Entertainment

No return to Aida for scorned tenor: La Scala

Tenor Roberto Alagna broke his contract by storming off the La Scala stage mid-performance on Sunday after being booed and, despite his wish to return, will not be rejoining Franco Zeffirelli's Aida, a spokesman for the Milanese opera company said Monday.

Tenor Roberto Alagna broke his contract by storming off the La Scala stage mid-performance on Sunday after being booed and, despite his wish to return, will not be rejoining Franco Zeffirelli's Aida, a spokesman for the Milanese opera companysaid Monday.

"It's been brought to our attention Roberto Alagna's intention to return to La Scala for the next performance," spokesman Carlo Maria Cella said.

"His behaviour has created a rift between the artist and the audience, and there is no possibility of repairing this relationship."

Cella added that because Alagna had technically broken a contract by voluntarily leaving a production, La Scala's lawyers will be looking at the appropriate action to take.

The opera, one of the European arts community's most anticipated cultural events of the season, went awry Sunday when Alagna's performance was met by boos and whistling from the audience. It was only the second performance of Zeffirelli's latest retelling of the popular Giuseppe Verdi opera.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Alagna seemed unaware that he had been dumped from Aida. He said he was still planning to continue in the remaining performances.

"I finished without the slightest error and from the balconies came a 'bravo!' and right after that boos and whistles," the tenor said.

"So I obeyed the audience that demonstrated that it did not want me."

Opera boss scolds audience, tenor

La Scala general manager Stephane Lissner had released an earlier statement that rebuked both the audience and Alagna.

Lissner criticized the incident as "an obvious lack of respect to the public and the theatre," but added that "I have always maintained that artists are at the centre of a theatrical project and we are here to support them, to guarantee the best conditions for them so that they can do their jobs."

Thursday night's opening of Zeffirelli's Aida was a much-anticipated event, with Italian Premier Romano Prodi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in attendance, along with a host of prominent figures from the political, cultural and financial spheres.

Mixed reviews

The audience applauded for more than 15 minutes after the final curtain fell, standing to cheer Zeffirelli, conductor Riccardo Chailly and a cast led by Lithuanian mezzo-soprano Violeta Urmana in the title role and Alagna as Radames.

Alagna's performance, though, received mixed reviews from critics.

Sunday'sshowing ran into trouble just minutes in. Alagna— who was born in Franceto Italian parents—got off to a "nervous start," according to La Repubblica. Witnesses said the audience erupted in boos and whistles as he began singing the big aria Celeste Aida.

Alagna stopped, looked at the public, then walked off, according to Italian news reports. Understudy Antonello Palombi, still in jeans and without a vocal warm-up, rushed out.

"They literally took me and threw me on stage,"Palombi told Italian news agency Ansa after the show. "It was a good test and I passed it."

Lissner apologized to the audience before the opening of the third act.

'Aida of Aidas'

"In many years at La Scala I had never seen anything like what happened tonight," conductor Chailly told reporters after the performance.

The nextshowing was scheduled for Tuesday night.

Aida tells the story of an Ethiopian princess captured and brought into slavery in Egypt. A military commander, Radames, is torn between his love for her and his loyalty to the Pharaoh and in the end is willingly buried alive with Aida.

Calling it the "Aida of Aidas," Zeffirelli has not been shy about hyping his fifth production of the grandiose opera.

The famed director— popularly known for his Oscar-winning 1968 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and the 1977 television mini-series Jesus of Nazareth— has promised his latest version of Aida will go down in the history of the revered La Scala, where it made its Italian debut in 1872.

The public seemed to agree. Though tickets were priced at up to €2,000 (about $3,035 Cdn), all 11 showings sold out within 24 hours.

With files from the Associated Press