When a pianist is shat upon by bats

When a pianist is shat upon by bats


norman lebrecht

April 14, 2019

From a Guardian article by Boris Giltburg:

Bats like to live in theatres, particularly in old Italian-style ones that provide them with comfortable rafters above the stage, and plenty of flying space in the darkness above. I discovered this fact during a rehearsal in one such theatre, when loud, neurotic squeaks erupted above me as I started playing. “Ah, the bats!” the promoters said with smiles, in reply to my slightly concerned questions. “They’ve lived here since always. Don’t worry – you can’t hear them from the hall. The sound only carries down to the stage.” This was at least somewhat reassuring and, during rehearsals, I grew accustomed to the occasional squeak….

Then came Ravel’s La Valse, darker still. That turned out to be too much. At first there was ominous silence from above but then in the coda, as the demise of the Old World inescapably approached in rising waves, first one and then many black-brown signs of the bats’ displeasure rained down on to the stage.

“Do you mind,” I’m sometimes asked, “if there’s noise from the audience?” I don’t, but I never knew until that evening how very much I did mind when dark stuff fell from above on my hands and the very brightly lit keyboard.

Read on here.


  • John Rook says:

    It’s Alan Partridge.

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    There must be a good arrangement of “Der Fledermaus” he could play as an encore.

  • Sixtus says:

    There’s an obvious solution in the theater. A horizontal scrim several feet above the piano possibly out of sight of the audience. I’m sure the stagehands would appreciate the extra work . . . not.

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    I have known many pianists with bats in the belfry.

  • Sharon says:

    No laughing matter. Although bats do not usually come too close to human beings, they can bite. Although many species are blind, bats have acute hearing and many mammals defecate when startled. If a pianist plays modern music the sounds, loud and jarring to untrained bat (and human) ears, are seen as an invasion of their home and they get agitated and have diarrhea.

    In addition, the spores from animal feces can cause disease. That is why during the Aids era there were volunteer groups of people who would change the cat litter, wash the small animal cages, and walk the dogs of people with Aids who were more vulnerable to the disease toxiplasmosis caused by animal feces.

    The building management may see bats as picturesque and as an inexpensive way to combat a mouse problem but I would be very hesitant to attend a concert in a facility infested with bats and I would suggest that performers, if they have any say in the matter, avoid such places as well

  • Diane Valerie says:

    Brings a whole new dimension to the expression “batshit crazy” …

  • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

    A Haiku:

    Pianists who get shat
    Upon by foul, angry bats
    Should simply wear hats.

  • Karl says:

    I saw a bat fly right into the face of a baritone when he was singing his aria at the end of Tosca Act 1. He slapped it away and didn’t miss a note. They captured the bat and tested it for rabies.