06 May 2005


It could happen to you!

Talk about a dramatic exit.

Midway through the third act of Verdi's Aida Sunday at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, soprano Marquita Lister suddenly quit singing and walked off stage.

The opera stopped, the curtain dropped, and 2,500 people in the audience sat stunned.

Lister - starring as the Ethiopian slave Aida - inhaled something, although nobody knows just what. Thousands of pieces of decorative confetti floated down from above during the three-hour production, and one could have lodged in her throat.

'She said it felt like a hairball,' said Judith Lisi, president of the center. 'She couldn't sing, and had to walk off. She was trying to gargle it up, but couldn't move it.'
Hairball or not, the opera must go on [Tampa Tribune]

No, Sieglinde wasn't there, but should have been, because she's an expert on both hairballs and confetti. (Tragic, she misses yet another freak show.)

This unfortunate accident highlights the disproportionate risks involved in "live" events. (Just ask any American Idol groupie or Carol Vaness fan.) Indeed, the unexpected could happen anywhere. At any opera house. Large or small.

Here's a list, compiled by Sieglinde's mole (planted among the Met's production crew and stagehands), of very likely scenarios for interruptions resulting from artists accidentally engulfing foreign objects during our favorite shows at the Met:

1. During a Salome, in the heat of the Dance of the Seven Veils, Maestro Valery Gergiev swings his arms up and down and out of control (typical), and accidentally swallows the toothpick that he uses in place of a baton. (Opera stops cold; soprano stands butt-naked on stage for three full minutes while terrified stagehands, all busy checking her out moments before the swallowing happened, scramble to lower the curtain.)

2. In the same Salome production (but a few short years from now), look-at-me-I'm-thin-as-Karita Deborah Voigt, during the now infamous Dance of the Seven Veils, accidentally swallows the sixth veil, filling up her now shrunken stomach and exploding it all over the stage, pit, and the first four rows of the orchestra. (Never mind the seventh veil.)

3. In a Tosca, Oceanliner Maria Guleghina accidentally swallows Samuel Ramey, the Scarpia, in a classic Act II tussle on the floor. (Ever intrepid, our trooper diva sings for both, up to the act's end; in other news, Ramey "retires" prematurely--finally.)

4. In most any opera, La Portaméenta Renée Fleming accidentally swallows a deliciously buttery floated high D-flat, which she released a few seconds before, but has found its way back onto the stage after touring her most ardent (but cheap) fanatics at the family circle standing room and side boxes. (Sieglinde is told in a vision that the ghost of the high D-flat will linger around the men's room up at the balcony level.)

5. During a routine Tristan und Isolde, on-the-diet-and-off-again Ben Heppner and always-off Jane Eaglen accidentally swallow one another as the tragic lovers rush towards each other prior to the bleeding love duet of Act II. (Conductor James Levine, lost in the depths of Wagner's world yet again, doesn't notice, and continues on until bitch-I-should-be-singing-the-Isolde Katarina Dalayman, the evening's overparted Brangäne, shreiks a high B upon seeing no lovers from the high parapet. Sieglinde doesn't know what she sees instead. Hairballs and confetti, not metaphysics, are what Sieglinde knows like the back of her hand.)