Rome Opera blames soprano for being fired from Traviata

Rome Opera blames soprano for being fired from Traviata


norman lebrecht

January 22, 2019

The artistic director of Rome Opera, Alessio Vlad, has spoken to the journal Musica about the events that led to the dismissal of Jessica Nuccio as Violetta in the present Traviata production.

In Vlad’s account, the soprano threw a tantrum on being asked politely to sing out for the benefit of students who had been invited to the general rehearsal.

We present Vlad’s version in the original Italian, since the Google translation engine distorts it.

UPDATE: Here’s a translation by one of our readers:

Understanding that this dress rehearsal was organized to put at ease Ms. Nuccio who, alone
among the three sopranos, had not sung in this production, these are the facts:
1. The dress rehearsal was not closed but was meant for an audience of students.
2. The singer, Jessica Nuccio, announced before the rehearsal that she would not sing all of it
in full voice, but part of it in a soft voice. To sing in a soft voice in a dress rehearsal means
saving one’s voice by omitting the more tiring parts and adapting some parts of the role, but
assuring the singing line can be a reference for the singers, the chorus and the orchestra and
all the other collaborators. From the beginning of the dress rehearsal, the singer not only did
not sing the vocal line in a soft voice, but she obstinately recited the verses in a talking voice
and therefore was not able to be heard.
3. The artistic director went onto the stage and, without interrupting the rehearsal, asked her
gently (there’s a video) to sing. Jessica Nuccio rudely refused.
4. At that point, the principle cellist of the orchestra, politely and without interrupting the
rehearsal, as he could not hear the star of the opera (all the other singers sang their parts
normally), asked the conductor what was happening. The singer, interrupting the rehearsal on
her own initiative, came to the proscenium and looked at the orchestra in an arrogant and
disrespectful manner. At that point the conductor suspended the rehearsal, having decided
that it was useless to proceed under these conditions.
5. Immediately after the artistic director announced to the singer at the door of her dressing
room that her behavior would be protested and she would be replaced immediately, she lashed
out at him violently by shouting, insulting him and verbally attacking him. Still screaming while
moving away from the artistic director, she asked to see the theatre’s doctor, for an ambulance
and for the police. The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong and the police left the theatre
quickly after having written a report.
6. We should mention that during preceding rehearsals, she received diverse corrections to her
way of singing and her concept (overall setup) of the role. These requests were never followed
by Ms. Nuccio in a satisfactory way and the dress rehearsal remained the last chance to verify
the correct execution of the requests made by the conductor and the artistic director.
7. The audience, composed of students, later with conviction protested to the Superintendent
and the artistic director.
8. Not only did the artistic director make a protest against Ms. Nuccio, but also the
Superintended himself wanted to co-sign the document in order to underline the fact that this
protest was the choice of the whole theatre.
Alessio Vlad concluded affirming that “there are reports on the matter written by the conductor
Pietro Rizzo, the choral director Roberta Gabbiani, the stage musical director Carlo Donadio
and the scene director Giordano Punturo which describe the event in the same way,” as well as
a video that caught the whole scene.

Premettendo che questa prova generale era stata organizzata proprio per mettere a suo agio la signora Nuccio, unica dei tre soprani a non avere ancora cantato in questa produzione, questi sono i fatti:

1) La prova generale non era chiusa ma destinata ad un pubblico di studenti.

2) La cantante Jessica Nuccio prima della prova aveva annunciato che non avrebbe cantato tutto in voce, ma in parte accennato. Accennare, soprattutto in una prova generale, significa risparmiarsi, omettendo le parti più faticose e adattando alcune parti del ruolo ma comunque assicurare una linea di canto che possa in ogni caso essere di riferimento ai cantanti, al coro e all’orchestra e tutti i maestri collaboratori. Fin dall’inizio della generale la cantante non solo non ha accennato una linea vocale ma si è limitata ostinatamente a “recitare” i versi parlando e quindi a non risultare “udibile”.

3) Al direttore artistico che, salito sul palcoscenico e senza che la prova si interrompesse, le chiedeva, gentilmente (esiste un video) di cantare Jessica Nuccio opponeva un netto e sgarbato rifiuto.

4) A quel punto il primo violoncello dell’orchestra, garbatamente e sempre senza interrompere la prova, continuando a non sentire la protagonista dell’opera (tutti gli altri cantanti facevano la loro parte normalmente), chiedeva al direttore d’orchestra cosa stesse succedendo; la cantante, interrompendo di sua stessa iniziativa la prova, si avvicinava al proscenio e si rivolgeva all’orchestra in modo arrogante e irrispettoso. A questo punto il Maestro sospendeva la prova, giudicando inutile andare avanti in quelle condizioni.

5) Non appena il direttore artistico, sulla soglia del camerino, annunciava alla signora Nuccio che dopo tali comportamenti sarebbe stata protestata e immediatamente sostituita, ella gli si scagliava contro violentemente, urlando, insultandolo e aggredendolo verbalmente. Allontanatosi il direttore artistico, sempre urlando, chiedeva l’intervento del medico del Teatro, di una autoambulanza e della polizia.
I medici non riscontravano alcun male e la polizia lasciava in breve tempo il Teatro dopo aver redatto un verbale.

6) È bene precisare che durante le prove precedenti alla Nuccio erano state fatte diverse correzioni al suo modo di cantare e alla sua impostazione della parte. Queste richieste non erano mai state eseguite dalla Nuccio in modo soddisfacente e la prova generale era rimasta l’ultima possibilità per verificare la corretta esecuzione delle richieste fatte dal direttore d’orchestra e dal direttore artistico.

7) Il pubblico di studenti, successivamente, con decisione ha protestato con il Sovrintendente e con il Direttore Artistico.

8) La signora Nuccio è stata protestata non solo dal direttore artistico, ma il Sovrintendente stesso ha voluto controfirmare l’atto, per sottolineare come sia stata una scelta di tutto il teatro.

More here.


  • Caravaggio says:

    If she threw a tantrum, so be it. She is fully within her rights to sing all out or hold back during a rehearsal. That is her prerogative as an an individual and as an artist. And she didn’t sexually molest the director or conductor or her colleagues. Comes to show once more that men can throw hissy fits (and we know much worse) and sail along while women are held to a different standard. It may take longer in machista cultures like Italy’s but change is surely coming. Not saying it isn’t happening too often still in the USA and other “enlightened” parts of the world. Again, she should sue the daylights out of the male-diva.

    • JayBee says:

      By saying that the USA is part of an “enlightened” world makes your argument quite invalid I’m afraid. Her behaviour was appalling and she deserved being sacked if what is described by Vlad is the truth. Is she suing? Does she think she was unjustifiably fired? Your whole whataboutery rant is quite useless to the subject of this specific thread.

    • Mick the Knife says:

      She didn’t do what she was hired to do and apparently acted badly. I doubt that you can understand that with your delusional world view.

    • BrianB says:

      There is no male/female special pass for opera singers of either sex throwing tantrums. Never has been. Because of their special talents tempermental singers of both sexes have been handed out passes from Cuzzoni and Senesino to Corelli and Sills. Patti, Melba and Calve could be holy terrors on and offstage but were always deferred to. OTH, Bing fired Callas but he also had fired Melchior and di Stefano. Seeing everything through the distorted lens of 21st century gender politics is ridiculous and does not square with historical fact.

  • It was a rehearsal, first and foremost. The fact that there was a ‘public’ of students there does not alter this fact. Anyone who has attended General Rehearsals knows that certain singers prefer to be careful about singing the whole role—or just shut up completely. On a personal note I can recall Elizabeth Connell marking Lady Macbeth, Franco Bonisolli crooning Calaf an octave down, Renato Bruson being totally quiet for Rigoletto etc etc. Unfortunately Rome have handled the whole thing very badly(not for the first time)and the soprano has been caught in the middle of poor management decisions. Suing the House would be an option in the UK, USA and Germany, but in Italy this is a pointless exercise. Jessica N will bounce back from this, I am sure.

    • Una says:

      Well said, Anthony.

      Long time since I’ve seen you. Hope all is well. Long time since we did that Brahms Requiem together! I have a website.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    I have attended a few opera rehearsals and as a rule few if any singers, particularly sopranos, sang full voice. We who were privileged to attend the rehearsals (singers included Beverly Sills and Yuri Mazurok) were fairly warned. I have also played in the pit for a few operas (not my favorite form of music) and as a rule, the singers did not sing full voice. The singer’s prime duty is to sing well at the performances for the paying audience. They know best whether that means they have to hold back at rehearsals. They are the artists and it is totally an artistic decision.

    By the way there are also some violin soloists who play on a good but lesser instrument at rehearsals (I believe Kyung Wha Chung did so to limit wear and tear on a delicate Amati) and many soloists omit the cadenzas during rehearsals (as Paganini was quoted as saying at rehearsal, fireworks are best admired at night) — would this same guy order them around on those subjects too?

  • Observer says:

    As a rule in the opera business, under normal circumstances (when there is a 2 or 3-day break between the dress rehearsal and the opening), the conductor expects everyone to sing full voice at the dress rehearsal, as this is his/her last opportunity to balance voices with the orchestra properly. This has nothing to do with the presence of people in the hall. Now there can be exceptions of course, for instance if the singer is indisposed, but these exceptions must be discussed beforehand, and if people are in attendance an announcement would most likely be made.

  • Tito says:

    How many lies in this article !!! Who knows why nobody of this magazine interviewed Mrs. Nuccio in order to know her own version too???!!! Maybe because, unlike Vlad, she has no friends in the editorial board of the magazine!!! What a professionalism!!!

    • Danny says:

      How many lies? Please name them.
      I think you are just overreacting. This was rather than a story on music and professionalism, a strong example of how arrogance and volatile temper can ruin someone*s day.
      Facts are not lies. Speaking based on suppositions and third-hand information could easily become lies.
      Being a few yards away from the happening is somehow different.

    • Nicola Cattò says:

      Ms Nuccio can of course tell her version. MUSICA will be glad to publish also her point of view. But I called Mr Vlad because Ms Nuccio’s point was already stated in this site, so a counterbalance was needed. Our only “friends” are our readers. This is professionalism.

      • norman lebrecht says:

        For the purpose of clarity, our story came from two independent observers of the incident. Ms Nuccio was not the source.

        • Nicola Cattò says:

          Well, maybe not so independent, if you wrote, previously, “friends of Jessica contacted Slipped Disc”…

          • norman lebrecht says:

            One was a friend, the other not.

          • Sanity says:

            Pointless to argue about the independence, or not, of the original sources, if your sole source is the DA accused of aggressive behaviour.

            Frankly, this should not have been aired either on this site or on Musica.

            Opera Roma should have proper internal processes to deal with contested dismissals.

            That it does not is the real scandal here.

            One should not have to tell a major theatre to put its house in order; but Rome needs to put its house in order.

            And Ms Nuccia’s ‘friends’ should probably think twice about making her disputes public.

          • Danny says:

            Nice point of view, these things are not to be used for publicly discrediting anyone. First of all, this kind of things shoul not HAPPEN amongst professionals on stage. But it that happens, let it go and move on.

      • Tito says:

        According to professional honesty and deontology, you should have called Mrs Nuccio as well, asking for her version. The singer, however, has remained silent until now, without anyone asking her for an interview! I would say a completely different style! Or maybe the lady does not have the right friendship… surely Vlad has it!

  • Danny says:

    Mr David Nelson, I substantially disagree with you and I have now over 20 years of full opera – as well as symphonic career with big houses, behind me.
    Rehearsals are there not only to get used to the particular acoustic of the hall, but also to allow other artist on stage to find the proper relation with you too, under all aspects: tempi, dynamics, frasing, etc. etc. That delicate Amati has been around for centuries now and so it will be if handled with care; one rehearsal doesn’t quite make the difference. Some soloist can use of course an alternate instrument, but it is for other reasons than “saving the strings for the concert”. Also, the cadenzas are not played all but on G.R. because it is a one-man-business , and keeping full orchestra there on hold would be useless and disrespectful. Final cue of the cadenza is played and you go on, on rehearsals.
    But we have been whitnesses of an awkward scene here with Miss Nuccio. Traviata is a difficult part for most of the roles, and everyone sang in full at the given rehearsal, with small omissions of high pitches which is normal, counts for maybe 20% of the part. J.Nuccio did the contrary.. she SANG probably a mere 20%. No matter if students were invited in large numbers, she was reciting her role rather in whispering. No one had a clue about what she “sang” so at a certain point the musical director approached her from the side of the stage (at about 3 meters, let`s put it right) and had a short exchange of whispered words with her, without interrupting the rehearsal. She took a very insulted mimic and went on with the same panthomime. Not long after, a first part of the orchestra intervened with the conductor, what was the point of all that… the orchestra knew by heart the music, they had it for decades in repertoire, even last fall took Traviata on tour to Japan with great success…
    At that point Ms. Nuccio unexpectedly approached the pit very aggresively and almost shouted to the orchestra something like “You are having an issue with ME??” He politely replied “No, I’m talking to the music conductor here”, but of course it was a point of no return.
    Rehearsal suspended, called in another Violetta… To tell the truth it was benefic for the quality of singing also… Francesca Dotto was absolutely brilliant and no match with the …past.
    What happened after, doctors, ambulance, police, sailors and parrot trainers, had no point. Theater is to be played on stage, not behind.
    I say again, saving a voice is one thing if you have a Premiere the next day. But, you know, Ms.Nuccio was not even scheduled for the first show, exactly for that very reason.
    Now you have the full picture of the events and can judge better if spitting was worth it.

    • Maria says:

      Sing out for the rehearsal and loose your voice for the opening and subsequent night. The season of colds and voices are fragile, and if the singer is over-tired. Everyone on here is an expert and nearly all men! In this situation the singer knows their voice best.

      • Danny says:

        What is the point with men and women? men have voices as well haven`t they? And they also sing. I have got proper training in belcanto as well but the issue here is not cold or voice or else, it is as stated, about being too much of a diva. Maria Callas or Angela Gheorghiu for example had their mishaps too and even payed for them at the time, but what are we talking about here?

        • Maria says:

          I can play tennis, so what? It doesn’t mean I can play at Wimbledon! A bit of bel canto training doesn’t put you on the level of these people who are actually getting up there and doing the job. That’s why they are the ones doing it and not you!!! LOL!

          • Danny says:

            Dear Maria, this is such a pointless argument. I do not sing on stage because it is not my job. Once cleared this, I must notice you have no idea about my background and CV.
            You cook for family and friends? Ok. But you are not Jamie Oliver… that is, with a bit of knowledge and taste, you can pull that through. Or at least you can say it was well cooked or not. BUT the issue here was, at stated beforehand, the ATTITUDE not the singing or Mrs J.N. which nobody doubted. Collaboration is a key factor on stage. She was the opposite to that attribute.
            People reading this site are interested in art, music, events, not in my, your, or Wimbledon’s background. I have detailed the real facts here in order to allow readers to be fair and informed when dealing with a conclusion.
            I consider myself therefore done with the small talk here. No subject-hijacking, thank you and wish you the best.

    • Tito says:

      How many details, you seem to have been there… another Vlad’s friend?!
      How many defenders… at this point let the real lawyers to do their job, I’m sure that here someone is faking and acting very badly!!!

    • Tito says:

      Moreover your style is very poor, according to your denigrating and biased comments !!! are you afraid that the theater does not pay you the salary !?

      • Danny says:

        You seem to be a person that points the finger at a victim of your choice at any cost. Mr Vlad is not my friend, never had a word with him. Being there at the right moment allowed me, yes, to SEE and HEAR the things as they happened. What are you based upon when speaking about this matter? Some frustrations from the past counted maybe? It is up to you to finally reveal the lies you were telling us about. I was as impartial as a journalist could be.
        Don`t worry about my stile, it`s not Literature Lobby here, and also don`t you worry about my salary.
        I am herewith out of this toxic nonsense.

        • Tito says:

          You don’t work in that theatre???!!! You have not friendship there?So, how could you be there and hear or see during a colsed rehearsal? Very strange…mmm! Impartial?! Ahahah

  • AndrewB says:

    There are several issues here really.
    Firstly, while some conductors are understanding about singers marking at this final rehearsal many producers are not. They want to feel the full impact of the production in all its aspects prior to opening night . I heard a producer put this in a nutshell to a very fine soprano ‘ unless you sing , you don’t act ‘ – some singers ‘mark’ the acting down as well as holding back on the singing, so the rehearsal then becomes mainly a technical run through accompanied by orchestra, rather than the last drawing together of all aspects and elements before opening night.
    In the case of a singer obtaining permission to mark from the conductor then everyone involved should be informed- including the orchestra as arias frequently involve passages where one solo instrument comes to the fore to accompany the singer – perhaps just for a few bars. If possible the singer should at least sing those passages at the rehearsal because this is the last rehearsal for the player as well who will be trying to match phrasing and compliment the singers line to bring about the best result.
    Perhaps I have been fortunate , but I have yet to meet any opera house management who didn’t want the singer in best voice for a first night. There is generally a level of understanding and tolerance , but equally opera is a collaborative art form where each participant is part of the whole and all should be working to make the best result possible for each other. Some of the best singers I have sung with are the most generous and when they mark they see to it that both those on stage with them and the orchestra can hear necessary ‘cues.’
    Finally , one of the houses I was involved with for some years had a pre – dress rehearsal public announcement telling the invited audience that this was a work session, singers were not obliged to sing in full voice, the rehearsal could be stopped if necessary and scenes/ sequences repeated.
    It seems to me that maybe part of this problem in Rome was a lack of or mis – communication and then things escalated …

    • Saxon Broken says:

      I guess, at the dress rehearsal, all the singers would be required to sing sufficiently loudly (not necessarily “full voice”) to ensure they can be heard by the orchestra and conductor. Otherwise, what would be the point. Isn’t the aim of the full dress-rehearsal to ensure everyone on stage and in the pit knows what they should be doing in the show. So everyone has to provide cues etc, and play out tricky bits, and ensure they interact properly with everyone else in the show.

  • Jose' says:

    Dea Mr. Lebrecht, here you are the other point of view! Unfortunately Mr. Catto’ forgot to send it!!!