French stagehand is found guilty of sabotaging Tristan set

French stagehand is found guilty of sabotaging Tristan set


norman lebrecht

September 13, 2021

A court in Toulouse has found a stagehand guilty of tampering with a set in a manner that could have resulted in the lead tenor being killed by a rock weighing 200 kilos.

The stagehand, referred to as Nicolas S., denied the charges.

The court found that Nicolas had access to the computer programme which controlled the hanging rock and decided that he had interfered with it as part of an ongoing dispute with other stage staff.

There was no malice intended towards the tenor, the American Robert Dean Smith, who was unaware of the danger.

The guilty man was given an 8 months suspended jail sentence and ordered to pay 1,500 Euros for legal costs.

Report here.


  • Rob says:

    Stein und Isolde

  • V. Lind says:

    Must have been a very quick trial. €1500 wouldn’t get you a lawyer’s letter around here.

    • mary says:

      French courts are notoriously lenient in sentences and fines and even awarding attorney’s fees.

      In any other country,, the stagehand would’ve been found guilty of attempted manslaughter and sentenced to 5 years of listening to Tristan und Isolde replayed on a loop.

    • CJ says:

      To V. Lind: “Frais de justice” are not “Frais d’avocat”!

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    I see Robert Dean Smith also changed his name to avoid publicity.

  • Bostin'Symph says:

    Are suspended jail sentences reserved for misdemeanors involving hanging rocks?

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      Only if you’re having a picnic there.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      If the individual is mentality ill this can be the only reason for such a ‘punishment’. Otherwise, a nation is serious decline and headed towards decadence won’t feel the need to punish anybody. Oh, except the average person who commits fraud. Anything involving money WON’T be found any tolerance or leniency!! The higher up the tree; not so much.

  • José Bergher says:

    Immortal love can be mortal…

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    What did a huge hanging rock add to the production? (Other than a safety risk).

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Robert was unaware of the danger until he realised he was going to die if he didn’t get out of the way. He was shaken but remained calm afterwards.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Remarkable story.

    Going through the repertoire plots there are quite some physical dangers for singers if exposed to revenge exercises, apart from Tristan’s rock – its love potion, or a leaking swan boat in Lohengrin, many violent occasions in the Ring. And then, the absence of a matrass in Figaro when he jumps out of the window, like Tosca’s leap from the castle roof, and Pelléas’ interfering with his brother’s marriage, Wozzeck’s drowning, etc. etc….

  • Michael McGrath says:

    This article is SO lacking in details! Motive? 200 K rock served what purpose and WHY was it HANGING?