Joyce DiDonato's Haydn In The Dark

Mar 13, 2012
Originally published on March 13, 2012 1:06 pm

We're talking about onstage mishaps this week. Not long after breaking her leg (and singing right through it!) mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato suffered another theatrical calamity.

My debut at the Edinburgh Festival in 2009 was a big deal. It was the first time I was appearing on stage since "the accident" at the Royal Opera House seven weeks earlier. I was thrilled to be free of any walking devices and was happily sporting, honest to goodness, my new pair of MBTs underneath my long ball gown. Surely I wasn't the first diva in history to go so sporty, but how I loved my new-found comfort.

Aside from the limb issues, I was thrilled to be making my debut with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Let there be light, right?

Not so fast in Edinburgh's newly refurbished Usher Hall. I strode out on stage — well, I suppose I was gliding in those rocker-bottom shoes, and the mood of the impending Scena di Berenice, by Haydn, was consuming me. I was poised to pronounce my character's suicidal desires to all the world. Not 15 seconds into the heated declaration, the lights flickered and promptly extinguished themselves.

The valiant conductor, Sir Roger Norrington, and the brave souls of the OAE attempted to continue, but as the lights dimmed, so did the ability to read any of the notes. A small groan emitted from the eager audience, and after a few agonizing seconds, we all exited the stage, assuming workers would fix the problem.

Which they promptly did. But it didn't last long.

For no sooner had we launched back into the fiery world of Haydn's dramatic recitative than we found ourselves once again thrust into darkness. It was uncanny to say the least.

The third time, sadly, was not the charm, as we were cast into darkness yet again. The scampering workers finally pumped up the highly unflattering emergency lights, allowing the musicians to barely read their notes and bring Berenice to her sad fate.

I still get curious questions about how I managed to keep my composure and still deliver a "compelling" performance. Well, considering that I had survived a broken leg a few weeks earlier while onstage at Covent Garden, this was a fitting conclusion to my summer of the "show must go on." I'm rather certain it will now take more than a failing circuit breaker to bring me down.

Have your own stories about onstage mishaps? Share them in the comments section.

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