandoned me," he said, speaking in spirited Italian. "And my blood is all Sicilian."

His wife, Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu, was at the Met to support him for his return in the Verdi opera. She was fired last month by the Lyric Opera of Chicago after missing rehearsals for "La Boheme" to be with her husband in New York, where he replaced another sick tenor in Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette."

"It was terrible! She just came to be with me here ... and she's sung 'La Boheme' so many times  she knows it so well!" Alagna said.

It is all par for the course in the turbulent lives of opera's "power couple."

"We are not 'Bonnie and Clyde!'" Alagna protested, referring to the whimsical name they've been given by some observers. "I am singing for love, for the people."

On Tuesday, Alagna's strong, warm  at times incandescent  voice in "Aida" clearly gave the more than 3,000 spectators an adrenaline rush.

Many seemed to be holding their breaths as the tenor approached the high note at the end of Radames' first aria, "Celeste Aida" ("Heavenly Aida"), hitting the final high B-flat dead on.

"I got goose bumps, I was so happy," he said later.

On that note last December at La Scala  a somewhat strained one  he heard boos and hisses from a few spectators in a country where opera at times is treated like a blood sport. He walked off the stage, and the theater brought in a replacement, who sang in jeans.

Alagna later explained: "I'm a Sicilian, I'm a bit hot-blooded."

A Gilded Understudy With a Lot to Prove
Bernard Holland, The New York Times, 18 October 2007

Recent casting policy at the Metropolitan Opera falls somewhere between the Three Tenors and three-card monte. Latest to turn up in the Met's shuffling and reshuffling of its stars is Roberto Alagna, who stepped in on Tuesday for an unwell Marco Berti as Radames in Verdi's "Aida."

With four big-bucks productions currently running, three relatively big-name tenors lurking around the house and respiratory infection in the air, Mr. Alagna and his colleague Marcello Giordani have been stepping in for each other with confusing regularity. Mr. Giordani has now sung the tenor leads in Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor," Gounod's "Roméo et Juliette" and Puccini's "Madama Butterfly." Mr. Alagna has sung the Puccini, the Gounod and now "Aida."

Exact casting maneuvers over the last few weeks have been much in the news and are too complicated to rehearse here. And don't think you can tell the players even with a scorecard. Mr. Alagna's presence on Tuesday was announced by a slip of paper inside a program that listed Mr. Berti as the evening's tenor principal.

All of this upends a tradition of covers: substitutes are contractually obliged to be within 15 minutes of the house during ordinary performances. When the star falls, the cover rushes onstage. With extra-operatic drama promised, history records a lot of adequacy, some spectacular failure and, every so often, a major discovery. The Met has been bypassing the cover system in a strategy of brinksmanship calculated to keep ticket buyers happy.

What persuaded Mr. Alagna to punish his voice so severely? Puccini's Lieutenant Pinkerton is a red-blooded part to begin with, and Mr. Alagna's flat-out approach has been making it even more muscular. Roméo is not a walk in the park. Radames is a tenor killer.

Maybe it was the sense of adventure, not to mention an extra paycheck. Could Met negotiators have also whispered the words "La Scala" in Mr. Alagna's ears? Almost a year ago he famously walked out of an "Aida" performance in Milan before it had scarcely begun, protesting his reception from the upper balconies.

On Tuesday caution proved Mr. Alagna's best friend. Verdi has a way of testing his singers at the opening curtain. (See also "La Traviata," Act I, Scene 1.) In "Aida" it is the aria "Celeste Aida" with its majestic upward leaps. Mr. Alagna's laid-back delivery settled into the kind of legitimate musicianship I don't remember from his recent Pinkerton. If some early phrases pushed slightly upward (French singers tend more toward sharpness than flatness) the aria was a success, highly exciting the Met's audience and perhaps sending a message to Italian journalists in the house and maybe even across the sea to the boo-birds at La Scala.

When Mr. Alagna was judicious he sang very well. Brave vocal assaults in later acts tested his endurance but often worked against him. Yet Mr. Alagna did more than survive. He left behind an impression of success, offering at the same time a strong response to his behavior at La Scala, if not exactly a vindication for it. Maybe, too, revenge was in the air.

Roberto Alagna ovationné dans "Aïda" au Metropolitan à New York
Agence France-Presse, 18 October 2007

La prestation du ténor français Roberto Alagna dans "Aïda" de Verdi, mardi soir au Metropolitan Opera de New York, a été ovationnée debout par près de 4.000 spectateurs.

Le chanteur reprenait pour la première fois le rôle de Radamès après le scandale survenu en décembre 2006 à La Scala de Milan, lorsqu'il avait quitté brusquement la salle au premier acte, après que son interprétation de l'air d'ouverture "Celeste Aïda" eut été accueillie par des sifflets.

Le départ du ténor avait été durement critiqué, et le directeur de la Scala, Stéphane Lissner, l'avait accusé de "manquer de respect pour le public et pour le théâtre".

Prié expressément par le directeur du Metropolitan Peter Gelb, Roberto Alagna a remplacé au pied levé mardi soir Marco Berti, malade. La soprano américaine Angela Brown interprétait le rôle d'Aïda, et la mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick, américaine également et spécialiste de Verdi, a offert une prestation somptueuse dans le rôle d'Amneris.

Un peu tendu au début, le ténor s'est rasséréné face à un accueil d'emblée chaleureux, et a donné le meilleur de lui-même aux 3e et 4e actes.

Les décors grandioses de l'Egypte antique, avec de vrais chevaux traversant la scène, la pompe des dizaines de choristes en costumes, les ballets et les célèbres trompettes d'Aïda ont enflammé la salle, qui s'est levée à la fin pour applaudir toute la troupe, et ovationner les principaux rôles.

"Le public ici ne fait pas dans la nuance. On n'est pas à La Scala où tous sont des spécialistes et les spectateurs sont impitoyables", estimait à la sortie Jacob Schlesinger, un quadragénaire américain passionné d'opéra et lui même chanteur.

"J'ai beaucoup aimé, c'était la première fois que je voyais Aïda. Je ne sais absolument pas qui est Roberto Alagna, mais je peux vous dire que je sais une chose : Pavarotti est mort", renchérissait Emily Thompson, une jeune directrice de marketing.

Le célèbre ténor italien Luciano Pavarotti, qui s'était produit de nombreuses fois au Metropolitan, est décédé en Italie le mois dernier.