Covent Garden: The opera is cancelled, we’ll do highlights instead

Covent Garden: The opera is cancelled, we’ll do highlights instead


norman lebrecht

May 30, 2017

Extraordinary scenes yesterday afternoon at the Royal Opera House.

A packed Bank Holiday crowd were settling in their seats for a Don Carlo matinée when an announcement was made of a change of plan. Kristin Lewis, singing Elisabetta, had fallen ill an hour before the performance and been taken to hospital. There was no understudy as Kristin was covering for another singer and this was the end of the run.

It was announced that part of the cast would sing 90 minutes of highlights and the audience would be fully refunded. The result was that excerpts from Acts 1&2 were performed in front of the curtain and all of Act 3 fully staged, with conductor Bertrand de Billy calling out the next number to the orchestra. Acts 4 and 5 were omitted.

Veterans in the orchestra said they had never known anything like that happen before.

press photo: ROH


  • Nik says:

    Hats off to the ROH for wanting to offer its customers something, even when things go wrong.
    As for British Airways…

    • Alexander says:

      British Airways went British Al(l)ways

    • Rory says:

      Jaysus,I would not at all be happy coming all the way from Newtownmountkennedy to be told we will give you just 90 mins of highlights after me shelling out 200 quid on tickets. I would expect at the very least, the song” my lovely horse from the Eurovision Father Ted episode.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Excellent way of dealing with an unforseen problem and good PR.

  • Patrick Shaw says:

    Well done ROH!!

    • Una says:

      Always the underlying problem in that company and others – no proper understudy. The moral of the story – always make sure you have a well-rehearsed understudy for every performance – totally ridiculous what happened. Being an understudy, as I was, was invaluable experience for me as a young singer, and it taught me my craft, plus I knew my stuff as everyone else did, and we could have gone on. This cutting corners just doesn’t work. Yes, refunding the money to the paying audience is good but it doesn’t do the ROH’s bank account any good when they keep sending out appeals for sponsorship – even to me who can’t even afford to buy at ticket, now that I’m living in the north of England. They will have had to pay everyone the same, excerpts or the full monty.

      • Imogen says:

        Well said Una.

      • Paddy Reilly says:

        They really should have either given a full refund, or re-run it when they have a proper cast! At the very least they could have shown an episode of Father Ted, the one where Jack acquires hairy hand syndrome off his chair and ends up in St Clabbertt’s. The only other episode appropriate would be the Song contest, with” My lovely Horse”

      • Sid James says:

        Full monty. Now yer suppin diesel. Imagine the full monty at ROH. Ha ha. ha

  • Stephen Turnbull says:

    I agree. A good way to provide at least some entertainment and retain the audience’s goodwill.

  • pooroperaman says:

    There should still have been an understudy, last performance or not. In terms of planning, that’s up there with British Airways.

  • Ben says:

    Brexit opera?

  • Roger says:

    I was there. While the house handled it as best they could under the circumstances, and the audience gave what they did get to see a warm reception, some serious questions need to be asked as to why the house did not have a cover on hand. Having to refund a full house and pay artists fees is a massive hit for the theatre.

    • Una says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more. Just had their annual raffle come through my door to raise funds. Do you want to buy a raffle ticket for £25! A bit of a lottery to win two tickets and a night in a hotel.

  • Tarnhelm says:

    Glad I never go to ROH. The Green hill far better. Parked my XK 120 beside Gaby Thyssen’s Rolls.

    • SixtusBeckmesser says:

      Bayreuth these is a total disaster zone – utterly fascile, risible Eurotrash productions and fay fewer topnotch singing talent. Last time I was there I could hear the whirring as Wagner spun in his grave.

      • Tarnhelm says:

        At least they give you what you pay for! I usually close my eyes to the ghastly Regie Theater stuff!. Its the unique acoustic I like and sitting next to Baroness von Moltke! She liked a spin in my XK 120. The prince of darkness (Lucas) lights gave up the ghost on the autobahn!

        • Tarnhelm says:

          ROH should have either given a full refund or just tell folks to come back another time. At the very least they could have shown a Father Ted episode, the one where Jack gets hairy hand syndrome off his chair and ends up in St Clabbertts!

      • Jacob Rees Mogg says:

        Well really all one has to do at Bayreuth is to close ones eyes to avoid the appalling Regietheater. It really has got worse since poor Wieland entered Valhalla. At least his staging had barely a broomstick!

      • Tarnhelm says:

        Well Wagner had an ego the size of Jupiter so I think he can take a little tasteless Eurotrash! In any case I just close my eyes to all that stuff. Its the unique sound at Bayreuth I want to experience. I can put up with kitsch there is enough on BBC to point a stick at! Glad to report I managed to replace the points and fuses on the XK 120 so no more Prince of Darkness.

    • Jacob Rees-Mogg says:

      That sounds spiffing. I remember my friend Chuffy took her out in his Bugatti in Monte Carlo and the cylinder gasket blew, they could not find an AA man at all.

    • John Steed says:

      Lucas points are rubbish, you really have to do 100+ to get home before lights out!

  • Kris Helsen says:

    I was there; I thought they handled it very nicely given the circumstances; must be a big financial hit though

  • Marg says:

    Congrats to ROH who came up with a solution within the hour. Im sure the audience appreciated it.

  • Jim says:

    Not good enough. As many have said an understudy should be there,always, no excuse.
    Ok, refund tickets but what about the audience members that had travelled, paid for a meal in london, maybe even booked a room in an hotel. It’s and expensive day to go to the opera.

  • Anthony Trollope says:

    I too was there, and also at the following night’s ‘fire-alarmed’ version of L’Elisir. Two nights in a row, poor old Bertrand de Billy had to carry on. The oddest aspect of the Don Carlo night was that they sent out a very junior stage manager to make the announcement, rather than one of the smoothies. I was in a posh seat, listening to the general level of conversation round about me (‘Who is by?’: ‘Verdi, I think, or is that Puccini? I can never them apart!’). Phillip II was bloody good, and Hymal was entirely traduced by the reviews. A bit reedy, but did the business …

  • Tony O Dálaigh says:

    Well done ROH – excellent solution
    Looking forward to Jonas Kaufmann’s Otello

  • Elise Curran says:

    Kristen Lewis *was* the understudy/cover for Krassimira Stoyanova, so they *did* have a cover. But they did not have a cover for the cover.