So sorry to cancel Venice. But Paris is a much bigger deal

Two social-media messages from the US soprano Lisette Oropesa.

It is with great disappointment that I must cancel my appearance as Violetta in ‘La Traviata’ in Venice at La Fenice. I can’t tell you all how much this ‘Traviata’ meant to me and I know a lot of people were looking forward to seeing me in Venice.

Dear friends and fans, I am shaking as I type this…

I will be going to Paris to debut as Marguerite de Valois in the new production of LES HUGUENOTS, replacing Diana Damrau. This is a huge opportunity for me and I’m so grateful to have the chance to sing a beloved French role like this one at the Opéra national de Paris, at the Bastille.

The cast is incredible, including some of my favorite singers in the world!! Bryan Hymel, Ermonela Jaho Karine Deshayes Nicolas Testé and conducted by the ever incredible Michele Mariotti. We open September 28th, just one day before my birthday this year. I can’t think of a more welcome, more extravagantly wonderful gift than this.

I’ll send more information as I have it, but for now…let’s just enjoy this moment!!

Lisette will be replaced in Venice by two Italians, Claudia Pavone and Francesca Sassu.

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  • Fran says:

    sad to read this. La Fenice is a beautiful gem. I am sure the replacements will not disappoint.

    I do think this will damage her reputation.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      Doubt it. Jumping in to save the Paris Opera for the second time in a year is pretty incredible (first being a jump in as Gilda on 1 day notice). No one in their right mind would fail to take this kind of opportunity given the situation. To hold someone to this unobtainable moral high-bar is ridiculous.

      If anything, Damrau canceling yet another major production this year, and at the very last minute, that’s a reputation disaster. Damrau should start canceling roles she can’t sing much earlier and maybe start making her exit from the opera stage. She’s the catalyst for this musical round-table.

    • Bruce says:

      No, it actually boosts a singer’s reputation because it shows in what high esteem they are held in the bigger (biggest) houses. It would be professional of her to come back to La Fenice (and not cancel), but the aura then will be “she’s in demand everywhere, we are lucky to have her/ and yet we got her — look at us, we get the biggest stars” — a win both for her and for Venice.

      We once had a pianist cancel because she’d been invited to play at Obama’s inauguration. Of course she was re-invited, and when she finally came she was a bigger attraction because of the reason why she’d cancelled earlier.

      Cancelling for vague reasons or no reason is what eventually gains a person a reputation as “unreliable.”

      • SVM says:

        Henry Wood would have disagreed with Bruce on this! That said, given the fragility of the human voice, it could be argued that, unlike a conductor, a singer really cannot bank on “next time”. Marcus Clayton’s point is also pertinent here.

    • MacroV says:

      I would think it would depend on how she behaves about it. If she’s classy and gracious, and makes every effort to come back to Venice as soon as she can, then all should be well.

  • John Borstlap says:

    1 – 0 for Meyerbeer against Verdi.

  • Edgar says:

    Each season there are more than plent of performances of La Traviata at La Fenice, in the Robert Carsen production, with a slew of Traviatas, Alfredos, Germonts, etc, for several years in a row now. Lisette Oropresa will have no difficulty returning to La Fenice as Traviata in not too distant a future. Toi Toi Toi in Paris!

  • Marcus Clayton says:

    These things happen in the world of opera all the time.
    Hopefully, La Fenice released her on good terms. They could easily get replacements for Violetta, but Paris didn’t have a lot of options to replace Damrau as Marguerite de Valois, as not many sopranos know the role.
    Congratulations to Ms. Oropesa for getting the role in Paris.
    As new productions of Les Huegenots are fairly rare, the Paris performances will likely get a lot of attention from the press.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Norman suggests that there is something unethical about this singer cancelling an appointment to perform ‘somewhere better’, and I agree. It is letting people down for opportunistic reasons, and there is something offensive in the gesture, and this will certainly be annotated in the books. A contra example: some years ago Jaap van Zweden was asked, on short notice, to conduct the Vienna Phil when their appointed conducter fell sick – it would have been his much anticipated debut with the VPO. But he had a concert elsewhere and did not want to let that orchestra down, so he had to say ‘no, alas’. The unexpected debut came a couple of months later, though – when another conductor fell sick in Vienna (it was winter, I suppose). That is how such things should be handled.

    • roger says:

      except in the real world the larger – more high profile — opera house, like the Met or Covent Garden ask a favour of the other house. it’s almost always granted.

      • John Borstlap says:

        The Vienna Philharmonic don’t belong to the real world?

        • Yes Addison says:

          John, is this the first time you’ve heard of the management of two opera houses coming to an arrangement to free up a singer for an important production that lost one of its leads? Your dark predictions about “the books” to the side, Oropesa will continue to have a busy career for as long as she sings and acts as well as she presently does.

    • Colin Griffiths says:

      Speaking as an utter layman in opera (and all professional musical) matters, aren’t performers tied by contract as soon as performance arrangements are made. I can understand opera house management waiving contracts in certain circumstances, but surely performers can’t just change their minds when it suits them. I only ask.

  • Yes Addison says:

    Hmm…I don’t remember Piotr Beczala getting attacked when he canceled engagements with (deep breath here) Granada, Paris, Tanglewood, the Czech Republic and Munich to step in and save the Bayreuth Lohengrin. Nor should he have been attacked, but why the aspersions cast on the professionalism of Lisette Oropesa? Should Beczala also bend over backwards to make it up to all those venues he pulled out of this summer, and make sure to be classy and gracious about it? (Will curtsying be involved here?)

    • Razz Matazz says:

      Mr. Beczala did not cancel his concerts in Paris or the Czech Republic which he managed to fit in between rehearsals and performances of Lohengrin. As he is a professional, I have no doubt that he will do his best to make it up to the other venues.

      • Yes Addison says:

        Is there any reason to believe that Oropesa is less professional than Beczala, though? I’m glad to hear that, despite the wording of the initial announcement in Opera News, he was able to sing two of the five things he was expected to have to miss, but that still leaves three. He certainly couldn’t do it all. And if there was any combing through his social media posts to embarrass him, or characterizations of him as greedy and opportunistic for choosing Bayreuth over Tanglewood, or tut-tutting about how his cancellations were going to go in the books and come back to haunt him, I didn’t see it.

        • RAZZ MATAZZ says:

          I have never suggested that Ms. Oropesa is unprofessional. I wish her every success in Paris. She was a wonderful Lucia recently in Madrid. There were one or two “disobliging” remarks on Mr. Beczala’ s Facebook page but these were shouted down by his army of loyal fans. I hope Ms. Oropesa’s fans do the same!

  • Sixtus Beckmesser says:

    Am surprised about some of these brickbats I’ve seen on this thread. Are opera singers the only professionals not to be encouraged in their ambition for professional development. Good luck in Paris, say I.

    • The View from America says:

      Right. And as several other commenters have mentioned, a key aspect of this decision was the repertoire involved. It isn’t as if Ms. Oropesa was dropping out of the Venice Traviata production to perform a similar warhorse role elsewhere. How many other good sopranos are there who even know Huguenots and could step in to save the Paris production?

      Opera companies that support each other in this way cause less disruption than would be the case otherwise. Sure, audience members at La Fenice will be seeing a different (but also fine) Violetta … but audiences in Paris will actually be able to SEE Les Huguenots. Seems like a decent end-result, all things considered.

  • Vaquero357 says:

    Well….my guess is that there are relatively few sopranos today who know the part of Marguerite from Les Huguenots, and even fewer who are ready to sub in a production of said *very* rarely performed opera on short notice.

    Good Violettas are strewn somewhat thicker on the ground.

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