Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ban on Solo Encores at the Met? Ban, What Ban?

New York Times

April 23, 2008
Ban on Solo Encores at the Met? Ban, What Ban?

After the tenor Juan Diego Flórez popped out his nine shining high C’s in “La Fille du Régiment” at the Metropolitan Opera on Monday night, the crowd rose and cheered. Mr. Flórez obliged with something not heard on the Met stage since 1994: a solo encore.

He sang the aria “Ah! Mes Amis” again, nailing the difficult note — a kind of tenor’s macho proving ground — nine more times. It was one of those thrilling moments that opera impresarios live for.

And, in this case, prepare for. Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said on Tuesday that he had asked Mr. Flórez weeks ago whether he would be prepared to repeat the aria, if the audience demanded. Mr. Flórez had already done so at other houses, including the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, where last year he became the first to violate an encore ban since 1933.

Mr. Flórez agreed to Mr. Gelb’s request, and the orchestra and chorus were warned. A system was established. Mr. Gelb kept an open line on the phone in his box to the stage manager. After the explosive reaction he gave the stage manager the go-ahead. The manager activated a podium light for the conductor, Marco Armiliato.

Mr. Armiliato held out a questioning two fingers to Mr. Flórez. “He just smiled, and that means ‘Yes,’ ” the conductor said, although Mr. Flórez said yesterday that he did not remember giving a signal. (After the encore, he jokingly held up a third finger.)

Solo encores were common in the 19th century but fell out of fashion as performance practice grew more serious. At the Met they had been explicitly banned for much of the 20th century. Before Monday night the only such occasion had been Luciano Pavarotti’s repeating the second-act tenor aria in “Tosca” in 1994, Met officials said.

Mr. Gelb said there would be no encore ban on his watch, to make opera “as entertaining and exciting for the audience as it can be.”

And the rest of the run? “It always depends on what the public wants,” Mr. Flórez said.


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