Under-tenor saves Met Otello in t-shirt and jeans

The Latvian tenor Aleks­andrs Antonenko has been singing a terrific run of Otellos at the Met but something went awry on Saturday night and by the final act he was running out of voice.

Panic calls to the understudy.

Francesco Anile, 54, was in his dressing room, texting, never expecting to make a Met debut. He was cover. Not much longer before he could go home.

Then the call came. He had five minutes to get on stage. Throwing a cape over his t-shirt and blue jeans, he vocally strangled Desdemona and sang through to the end, earning a rapturous personal ovation.

francesco anile

AP report here.

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  • I heard some of the first act on BBC Radio 3 – Anotonenko was painful to listen to: throughout the compass the voice was unsteady and the high notes sounded unsupported. Clearly something was wrong!! Perhaps the ‘understudy’ will now be given his ‘own’ role at the Met!!?? He presumably got paid a good deal less than Antonenko!!

  • As I understand it Anile stood offstage (caped), singing, while Antonenko continued to do the onstage acting.

      • Quite bizarre for those of us listening on the radio here in the US. Painful singing indeed in acts 1 and 2, then a miraculous transformation after intermission. (I was wondering if “Dr. Feelgood” was backstage with a syringe).
        Then, during the curtain calls, a statement from the stage acknowledging Anile. Was there an announcement to the audience at halftime that the radio audience didn’t hear?

  • “a terrific run of Otellos at the Met…” really? by what standards? I heard and saw the HD last fall and terrific is not the epithet I’d use. Not by a long shot.

  • Antonenko had to have known that was not in decent shape to perform but went on stage anyway- if he made it to the intermission, he’d get paid the full amount for the performance. Be damned to the people who shelled out good money for seats. Management should have stepped in far sooner…

    • Antonenko is an honest, friendly, very popular musician. He would never knowingly let his colleagues down.

      • I’m not picking on Antonenko, Norman, but rather on the system that forces singers to perform when they shouldn’t because there is no “sick time” built in. I do feel that he had to know that he was no where near 100% healthy that night- as was evidenced by what we heard from him in Act 1- but the very fact that he had to go out there at all and risk singing on a bad throat is horrible. He jeopardized the very thing that provides his livelihood and shortchanged the audience as well; it was a “lose/lose” situation all around. I don’t know what the answer is (maybe stronger representation by AGMA, but I’m not holding my breath on that one), but no artist should be put in the position to have to choose between the paycheck and vocal polyps.

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