Top conductor questions opera singers' commitment

Wed Mar 13, 2013 10:19am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - One of the world's leading opera conductors, Antonio Pappano, on Wednesday criticized singers for pulling out of productions too easily, saying at times this was due to illness but at others simply due to a lack of commitment.

The outspoken comments, sure to cause a stir in the operatic world of huge professional pressures and fragile egos, came at a press briefing to outline the upcoming season at the Royal Opera House in London, where British-born Pappano is music director.

Covent Garden, home to the globally renowned Royal Opera and Royal Ballet companies, has suffered a series of cast changes in recent years, some of them at the last minute.

Among the most dramatic was the decision less than a week before curtains went up in December to replace American soprano Jennifer Rowley in the rarely-performed Meyerbeer epic "Robert le Diable" due to a "musical problem".

Since then German soprano Anja Harteros has pulled out of the role of Elizabeth of Valois in "Don Carlo" in May because she was "not able at this point to stay abroad for an extended period of time as originally planned", according to a statement.

Pappano did not mention names, and defended the opera house's decision to stage "Robert le Diable", but did not hold back in voicing his opinion of some of today's top opera stars.

"It happens a lot," he told reporters, referring to cancellations. "It happens more and more. There's something about this generation of singers, that they are weaker in their bodies or don't care.

"I don't know what it is, but it's something that is very very frustrating for me personally."   Continued...

Royal Opera House Music Director, Antonio Pappano, poses with his Knighthood after being knighted by Britain's Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace in London May 15, 2012. REUTERS/Sean Dempsey/pool