Most encores at the Met?

Most encores at the Met?


norman lebrecht

February 08, 2019

Here’s the PR claim:

 Mexican tenor Javier Camarena made Met history last night, tying the record for most encores sung there in the past 75 years (even beating Pavarotti).

True or hype?



  • IntBaritone says:

    There’s really no reason to think this is false. He’s an incredible singer, I remember my first time on stage with him in Europe, it was clear even 10 years ago that he was going places and the rest of us, as good as we thought we were, were simply there to complete the cast. Good for him, nice guy and amazing singer.

  • Allan Altman says:

    My two cents: compared to 50 and 100 years ago, audiences today are brow-beaten into submission. They’re not allowed to applaud entrances. They’re not allowed to throw confetti (torn-up programs). They’re not allowed to interrupt the music with applause. Are they attending a performance or a recording session? To make matters worse, they’re often not given the chance to see beautiful sets or a staging that has any connection to the composers’ intentions.

    Whether today’s singers DESERVE entrance applause, confetti, or decent productions is beside the point. There are still some fine performers and some enthusiastic audience members. Why shame the audience if they feel moved to give a standing ovation? Why shame them if they found a performance exciting enough to hope for an encore. Back in Caruso’s time, the legend goes that encores were given out too freely and the Met said “enough!” But, if I were around then, I’d put up with plenty of encores by “lesser” singers if it meant I still got my encores from Gigli, Ponselle, Martinelli, Rethberg, De Luca…

    Anyone new to opera attending last night’s FILLE would come away thinking that the opera house is a fun, exciting place. That’s not always true, but why not let them think that?

    • Allan says:

      P.S. Just to clarify my general comment above: Camarena is indeed one of the great artists of our time and his encores are fully merited.

      • MusicBear88 says:

        I was at a Tosca in Boston and started to applaud at a particularly well-sung and thrilling “La vita mi costasse, vi salverò!” Boy did I get the stink-eye from the people around me!

        There’s a video out there comparing the audience reaction to Franco Corelli singing the “Vittoria, vittoria!” in London and in Parma. Covent Garden had a few polite claps. Parma was absolutely deafening cheers for a good twenty seconds. I know where I’d rather go to the opera!

    • aj says:

      What nonsense !” Last night’sFILLE “has nothing to
      do with singing artistry ,it is a circus performance ,
      as long as the tenor can belt out the top notes he
      will be viewed by the unwashed as a great tenor and
      as soon as our tenor no longer has those top notes he will be thrown aside for the next circus performer. It is an audience and tenor that deserve each other, he knows why he is hired and his
      audience knows why they are there,and as long
      as they both are satisfied with the circus event
      well and good.The opera house can be an exiting
      place without this nonsense.

      • Not impressed says:

        Totally agree!

      • laurie says:

        wow, you’re a triple threat! a snob who can’t spell and has a tin ear. Camarena is a marvelous artist. He has the voice, the technique and a very rare quality – he projects joy. It’s infectious among the washed and the unwashed. your term, not mine.

      • RobinWorth says:

        Alfredo Kraus was singing those top notes into his late sixties
        I wish we had more circus performers like him

        • Martain Smith says:

          I sorely miss Kraus too! His Edgardo, Werther, – what an all-round artist of the highest calibre!
          Having said that, Camarena has surprised in recent years with his combination of stunningly-accurate agility combined with a surprisingly-broad tone when required. Arguably the finest around today!

    • Monsoon says:

      It really comes down to the opera. Whether its tradition or the ticket buyers it pulls, some operas continue to have a pretty interactive audience. Tosca, for example, still gets applause at all of the entrances and high points (I find studio recordings of it weird to listen to because I’m so used to the applause and cheers throughout). That’s usually the case with Donizetti and Mozart operas. Crowds seem to be a bit more subdued with Verdi — I have no clue why.

  • Stephen Gould says:

    I saw him at the final dress rehearsal. He’s the real deal.

  • Bruce says:

    From what I read in the NY Times (always a reliable chronicler of what goes on at the Met), it seems like it’s become something of a tradition for him to repeat that aria. Of course, it may also be something of a tradition for him to do an incredible job of singing it. 🙂

    As with Pavarotti in the 70’s and 80’s, it has probably become a kind of virtuous cycle: he becomes known for his fabulous singing (by singing fabulously) → audiences start buying tickets in order to hear him (as opposed buying tickets to buying tickets for a chance to hear the timeless masterpiece that is La Fille du Régiment — ahem) → he gets a boost of confidence, especially once things reach the point where the audience goes wild simply seeing him come out onstage, and sings fabulously → etc.

    If he hasn’t broken Pavarotti’s record yet (and as IntBaritone says, there’s no reason not to believe the Met about this), there’s no reason to think he won’t do it soon.

  • Caravaggio says:

    Canned, over and above truth and hype. Not a drop of genuine spontaneity to it.

  • Andrew Powell says:

    He’s great as Le comte Ory in Zurich’s 2011 staging — much funnier than the Met’s!

  • says:

    I believe the last time the Met presented “Fille” in HD, Juan Diego Florez did NOT do an encore, though he apparently did at least one if not two, on the opening night of that run. that made the otherwise fine HD broadcast a little disappointing. But then Javier Camarena seems to do an encore almost always. We will see if he does one for his HD broadcast.

    • MWnyc says:

      I would guess that encores are verboten for the HD broadcasts because the Met has contracted for only a specific amount of time on the movie screens and can’t run overtime. (The cinemas will have already scheduled screenings of something else after the Saturday afternoon simulcasts are over.)

  • operacentric says:

    I’ve seen live or on TV Fille a number of times and ‘that’ aria has always been encored. Last couple of times I’ve heard Camarena he was fine, but not quite great compared to some names of recent, and not so recent, past. I thought he was being over-hyped. Smallish voice, not particularly pleasant sound, no great actor – maybe he’s better now.

    Confused by some comments above – I listen to many of the Met broadcasts – entrances and curtain down often applauded over the music (witness the recent Otello).

    The Met doesn’t get a huge number of productions without “beautiful sets or a staging that has any connection to the composers’ intentions”. Have you seen Paris’ new production of Les Troyens?!

  • operacentric says:

    … PS – and having watched a couple of time, I do concede – it’s pretty good !

  • ENRIQUE says:


  • Cantantelirico says:

    No troublesome sopranos were fired during the making of this historic event.

  • Ilio says:

    Juan Diego Flórez did the encore back in 2008.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    I am sorry to say I have not heard him but hope to get the chance to do so. It sounds very plausible that he has achieved this. I believe years ago Domingo, when he was young and a fine tenor, got 50+ curtain calls in Vienna, maybe a tougher audience than the Met.

    • MWnyc says:

      Vienna may have a tougher audience than the Met, but I think they’re more willing to stay and applaud for long curtain calls with lots of extra bows.

      New Yorkers will start leaving the house fairly quickly because they (we) always feel like we have to catch the next train to the burbs or get on the subway before the overnight track work starts so we can be home and in bed in time to get up for work in the morning.

      Also, now that I think of it, if curtain calls start to run too long, the Met staff will turn on the house lights to signal people to leave. My guess is that they to avoid having to give overtime pay (150% of the hourly wage for everything over 40 hours in a week) to the house staff.

  • Thanks for this – it made me cry. What a voice!

  • Ivan Jugenburg says:

    The same opera with Florez

  • Not impressed says:

    How can such poor, uninteresting, screamed and frankly irritating singing get so much attention??? I simply cannot understand. His voice has obvious qualities, but it is bottled up, trapped where it shouldn’t be. Reaching high notes by screaming them out from everywhere but down the throat shouldn’t count! I cannot admire singers who use this sort of lazy, masky, risk-free technique that is enough for a circus but puts them to shame when compared to really great opera singers. Also, his jaw looks so tense that it almost made mine hurt while watching the video. Flórez suffers from most of these problems as well, but at least he is a more sofisticated musician and performer. Anyway, to even dream of comparing a completely overrated tenor like this to Pavarotti is a joke. And it is not funny!

    • I Was There, It Was Magical says:

      Well then we are all certainly waiting on tenterhooks for your superior rendition, so get on with it…please post the Youtube link when you’ve recorded it, preferably in one of the world’s greatest opera houses that was filled to the rafters with people screaming for you.

  • Harry Levy says:

    Before Gelb, the Met had a policy of no encores and I believe Pavarotti had one. I may be mistaken.

    • Allan Altman says:

      That’s correct. “E lucevan le stelle” was encored, at what I believe was Pavarotti’s second-to-last run of that opera. I was in the audience and can report that it was an odd moment. The audience was enthusiastic, but not overwhelmingly so, and Pavarotti seemed genuinely surprised when Levine began the aria again. However, the real magic of the evening was that on the encore, Pavarotti sang with much more varied dynamics, including beautiful, floated mezza-voce tones. It was the best I ever heard him sing the aria. Maybe Levine had an inkling as to what would happen…? I have always wanted to ask him.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    Other than in a recital format, and the scripted Met encores for Florez and Camarena, the only truly extemporaneous encore I ever heard was at New York City Opera some 35 years ago during La Rondine. The conductor at the premiere gauged the audience reaction to the 2nd act “Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso” to be so overwhelming that he did an encore. Sills, then GM, sitting in her usual box with her mother, seemed genuinely anxious, as it probably meant overtime. I don’t believe it was planned at all. The audience went nuts. It was a triumph and well-deserved. I still feel chills when I think of the excitement the audience felt. Needless to say, Sills was savvy enough to leave reprise the encore for subsequent performances.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    An article by Francisco Salazar, now publisher of OperaWire, wrote this history of encores at the Met a few years ago for the Latin Post. He’s always worth reading, IMO.