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Show-Stopping Aria Encored at the Met
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Show-Stopping Aria Encored at the Met
Show-Stopping Aria Encored at the Met
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From NPR News this ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert SIEGEL.

Mr. JUAN DIEGO FLOREZ (Tenor, La Fille du Regiment): (singing foreign song)

SIEGEL: Monday was unusual night at the opera, at New York City's Metropolitan Opera.

Mr. FLOREZ: (singing "Ah, Mes Amis")

SIEGEL: That's tenor Juan Diego Florez singing the part of Tonio in Gaetano Donizetti's "La Fille du Regiment: The Daughter of the Regiment". The Aria is "Ah, Mes Amis" and to some as a Mt. Everest for tenors because they have to scale nine high C's, including this one.

Mr. FLOREZ: (singing "Ah, Mes Amis")

(Soundbite of applause)

SIEGEL: The audience at the Met, as you can hear went wild. And then, Juan Diego Florez did something that hasn't been done at the Met in years. He sung the Aria again.

Mr. FLOREZ: (singing "Ah, Mes Amis")

SIEGEL: A solo encore at the Met.

SIEGEL: Well. Peter Gelb is the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera and he's here to answer this question, how rare was that, Juan Diego Florez singing an encore?

Mr. PETER GELB (General Manager, New York Metropolitan Opera): Well, it's a - apparently hasn't been done since 1994 when Pavarotti sang an encore of the third act aria of "Tosca." But I wasn't so much aware of the ban - official or unofficial ban - when I ask Juan Diego if he would like to sing the encore because for me it just seem like a logical thing that he might want to do if the audience gave him the kind of reception that I expected that they would give him, since he sings this aria really unlike anyone else in the world today.

SIEGEL: Yeah. There's some history here, I mean, for decades, there was a rule - sometimes written sometimes informal at the Met - no solo encores. You don't call him out to sing again.

Mr. GELB: Right. Well, that's according to the historical archives of the Met which I've since been shown after Monday night. I was advised that, in fact, in the 20's and 30's and 40's there were - there was wording in the program book in fact admonishing the audience with words saying positively no encores allowed, and sort of like no smoking signs. But for me and for the audience of the Met, I think, you know, it's very important that opera be a theatrically satisfying and thrilling experience - a musically thrilling experience. And if the audience has a great time with the singer singing an aria like this with this incredible run of nine high C's and they want to hear more of it, why not?

SIEGEL: Now, to do this requires some planning it was possible of course, that the reaction of the audience on Monday night would not be so ecstatic as to justify an encore. But you had to be prepared. You had to be talking with the conductor and all the singer to be ready for this.

Mr. GELB: Why it's - I'd knew that he had sung and encore this when he performed the work at La Scala. So, when he arrived for his rehearsals I simply asked him if he felt like singing an encore - that the Met certainly would not stand in his way, because in fact, we would like him to do it.

SIEGEL: But you were on hand and this was, you know, you were calling this like the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants up in a booth. You were deciding whether not to go the encore.

Mr. GELB: Well, of the advantage is off sitting in a box. Who - the Metropolitan opera has boxes for its patrons, and also the general manager, the position I occupy. And outside of my box, I have this phone, which has a direct extension to the stage manager. Sitting in the audience is the best place to gage your retractions. And since the audience after by 45 or 50 seconds of thunders applause seemed that the applause was not going to abate or subside, I told the stage manager to push a button on his stage manager console, which in turn triggers a light that is on the conductor's podium. And so, when the light went on he knew that it was okay to do it, providing of course, that Juan Diego wanted to do it. And he and Juan Diego exchanged glances and the encored happened to that point.

SIEGEL: Well, now that the precedent has been established and now that your time limit has been established somewhere in 45, 50 seconds or more. Do you face this with every performance at the Met - that if the audience is clambering for an encore, then every tenor and every soprano should do with Juan Diego Florez?

Mr. GELB: Well, you know, we should only have that problem, where audience is so static with the performance that they demand encores. I think, you know, realistically I think every situation has to be judge on its own merits. This particular aria is an aria that is calling out to be encored. I think when Donizetti wrote it he must to written it with an encore possibility in mind, because it really is like running the marathon and wining the gold medal for any tenor who can accomplished it.

More often to not, "La Fille du Regiment" is known really as a vehicle for vocal acrobatics. Other operas, you know, which are more theatrically integrated have great musical passages but ones that probably would feel less natural or appropriate to encore, and I think that's probably what those are early warnings in the Met programs were about. Because what you don't want to do, and I certainly don't want to do, is disrupt the dramatic flow or momentum of a work.

SIEGEL: This opera's going to performed on Saturday, on the radio no less, and also it's being send to - this is one of your performances that goes to movie theaters as well, yes.

Mr. GELB: Yes, we have over a 100,000 people have already bought tickets to movie theaters in 17 countries and will be seeing it live across United States, Canada and in Europe.

SIEGEL: Of course, they can applaud all they like, it won't affect the performance at the Met on stage.

Mr. GELB: Well, audience in the movie theaters do applaud and they feel very much connected to the Met because they know it is a live feed that they're experiencing. I don't know what will happen on Saturday, but certainly if the audience in the opera house itself applauds as enthusiastically as they did on Monday night, I would not be surprised if an encore of the encore took place.

(Soundbite of opera music)

SIEGEL: Well, Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera. Thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. GELB: Thank you very much.

(Soundbite of opera music)

SIEGEL: And now, back to the encore of "Ah, Mes, Amis" that want to make Juan Diego Florez sang on Monday night, let's see if he get at those high C's again.

(Soundbite of opera music)

SIEGEL: And you can hear the complete encore by tenor Juan Diego Florez at our Web site:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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