Scarpia is booed at Covent Garden

Scarpia is booed at Covent Garden


norman lebrecht

December 12, 2021

We hear there were resounding boos last night at the Royal Opera House for a weak, second-cast Scarpia (whom we won’t name). Boos for a particular singer are rare at RH, but this Tosca run is turning out very rocky.

Bryan Hymel was replaced last night as Cavaradossi by Riccardo Massi. He may, or may not, return.

Elena Stikhina holds the fort in the title role.

This is turning out to be something less than a happy Christmas treat.


  • Whimbrel says:

    Weak or not, I’ve never liked booing singers, who are putting themselves out there and doing their best. It’s just mean.

    • Trouble Maker says:

      I’ve tried not to Boo singers – because they are not the Leaders, but my God, I’ve booed some conductors. Leadership, decision making, and example setting is THEIR JOB – that’s what conducting really is, both musically and artistically, and personally, and when that fails, then I’m afraid I have no mercy.

      Personally satisfied to have heckled “Arse-Hole Emeritus” John Eliot Gardiner after he excoriated a young student trumpet player at a student orchestral event at LSO St. Luke’s. The young lad still had spots, and was trying his best, but maestro couldn’t leave it, or indeed wait until the interval to speak to him privately. Wonder how much paying work he’s had in the last two years? There’s always a bright side to every cloud…….

  • V.Lind says:

    De Tomasso stepped in to replace Hymel in the middle of the opening night and received raves. Stikhina has also had great reviews. Two out of three ain’t bad if the company is being cursed by first cast misfortunes. Pity about the cover Scarpia — the first cast singer, Markov, was apparently also good. Doesn’t sound all that much of a disaster, all round.

  • Siegfried says:

    Were the boos for the baritone’s singing and acting or were they this juvenile and pathetic practice of booing the baddie? I feel embarrassed to be in an audience when the latter happens.

    • Sceptic says:

      I agree, I think it was more likely pantomime booing, which I agree is pathetic, rather than booing the artist or the voice, which let’s face it an English audience has neither the knowledge or the gumption to engage in. No insider info here, just a gut feeling!

    • John Borstlap says:

      But this Scarpia is a true baddy, he wanted to rape the soprano! When I have to sit through that opera I always boo the scoundrel, it’s impertinent to come to life again after he’s stabbed and thanking at the curtain for driving that poor woman mad and to her death.
      I don’t understand opera at all, first they want you to believe the unbelievable and then suddenly to know it was not real at all. I makes me confused all the time.


  • IP says:

    The old sadist wrote in Scarpia one of his most wonderful endless melodies, which should be executed carefully and musically by a good Italian baritone (the actual nationality does not matter of course). Critics and other incompetent people talk a lot of nonsense about “stage animals”, which poisons both the efforts of the singers and the expectations of the audiences. I have heard a very famous “stage animal” deliver a disappointing, underpowered Scarpia because he would speak the carefully considered portamenti rather than sing them, and that is always a bad idea. Of course, I don’t know what happened at the RCO, and whether the fault was with the singer, the audience expectations, or both. If it was Claudio Sgura, I don’t know much about him, but a semi-stage Pagliacci on youtube shows him easily the best of the cast.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    Those who boo should be expelled from the theater and kicked up their ignorant asses.

  • IC225 says:

    I suspect this is a non-story. British opera audiences routinely boo the singer playing the villain when they take their curtain call. Often dismissed as “pantomime booing” by the uninformed (and sometimes misunderstood by overseas performers with limited experience of British theatrical culture), it’s a tradition going back at least as far as Garrick, and is a compliment to the singer – it demonstrates how completely the audience has been convinced by and immersed in their performance.

  • gimel says:

    No booing allowed unless opera is a national sport in your country, and while it undoubtedly IS in Italy, it undoubtedly is NOT in England, especially for an opera that is not even an English opera for an English to feel particularly possessive about.

  • Astrid says:

    I was actually yesterday at ROH fully enjoying Tosca. Performance was great and Scarpia didn’t disappoint at all. This mini article is an absolute nonsense.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    If we’re talking about Claudio Sgura I imagine it would have been pantomime booing.

  • Maria says:

    Booing in Britain and so often by foreigners, and by people who have never ever even sang in the bath, is just SO downright bad mannered and says more about them. Singers are not robots.

    • John Borstlap says:

      On the rare occasions that I’m in a good mood while working and hum a tune, it is my PA who boo’s me. And indeed it is very humiliating.

  • Harpist says:

    I rarely if ever boo in concerts or opera, I rather leave early without applauding.

    But I remember one “Entfuehrung” years back at the MET under Volpe, I think Levine was conducting. The soprano who sang Konstanze could only reach her high notes by screaming her lungs out. Rest of cast was too good to leave (Kurt Moll!) but she got no applause and boos from me (and others). It was painful. Totally miscast.

  • ROH Visitor says:

    I was there and this was for sure pantomime style booing – certainly not for the singer. Performance was excellent

  • Sam Lee says:

    I am a musician. We are not robots. Nor do you want us to be. Anyone who boo’s a musician shows themselves as a hateful and despicable human being. The negative reflection is NOT on the musician, but on the one booing.

  • David Barneby says:

    Something has got to be terribly bad to boo a performer, I think it very uncouth. Of late some directors try to put crude interpretation of Scarpia. It is difficult to match Tito Gobbi in the role.