Vienna Opera puts Figaro on TV without Susanna

Vienna Opera puts Figaro on TV without Susanna


norman lebrecht

March 17, 2023

Tonight the new Nozze di Figaro production will be broadcast on TV (ORF and Arte) from the Vienna State Opera.

According to Director Roscic, Ying Fang – Susanna – was diagnosed at lunchtime last Saturday with a vocal cord haemorrhage.Another Susanna sang in the orchestra pit and Ms. Fang just acted it out on stage. Everyone understood this was an emergency solution.

But tonight is the fourth performance of the series and they still haven’t replaced the mute Ms Fang. An emergency procedure has become routine, just as it has at covent Garden.


  • Matthias says:

    More like with two Susannas.

  • Nick2 says:

    One wonders how many sopranos with Susanna in their repertoire are to be found all over Europe and available at short notice? I am sure quite a few. And how many I again wonder were actually contacted. Very few if any I expect. This business of major companies not covering major roles is becoming a very unwelcome disease.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      Seriously? . . . You think that those in charge of the Wiener Staatsoper sit around and think, “you know, I’m aware that there people out there who could do this on very, very short notice, but I just feel too lazy to pick up the phone to call (or tap out a text, whatever)? Do you really think they enjoy broadcasting “Figaro” over the ORF with no Susanna?

  • Sanity says:

    A vocal cord haemorrage is NOT normal. How are singers getting themselves in this kind of situation? Madness.

    • Brian says:

      It’s easier to do than you think. If you’ve ever choked on something and then had a coughing fit, you understand how it can happen. (And, of course, bad singing technique can cause it.)

    • Voice of Reason says:

      Comments like this help no one and only propagate misconceptions across an already delicate sector, so I feel I must offer a more balanced view on this:

      Firstly, it’s clear Ms Fang’s medical confidentially has been breached by this report of a ‘haemorrhage’. It’s particularly unfortunate in a public forum where the nuanced medical context is not widely understood. The medical term may be ‘correct’, but for laypeople, the word “haemorrhage” brings to mind gory images of gushing blood and gross bodily harm. A less dramatic and more accurate description in singers is usually that a small blood vessel has leaked into the vocal cords tissue. This is much more common amongst professional voice users than you would think.

      Let’s remember that human vocal folds are tiny (c. 1.25-1.75cm long in women.) Medical examination requires functional movement viewed under microscope with strobe lighting (called stroboscopy). It is surprisingly common, especially in women, for tiny blood vessels or spots (varices) to be visible on the vocal folds when viewed under microscope. These blood vessels are usually harmless, and can vary in size and sensitivity as hormones fluctuate within a normal menstrual cycle. Opera singers are some of most disciplined and diligent voice users in our society, and despite a life dedicated to training (and excellent technique in the case of Ms Yang), occasionally a tiny blood vessel might be pushed beyond its normal load, resulting in a small bleed within the vocal fold tissue. This could happen when a premiere falls on the first day of the singer’s period, when a virus has them up all night coughing, or when they’ve given more emotion than usual in a difficult scene during back-to-back orchestral rehearsals. It happens.

      Most ‘ordinary’ people never get their vocal cords examined under microscope, and thus the majority of vocal injuries go undiagnosed. All being well, the vessel heals and the blood is reabsorbed by the body in a matter of days. It’s exactly BECAUSE opera singers take such good care of their voices that they are more likely to find such an anomaly, and more likely to prioritise its healing at all costs. For singers, assessing illness and knowing when to cancel is one of the most difficult parts of the job. Such bravery and self-care should be supported, not scolded.

      At population level, the risk of injury in any physical venture is lessened with deliberate training, as the body grows stronger and learns to withstand higher levels of activity in a safe way. Basic sports theory = tick. However, to reverse-correlate that data and blame individual cases of injury on “poor technique” is a fundamental misunderstanding of statistics. It’s misguided at best, and antagonistic at worst.

      What’s more, it’s damaging to generations of professional singers to continually align vocal injury with “bad technique”. I’ve never heard anyone criticise Raphael Nadal for having a sore knee or rolling an ankle during a match — it comes with the territory of being a world-class athlete. Indeed, injuries are common with ballet dancers, too. The same respect should be extended to world-class opera singers. They devote every day of their lives to music and the betterment of their craft, so that thousands of people can enjoy the fruits of their labour.

      Now — the way a company RESPONDS to cast illness is a different matter. It’s open to discussion, but let’s not confuse managerial strategies with an artist’s health and long-term wellbeing. The latter is victim-blaming, and unfair to all concerned.

      I have no doubt Ms Fang will make a full vocal recovery. Moreover, I hope her healing is not hindered by unhelpful and prejudiced public comments. I hope she can focus her energy on her own long-term wellbeing, and when she’s ready, continue to share her beautiful gifts so generously with us all.

  • Larry L. Lash says:

    Maria Nazarova has been singing Susanna.

    The photo you show is from a very old production (Ponnelle?). The new show is by Barrie Kosky and has modern-day costumes and flat pastel cardboard-cutout sets mocking the era in which the opera is set.

    Roščić is slowly killing Staatsoper (just as Martin Schläpfer is killing the wonderful Staatsballett that Manul Legris put together over 10 years; in two weeks they will show a ballet from the literally excrement-smearing choreographer Marco Goecke).

    • Ragnar Danneskjoeld says:

      I think you’re wrong. The picture is from the current production by Kosky.

      • Larry L. Lash says:

        Norman updated the photo (with which I supplied him); in its first hours online, the post had a photo from a production from the distant past, different singers.

  • William Evans says:

    Best wishes to Ms Fang for a complete recovery from this potentially catastrophic injury. I hope it’s a one-off and that she is able to sing again in a couple of months without long-term effects.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    IN VIENNA????? No Susannas available within Europe? I can understand one–or even two–performances, but FOUR? Herr Roscic has a problem and it might be Herr Roscic. Yes, it is a huge failure.

  • Singeril says:

    There is no real excuse for this. MANY singers make their debuts in production at the Staatsoper on 3 days rehearsal (planned that way) or less. It doesn’t take that long for a singer, who knows the role, to adapt to any production. There are so many sopranos who could sing this role at the drop of a hat…all they would need would be a day or so of blocking rehearsals and all would be set to go. It’s ridiculous that this keeps happening.

  • arteabama says:

    A bit more detail on streaming this free:

    ARTE Opera Season
    Recorded at Wiener Staatsoper, Vienna, Austria
    Free to view
    Friday 17 March 2023 20:50 (Brxtlnd time)
    On demand from Friday 17 March 2023 20:50
    to Sunday 30 April 2023 22:59.

    ps – the photo at the top of the page is from the new Kosky production.

  • Gianni says:

    It was a great performance, and Barry Kosky’s production is superb. I particularly think his Jewish sense of humor is absolutely perfect for this opera (which should be presented as the vibrant comedy it really is, and not as a melancholic swan song or Rosenkavalier predecessor). I was sceptic before I saw it, and I was completely overwhelmed. But what a shame that Philippe Jordan will be leaving soon!

  • SartorR says:

    Does anyone know how Ying Fang is doing? She is a wonderful soprano, and her performances at the Met have been uniformly outstanding.
    Wishing her a speedy and complete recovery !!