Vienna singer comes up with new cancellation excuse

Vienna singer comes up with new cancellation excuse


norman lebrecht

August 29, 2017

The Mexican tenor Javier Camarena has told the Vienna State Opera that he can’t sing in Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment in January because he’s saving his voice to make a CD.

He has also pulled out of Don Pasquale in May.



  • Hasbeen says:

    It is time for weak intendants to ‘suck it up’ and start firing singers over opportunistic cancellations. The great Hughes Gall [Geneva and Paris], Ardis Krainik [Chicago] ,Ioan Holander [Vienna] and Goetz Friedrich [Berlin] did it a few years ago. It sends a message to artists and their agents that frivolous cancellation of contracts and commitments will have long term consequenses.

    • DavidMichael Schuster says:

      Absolutely right. I remember both Hollander and Gall well during my time in Munich. Sawallisch was another one who would not put up with this crap.

    • Sue says:

      I don’t think anybody ever stood up to the “cancellation devil” Carlos Kleiber!!!

  • Anon says:

    At least he’s honest about it rather than waiting until nearer the time and finding himself “indisposed” all of a sudden…

  • David H Spence says:

    At least one should give Camarena a little credit for having told the truth. What of Leo Nucci? As much as I enjoyed his Schicchi for La Scala at local cinema here nine years ago, he has no business singing Boccanegra anywhere anymore, much less La Scala anymore than Domingo does – but all of this is an aside.

    He complained to Houston Grand Opera in January 1989 of an ear or sinus inflammation as his excuse for cancelling out of Verdi’s Masked Ball. It opened on February 3rd here, if a massive ice storm did not get in the way for just that evening. I saw Brent Ellis in the part on February 8th, opposite Carol Neblett, who had been flown in that day from New York to replace Susan Dunn, due to for that one evening real cause for indisposition. I had seen neither Dunn nor Ellis for a decade before that evening. Now look up the recording dates in Vienna for a disc of the same Verdi opera on DGG, starring Jo Barstow and Domingo.

    The company however found Nucci more indispensable for a role he obviously sings less well than other Verdi roles the following January, Rigoletto, to have been conducted by Lamberto Gardelli in place of an ailing Emil Tchakarov (who had permanently cancelled all of his American engagements from then on). ‘I am a 74 year old man. I do not need this job.’ Gockley got to hear this for having told Gardelli at last when he had arrived here that he could not have a second full orchestral dress rehearsal – and no banda either. The same evening of this initial meeting I met an HGO staff member a few miles from downtown for dinner to discuss there being an opening office position there. I heard the news and reported what I had heard to the Houston Chronicle the next morning. In six hours Scott Heumann found the replacement for Gardelli – Vjekoslav Sutej – to be heralded three years later as the new music director of HGO with a revival of the same production of Rigoletto.

    What other further details transpired to this narrative, I wish to abstain from embarrassing HGO further, but had it been the HSO instead, I sure as hell would not for a moment hold back, as I blame them for having allowed standards to sink and remain so low that such a scenario downtown could ever arise at all. After all, up until the end of 1998, they played at least five operas a season downtown, and before 1992, all of them. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, I take pride for having done the entirely right and ethical thing to have done – while also a freelance journalist in the area – back early in 1990.

    Matters have improved before downtown during the last six or seven years of David Gockley and during most of the Freud administration that followed, but the reinvention or reworking of the administration of HGO, as assisted by a prominent lawyer, Symphony patsy – who will go nameless here – has brought things back down over the past five years to where they have been before, so thereby I am no longer frequently in attendance downtown anymore. Thanks for hearing me out.

  • In our time, honest people are the ones who get much hated and merciless punished.

    • Vinney says:

      Let’s not make a martyr of the man. He had a contract to perform. One assumes that the contract has been in place for quite some time and consider the fact that the recording of an album is not a spur-of-the-moment thing to organize. So, all of these people had all of this information and he made a choice to cancel an obligation he had already agreed to. Simply because he chose to provide the real reason for it doesn’t make it any better.

      • @ Vinney

        Maybe you have missed my point here. I never said this canceler is better than the others. However, while some superstars pull out in the very last minute with no or very cryptic reasons, this man notified the opera management and the general public of his regrettable decision with a comparatively convincing and honest excuse even before the new season starts. It does make a difference whether you cancel one week or one year before the premiere. In this case, I hope the Wiener Staatsoper would have sufficient time to find a solid replacement with enough preparation and rehearsal time.

        Nevertheless, I’m fairly upset that people seem to hate this honest man even more than those last-minute, no-excuse cancelers, which in my opinion is totally unfair. On one hand, people seem to accept that last-minute cancel is part of the “star aura”. Those who cancel more often and with absurder excuses are considered the greater stars. On the other hand, since it is “last minute”, people just don’t have enough time to criticize the “indisposed” superstars or speculate about the real reasons behind their cancellation, because in the next days, they will be busy getting crazy about the next stunt, the next rising star.

        While we all agree that everyone should stick to the contract and faithfully fulfill their commitment, we should also convey the right message: if cancel, then better earlier than later. It’s just like you book a travel or hotel. You may get 100% refund if cancel with two months’ notice, 50% up to one week, no refund within 3 days. Maybe such comparison is off the target, but I hope you could get my point.

    • Carlos Montané says:

      Do I know !!!.

      • David Spence says:

        Carlos, were you not the Italian Singer here 42 years ago with Edo De Waart conducting? Your name sounds so familiar from way back somehow. I live in the (right now as of late heavily flooded) Houston area.

  • Eddie Lew says:

    What about his fans, and he has many. Do they not count after spending money to hear him? This is a slap in the face to people who support his big fees.

  • Hasbeen says:


    August Everding stood up and engaged Lorin Maazel to jump in to a Rosenkavalier Kleiber cancelled at the last minute. Kleober never conducted again at the Staatsoper Munich.

    • Olassus says:

      No, but he conducted the company’s Bavarian State Orchestra several times, with Everding in charge.

    • Pedro says:

      I think it was Jiri Kout who replaced Kleiber in the cancelled Rosenkavalier, in 1984. Correct me if I’m wrong please.

      • Olassus says:

        He’s not referring to that, because Carlos Kleiber conducted at the Bayerische Staatsoper as late as 1988, for Die Fledermaus. The cancelled Rosenkavaliers may have been in 1990, when Kleiber suddenly had lots of time for the Metropolitan Opera.

  • Vladislav says:

    Singers are human beings. Stop expecting them to be Gods.

    • Ellingtonia says:

      Singers are contracted and paid to work, if they don’t, then sack them. This is what would happen in any other profession……….but the poor little opera sweeties need special treatment as they are ARTISTS!

    • Mike Schachter says:

      Most ordinary people are expected to fulfil their commitments.

    • Eddie Lew says:

      Sorry, Vladislav. When his name is announced for a production people pay money and flock to hear him; he has a responsibility to them. To blithely say he wants to save his voice for a recording, which can be postponed, is shabby and a slap in the face to his fans. That’s my opinion.

  • Hasbeen says:

    Pedro. No it was Maazel, he came over from Vienna. Everding wanted to prove a point, nobody is irreplaceable.

  • John Borstlap says:

    The best cancellation excuse still is: ‘I was given a contract copy with quite another opera.’