Emergency Wotan arrives just in time to shake the conductor’s hand

Emergency Wotan arrives just in time to shake the conductor’s hand


norman lebrecht

May 22, 2018

They cut things fine in Dallas.

Mathias Goerne called in sick at six hours’ notice on this weekend’s concert performance of Die Walküre.

Geeting a call from his agent, bass-baritone Kyle Albertson jumped in an Uber from San Francisco Opera, where he was covering Wotan, and booked his flight from the cab.

The assistant conductor awaited him in a limo on arrival to run through a few tempo points on the way to Meyerson Symphony Center. Kyle changed into his concert suit in the car.

He arrived just in time to shake Jaap van Zweden’s hand and go on stage for Act II, launching straight into Wotan’s long monologue.

Here’s a review.

photo:  Ben Torres / Dallas News


  • John Borstlap says:


    Imagine the stress levels that afternoon all around. And yet, a marvellous Walküre, according to the review. Albertson must be a truly heroic baritone of Wagnerian proportions.

    The original première of the Ring in 1876 under the composer’s direction unleashed such storms of hydrocortison, that from that summer onwards, Wagner’s health sharply deteriorated and never recovered. Wagner operas = ambition + stress beyond classical, regulatory levels.

  • Sharon says:

    This gives the adage “The show must go on!” new meaning. What a guy. Albertson has a great career ahead of him

  • Randy DFW says:

    I was at this concert and it was electrifying. The high-wire drama of not knowing if Wotan would even be at the hall for act two just heightened the overall energy. It was my first time hearing the opera so it’s hard to vouch for his performance but he was in fine voice and gave a characterful and engaged performance. The audience of course gave him a thundering ovation, along with the rest of the terrific cast and orchestra.

  • SoCal Dan says:

    I, too, was in the audience at Meyerson Symphony Center last Friday night.

    Prior to the concert’s start at 6 pm, a representative for the symphony walked on stage to announce the casting change. He said that Kyle Albertson was currently in an airplane flying over Arizona, and would arrive in time for the start of the second act (which, of course, is when Wotan first appears in the opera).

    I remarked to the person next to me that the intermission/interval between the first and second acts might be longer than the scheduled 45 minutes, but that turned out not to be the case. The concert proceeded normally. The only sign of anything unusual was Mr. Albertson’s use of a music stand – he did, however, interact with the other singers on stage to the extent permitted in a concert version.

    After the concert ended, I had the good fortune to chat briefly with members of the cast, including Mr. Albertson. He said that he had been concentrating so much on his singing and acting during the performance that he was surprised when it was over. When asked if he was flying back to San Francisco the next day, he said that the symphony told him to “stick around,” just in case he was needed on Sunday. He appeared to be in good spirits, buoyed by the overwhelming audience appreciation accurately described above by Randy DFW.

    • Randy DFW says:

      Thanks for the added color to the story! I’m glad Mr. Albertson felt the appreciation in the room. Have you heard whether he did indeed perform again on Sunday? I haven’t seen any info on whether Mr. Goerne recovered sufficiently to perform. I was very tempted to return and hear the difference for myself but the second performance was completely sold out.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Someone from the audience commented on Goerne’s Sunday appearance at the Dallas SO Facebook page.

  • Roxy says:

    What a wonderful story! Attending a performance of Die Walkure (especially with a fine conductor) is overwhelming enough: with this extra drama of the dramatic replacement of the singer of Wotan it must have been a truly breathtaking experience. I am green with envy for those who were there!

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Incredible. I love stories like this – especially with a ‘happy’ ending.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Van Zweden is great in keeping his head cool in extreme situations (which is in itself already implied in conducting Wagner at all). Just a couple of hours before a very impressive concert performance of Tristan in Amsterdam, Tristan himself suddenly lost his voice so that another tenor had to be flown-in at the very last minute without any rehearsel at all (he did a passable job). On his way to the Concertgebouw on his scooter, the conductor was hit by a car which had ignored a traffic light, and he had tumbled-down on the streets of the usual chaotic local traffic. But he led the orchestra through the taxing score as if sailed by an untroubled wind. I was there, it was a wonderful performance with the audience holding its breath.

  • John Borstlap says:

    On reflection, every opera house should keep an Emergency Wotan in reserve to have circled around the globe and pay him well. This would keep the casting of this difficult role alive.