What to do when soprano falls sick in mid-Butterfly

John Fiore, music director at Norwegian Opera and Ballet, had a crisis on his hands in the second act. Here’s how he coped:

hui he butterfly

 

At yesterday’s final Butterfly, our wonderful soprano, Hui He, became ill on stage right after the entrance, and we had to stop.

After a while, we determined that she was too weak to continue, and I decided to come up with a Plan B, since I thought we should do something for the audience. I figured that since Butterfly does not sing from the end of the second act until her entrance after Pinkerton leaves in Act 3, we could play the Humming Chorus, and Interlude, make a small cut for “Dormi, amor mio,” and then do the trio and “Addio, fiorito asil,” which we did. I made a speech in front of the curtain, and then went into the pit and explained to the orchestra what we were doing. The chorus came onstage and sang the Humming Chorus, and we proceeded.

All in all, a difficult day, but ultimately very well handled by the people of the DNOB who were there. I just hope that Hui feels better soon.

 

john fiore

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  • Oh, my heart is breaking for this Opera Boss!
    Damnd stage directors who are “unable to work with two casts” – a second Cio Cio San could be engaged and the paying audience could see and hear that what they paied the good money!
    Sick and tired of this sh…

    • Well, two casts cost money. Not every house can afford to pay two Butterfly, only to have one of them stay backstage. Most opera houses have agreements with singers to act as stanbys at 2-3 hours notice (for a small fee), but that is not an option mid-show.

    • Well, butterfly is not exactly a part that a joung eager singer from a corus could take over lile this. Very heavy part. But the stage directors are guilty! They refuse to work with two cast. They come unprepared, it is them who “practice” on the living singers and need 6-8 weeks to put a “Butterfly” on stage. Every one from the business knows that when you have to “jump in” in a production like this, you can learn the regie in 3-5 hours!
      And than the singers them selvs are gready! They don’t want to be directly compared within the rehersal time, so they accept contracts with impossible disposition coditions…
      Not sorry for any if them!

  • Well, then it is even more stupid not to secure the performance.
    Nowadays everything is insured, only the audience not. The soprano gets payed because she started the performance, the theatre has not to pay the audience the tickets back – because the performance started…
    Only the poor ticket payer had to sit and be in a performance of “Butterfly” without a Butterfly.
    Anyways, it is criminal what the presure a singer must sustain today…

  • Hui He is a brilliant Butterfly, but I’m surprised no-one suggested what jumped out at me when I read the report: Why couldn’t someone on the music staff have conducted the third act and John Fiore sing the role? I’m not joking; his singing voice is legendary in the business, having fooled the stage director in Bayreuth when he sang Waltraute from the pit, among other examples. An anonymous commentator said on another occasion that ‘the only thing which could seriously impede John’s conducting career was his singing, should he decide to take it up professionally’.

  • Well, two casts cost money. Not every house can afford to pay two Butterfly, only to have one of them stay backstage. Most opera houses have agreements with singers to act as stanbys at 2-3 hours notice (for a small fee), but that is not an option mid-show.

    • Oh, p-lease!
      Rehersing time costs houses allmost nothing.
      And a second cast can be someone who sings wonderfully and costs not so much as a star singer. This second cast sings than 1/3 of the performances vor less money as the star, and for the diference in price is obligated to sit there….

  • I am a music student from China, the other day I heard that the Chinese soprano hui he was fell on the stage on Oslo opera house. From the Chinese Twitter(weibo) I think she is going through something really pisses her off and she twitted on the weibo also she hadn’t slept for three days. However I have no idea what that is but I just wanna say that she may be the first soprano who can present China now and I am so sorry this is happening, hope she is getting better. And seems that the audience were understanded.

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