Booed tenor ‘will not return to La Scala’

Booed tenor ‘will not return to La Scala’


norman lebrecht

December 08, 2013

Piotr Beczala, booed on the opening night of Traviata, posted on his Fb page:

My last production in La Scala… I think. They should engage only Italian singers … Why I spend my time for this” schmarrn” … Arrivederci …


 He later clarified:  I am a professional Opera Singer, have a contract with Teatro alla Scala and will finish it.

I shown my professionalism also yesterday in Traviata, was not actually agree with the vision of my character by stage director , but I played it as good I could… the result of my work was …my first ever buuuuh…the another result is now :I come to italy only for vacations.Thanks all for support , I am very proud of my friends and fans ,all Your reactions and words are important to me and give me strength and motivation for the future!


UPDATE: Two days later, the Guardian followed up our story.


  • anon says:

    What, you mean another DG recording artist isn’t top quality??

  • Arnold says:

    He has a point.

    I couldn’t figure out why Mara Zampieri, in a cameo role as Annina, Violetta’s maid, got the loudest ovations of the evening from the audience during the curtain calls. Almost more than Damrau. I can’t remember her singing a note in the entire opera.

    The answer is apparently that she’s Italian and a beloved opera figure nationally. So if La Scala audiences cheer and boo for sentimental and nationalistic reasons like this, rather than actual performances, Mr. Beczala is quite right in saying that they should only engage Italian singers.

  • sdReader says:

    Dumb reaction, if true.

    Beczala is normally an excellent Alfredo (last heard him in May), but if he sang flat and had pitch problems at the Scala prima (as reliably reported), best to just admit it publicly (joke about it in a TV interview or something) and promise to sing better next time! The Italian audience would appreciate the candor.

    The “Arrivederci” approach on Facebook looks childish, cuts off future options, and is unfair to his many Italian fans.

  • Augusto says:

    He has no point. In its long history La Scala loved and supported singers from all over the world, including Damrau yesterday evening. There is no nationalism involved, the tenor’s singing was bad for a vast majority of italian music lovers and his statement is simply ludicrous. The ovations for Zampieri were just a tribute to her career.

  • Mary says:

    In defense of the La Scala audience (and Beczala) there was not actually a lot of booing for him specifically. Just a couple of faint unhappy boos as he took his bows mostly drowned out by applause.

    And unlike Alagna, who was booed in the middle of a performance, the audience waited until the curtain call. But considering that all it took was one or 2 boos for Alagna,to stomp offstage and abandon the performance, Beczala’s reaction is understandable.

    As much as I love Beczala, I don’t think it was his best performance. He seemed a bit nervous and uncomfortable as Alfredo in comparison to Damrau who sang Violetta with such ease and artistic conviction that you’d think the role had been written for her.

    He cracked a couple of notes at the top, and sounded a bit forced to me towards the end. It seems like he perhaps hadn’t sung Alfredo as often as Damrau has sung Violetta. The stress of performing under the circumstances : broadcast live from La Scala – must be incredible.

    He LOOKED great (he appears to have lost weight and toned up for this production) and has much more stage presence and charisma cinematically than Damrau, who was pretty clumsy onstage.

    Piotr Beczala joins the long list of great singers who’ve been booed at Las Scala; Fleming, Alagna, Pavarotti, Bartoli and more. He’s a great young talent, a marvelous and exciting presence in the international opera scene and I hope that we continue to enjoy his artistry in all the great opera houses of the world.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Mary, thank you for offering a balanced view of Beczala’s performance.

      My take on the loggionisti is that they are not necessarily the best critics. Their reaction alone shouldn’t be taken that seriously. Stories abound about politics behind heckling. What do you think?

    • Brian says:

      Hardly young, he is 46.

    • sdReader says:

      Mary, the man was booed, and not faintly. (See ML’s link to YouTube below.) Who knows why. He is a good Alfredo, but maybe not enough morbidezza for Italians, as another commenter suggests.

      So was Daniele Gatti, until yesterday a contender for the MD job.

      Of course, louder boos sounded for Tcherniakov and his team. This is quite normal now in Europe, in this age of Regietheater.

      • Mary says:

        Sitting in the movie theater and also watching the ARTE rebroadcast online, the boos for Beczala didn’t sound as loud as they do on the youtube video posted here. It almost sounds like someone turned up the volume on the boos during his bow in that video.

  • wagamama says:

    That’s quite ridiculous. Italians love foreign singers and are actually are much more tolerant of the butchering of their language than any other major operatic audience (French, German, Russian). What is true is that Beczala’s bad singing takes into account musical and vocal values that seem to be less important outside Italy the “canto aperto” at the top, unacceptable here, but normal these days elsewhere, general monotony of tone, pushing and lack of morbidezza. Without mentioning any names think about those Italian singers with big careers in Germany but basically no career in Italy. Often this is the reason.

    • italarutter says:

      Yes, I agree: why do Italians get such bad press? It always puzzles me. When my students visited Europe, Italy was the only country where their attempts at speaking with natives was not discouraged.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        I have been to many countries in Europe in all of which (except for Germany) I was a visiting foreigner and I have never been “discouraged” from attempting to speaking “with natives” in any of them.

  • Uta Walker says:

    Uta says,

    I agree with Piotr. La Scala is obviously a place where you go to be seen, not because of having a wonderful evening with great musicians. I also wondered why “Annina” got so much applause for just wondering around the stage.

    If Italians like to stick to traditional [performances , they should have it , but not wondering why the international audience prefer other great Opera houses like Copenhagen , Paris , London, Dresden or Vienna.

  • They’re probably cheesed off that there aren’t more Italians in the production. Let them have Marco Berti instead…

  • cabbagejuice says:

    Italians always preferred their home grown products. Callas had to fight almost every night of her life at La Scala amid shouts of “Renata, dove sei?” The irony is when she sang in Rome she was heckled to go back to Milan!

    The eminent Arturo Toscanini with his excellent discrimination in music preferred Herva Nelli, a pale imitation of both Tebaldi and Callas.

  • Last words by Piotr on his FB page: “No worrys … I am a professional Opera Singer, have a contract with Teatro alla Scala and will finish it.

    I shown my professionalism also yesterday in Traviata, was not actually agree with the vision of my character by stage director , but I played it as good I could… the result of my work was …my first ever buuuuh…the another result is now :I come to italy only for vacations.Thanks all for support , I am very proud of my friends and fans ,all Your reactions and words are important to me and give me strength and motivation for the future!”

  • Marguerite Foxon says:

    Their loss, is all I can say.

  • Stanislao di Bragansis says:

    Don’t understand the rant by Piotr on FB. Just finish your season without comment (like a Gentlman should) and then if asked to return politely refuse . They may get the message or they may not. I saw a production at La Scala many years ago that I thought was perfectly ok but the Loggionistas exploded in ferocious booing… couldn’t understand the reason behind it. I do understand when Italians or Germans etc get miffed when they hear singing that is not idiomatic singing that has no beauty of language, without colour or nuance. I have just heard some very very ordinary german in the Ring in Melbourne. Wagner ohne Gesamtkunstwerk.

    • patti says:

      This the business of social media. You can respond instantly to events in your life. Had he taken a day to settle down or even better, spoken to his agent he would not have spoken so emotionally. Piotz is a brilliant talent and will learn from this.

  • Roger says:

    Well, maybe he should choose better his contracts. He is at a level that allows him to do so. It amuses me how recently he gave an interview against stupid stage directors and their productions and yet keeps taking part in productions that mutilate the libretto and do no service to the music. He should learn what coherence means if he wants to be respected. Choose your contracts better, impose your conditions regarding interpretation, Mr. Beczala. You are in a position to do so. If you choose not to do this, leave your complaints to your wife and friends, please.

    • Brian says:

      By all indications, Beczala was an enthusiastic participant in the Met’s Mayer “Las Vegas” Rigoletto. I’d hate to see the productions he doesn’t like.

  • ML says:

    This footage is actually available on Youtube:

    • Rgiarola says:

      It isn’t just one or two boo as some people here is telling. Seems to be a lot of strong and hard ones, specially to Cherniakov. Che peccato, veramente e’ un grande peccato

  • Mary says:

    I think Piotr’s statements on his FB page are a great idea! He has every right to communicate his opinions to his fans.

    Think about what Roberto Alagna accomplished with HIS tantrum when he was booed at La Scala. He stomped offstage in the middle of the opera! Although 2 understudies were standing by and one jumped in to finish for him, it disrupted the performance significantly.

    Everyone said Alagna was childish and a divo but, hey, did you notice at the La Scala opening there were no boos DURING the performance? The booers politely waited ’til the opera was over to voice their disapproval. That may very likely have been because of what Alagna did. They didn’t want a repeat. Who would want to be responsible for a tenor walking out in the middle of an internationally broadcast performance?

    So right on, Piotr Beczala. Hold your ground and don’t go back to La Scala. If enough great singers do the same, maybe the arrogant booers will keep their mouths shut.

  • I o to chodzi , aby duzo mówić o spektaklu ! W ten sposób każdy spektakl przechodzi do Historii La Scali . Piotr Beczała był wokalnie znakomity , to samo mozna powiedziec o Dianie Damrau . Ale rezyseria to juz za duzo nawet jak na obecny XXI wiek ! A spiewacy musieli dostosowac się to tego udziwnienia ,, albo …..wiadomo co ! I wyszło to co wyszło ! Podobno istnieją bardziej cudaczne inscenizacje Traviaty i ludziska to oglądają i spiewacy spiewają !

  • Matthew says:

    The conductor Daniele Gatti, he’s a Milanese, was also badly booed on opening night. So let’s not be childish with those silly insinuations about the loggionisti preferably booing foreign artists. The greatest ovation of the evening went to Diana Damrau – a German singer in the iconic role of Traviata – and that ovation was well deserved. Beczala is a good tenor, but his singing on opening night was not up to expectations (listen carefully to his singing especially in the last act, please). La Scala audience will strongly and passionately let you know when a performance is good, bad or mediocre. It’s part of the game and the artists who accept to perform at this theater know very well the risks.

  • David H. says:

    I never understood why anyone in the audience should be given the right to boo. If you didn’t like the performance of a certain individual, don’t applaud during his curtain call. That’s obvious enough and still respectful.

    Booing is nothing but hooliganism, it’s violence against the artists, only short of actually physically attacking them, nevertheless hurting them tremendously, despite the hard work and effort they put into this.

    There are only very exceptional cases where a boo might be appropriate. When an artist obviously is being offensive to the audience for instance. That’s rarely the case, usually reserved for “modernist” stage directors. But booing someone who gives it all and just doesn’t satisfy the personal taste of someone is barbarian.

    • Irminsul says:

      They don’t call it stepping into the mouth of the wolf for nothing.

      Your last paragraph i’m afraid leaves you open. Audiences may believe that singing poorly is a form of “being offensive.” And I’ll never understand why it’s considered okay to boo a stage director but not singers. Artists are artists.

      • Brian says:

        Given the prices of tickets nowadays, I think booing a bad performance comes with the territory. Afterward, not during. Though most of the boos seem to come from the loggionistas. The difference is that singers can be hurt by booing while stage directors thrive on it. It only encourages them. For them a sucses de scandale is a badge of honor.

      • italarutter says:

        La Scala audiences are sophisticated and discriminate: they believe in equal-opportunity boos, whistles and applause. Not restricted to foreigners. The greeting of “Annina” was a tribute to her career.

      • snakearbusto says:

        Some stage directors seem to go out of their way to interfere with the music (that wasn’t the case here). They deserve to be booed.

  • italarutter says:

    Poor Piotr’s tender ego. If he had to follow directions that went against his reading of the character of Alfredo, his insecurity in last scene is understandable. The direction to leave Violetta completely alone is eccentric. But, frankly, he cannot help his looks, and it is his country-bumpkin face that led me to expect less than he actually delivered. But so far, he is not one of the greats, who could overcome that. Damrau’s statuesque moues also did not please classicists, but her own fierce interpretation won audience.

  • perrikk says:

    I was deappointed by that Traviata “a la quotidienne”, probably I was too influenced by the performance of 1955 with Callas, Di Stefano directed by Toscanini , I istened the live performance CD more than 100 times. I found Mr. Beczala the best in this VIP’s evening and congratulation for him., but seemingly he was in discomfort with the conception from the the beginning. Ms. Damrau was brilliant, singing with ease, but “overmoving” ( if You understand me,the English is not my mother tongue) her role. But in my opinion, she could not translate the finess of a woman aible to die of love by her interpretation.

  • perrikk says:

    Thnak you Brian, that’s true. The conductor was Carlo Maria Guilini.