Must see: What the maestro did when the lights went out

Must see: What the maestro did when the lights went out


norman lebrecht

March 13, 2019

Opera Southwest was performing Rossini’s La Cambiale di Matrimonio last week when the lights went out.

When they came back on, the supertitles still failed and no-one understood a word that was being sung.

Except conductor Anthony Barrese, who, leading from the harpsichord, supplied simultaneous translation.



  • Viola da Bracchio says:

    Forsooth, this fpectacle doth tug ye legges from under ye notion that opera is beft fung in ye original language! For but take away ye fubtitles, and ye spectators are left adrift, for they fpeak not Italian (nor French, nor German), and but little appreciate or admire that which they cannot underftand – moreover, in ye parlance of the eighteenth century, which greatly differs from the modern!

    It makes a moft perfuafive case for singing opera in a language underftood by the audience!

    Bravo to the young man at the harpfichord, for his most warranted interventions!

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    I hope he confined these translations only to the recitatives. What did people do when there were no supertitles not that long ago?

    • Jack says:

      What did they do without supertitles? Yawned, dozed off, imagined as best they could what was going on with a generalized understanding of the plot, completely missed the intricacies of what individual characters were singing in ensemble pieces. Those are a few things that come to mind.

      Imagine a German audience willingly attending a performance of Die Zauberflöte sung in Tagalog.

    • Sixtus says:

      Way back when, the lights (candles etc.) in the theatres remained on and the audience could read their copies of the libretti, some of which contained translations. This would still have been the case in Rossini’s day which, by the way, also would have seen the use of a piano rather than a harpsichord for the secco recits.

  • Valid Question says:

    Barrese = “young”?!

    • Jerrod says:

      Compared to most people involved in opera, especially at his extraordinary talent-level, he’s relatively young. Here’s to youth and less prissy, dessicated people involved with opera.

    • Adam Stern says:

      As a denizen of my 64th year, I’m willing to confer upon Maestro Barrese the honorary title of “Whippersnapper.”

  • Adam Stern says:

    This afforded me some much-needed and -appreciated respectful laughter … delightful … “Bravo!” to Maestro Barrese and his singers and ensemble for making the very best of a sticky situation.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    I believe something similar happened in Cosi at Covent Garden recently, but without the improvised commentary.