Italian tenor makes Met Opera debut with 5 minutes notice

AP News
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Posted: Apr 23, 2016 7:10 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Francesco Anile got to make his Metropolitan Opera debut in a T-shirt, blue jeans and sneakers. With 5 minutes notice.

The 54-year-old Italian tenor was in the green room during the last act of Saturday's performance of Verdi's "Otello," which was being broadcast on radio throughout the world, when he was told by a stage director that Latvian tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko was sick and unable to sing the title role in the fourth act.

There was no time to get in costume for Otello's entrance ahead of the final scene, so Anile put on a black cape and stood on the edge of stage right above the orchestra pit while Antonenko acted the role and mouthed the words.

"No time to change. No time for anything," Anile said.

Otello strangles his wife, Desdemona, during the 13-minute scene and sings the aria "Niun mi tema (Let no one fear me)" before stabbing himself to death.

Antonenko had difficulty with high notes and projecting with volume throughout the performance, and the problem got worse during the third act.

Anile, from the Reggio Calabria area of Italy, had walked through the staging, which premiered last September, and rehearsed with conductor Adam Fisher but had never sung a Met performance.

"When I started to sing, maestro was surprised," Anile said.

Then he could see the conductor nod that he understood what was going on.

An announcement was made to the audience after the final curtain that this had been Anile's debut, and he joined soprano Hibla Gerzmava, baritone Zeljko Lucic and the rest of the cast for the curtain calls.

"For me, it was the biggest surprise," he said.