Near-disaster: International tenor falls head first into orchestra pit

Near-disaster: International tenor falls head first into orchestra pit


norman lebrecht

November 08, 2018

Message from the Canadian-Austrian artist Michael Schade:

Yesterday, I was hurled head first INTO the orchestra Pit!!!!

It all happened so fast during our piano dress of our charming and wonderful Opera of „ Die Reise des kleinen Prinzen“, a gift to myself in memoriam of my brother with the Vienna Boys Choir, as a part of the stage right ladder and scaffolding collapsed (we were trying out a new design, as I enter through the house) just over the pit during my entrance!

All I remember, is feeling this overwhelming knowledge that something serious was about to happen, and that I was “going down”- and that I needed to turn in mid air, to avoid hitting my head and neck directly of the piano well below, which I remember was approaching at the speed of light! I must have succeeded, as I “bounced off” the side of the piano above the left side of the keyboard, vaulted back in a backwards somersault, and landed backwards on my right shoulder and rolled onto my back! I was winded, and somehow broke a left thumb nail which was bloody , and a right hand nail , and as I hit the ground getting a slight bump in the head – the poor lovely stage hand man really had his bell rung with falling scaffolding as he was “securing” the newly designed stage entry! I have bruised my chest and neck, and right hand ( which is slightly alarmingly swollen just now and just sore, so no Chopin Etudes for me tomorrow) but the point is, I am fine 🙏 , thanks to my guardian angel, and all the good help at the theatre!!

It could have been way, way, waaaay, worse and turning in mid air made me be able to roll off the piano rather than, well, heading face first into it!!!! All continued just fine and then well into the night, with our following stage and orchestra rehearsal!

I want to thank all at the MuTH (concert hall of the Vienna Boys Choir) for they were very caring and insisting on getting doctors ( and should I need any more help, I shall ask, promise!).

I just can’t believe it happened – I saw Nikolaus Harnoncourt at over 80 fall into the pit in Baden Baden while conducting our dress rehearsal of Zaide a few years back, then turn like a cat in mid air, land, roll, get up and continue rehearsal – but I NEVER thought I would join THAT club along with him, Ponelle, and Bjørling and a few more I am sure….

Opera is a dangerous sport , be careful out there kids and pros – Danke Schutzengel!


  • AB says:

    And not to forget Kirill Petrenko at Theater an der Wien falling into the pit at the rehearsals of Il Trittico, if I remember well. That had as consequence that he cancelled the run.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Lucky guy. Reminds me of the bariton rehearsing Herodes in Warsaw in 2006 who slipped and fell upside-down into the tuba, from which he could only be liberated after one and a half day in the local hospital. (Fortunately, there were no serious damages to the instrument.)

  • Jonathan Dunsby says:

    A great article, written with humour and style. I’m glad he is still with us.
    Let’s be careful out there.

  • Karl says:

    The Met Ring set looks dangerous to me. I’m surprised that no one has fallen and been hurt from that thing.

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    There’s something to be said for the lid on the pit at Bayreuth. Plus, this enables musicians to play dressed any old way and play cards when they have 278 bars of rests.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    I have played in a pit and for some reason the director wanted a great deal of stage action very close to the edge. We were nervous. Fortunately it was not a raked stage.

  • Una says:

    Where was the safety net? We had one everywhere we went with Scottish Opera. Not just to save the singer but more importantly an orchestral player hit as a result of a wrong stage move, not the cause.

  • Bob Oxley says:

    Norman, we do not have hyphenated persons in Canada. Michael Schade is a Canadian. We do not have French-Canadians even though our country is officially bilingual, English and French.The majority of people in Quebec speak French and are Quebecois. In the Maritime Provinces native French speakers are Acadians. I don’t understand why your style does not adopt the non hyphenated standard when mentioning Canadian artists regardless of where they were born. e have many citizens who have come here from the U.S. Would they be American-Canadians? I don’t think so.

  • Dave T says:

    One would think that some kind of netting could be secured over the front (back?) few feet of the pit. It could be done such that it wouldn’t interfere with the musicians, acoustics, and sight lines.