May 18, 2024

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The show continues at Met Opera after a technical error

The show continues at Met Opera after a technical error

The Metropolitan Opera's production of Puccini's “Turandot” is one of the most lavish and complex productions in the company's repertoire, a spectacle that includes an imperial palace, a sparkling throne room and expansive gardens.

But on Wednesday evening, audiences had to do without the usual visual delights of opera. Overcrowding in the Met's main backstage elevator forced the company to put on a semi-staged version at the last minute, with the actors and chorus singing from an improvised group instead.

Peter Gelb, the Met's general director, came on stage before the show to explain the situation.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry to say that this will not be an ordinary night at the opera,” he said. “Even though our scene won't be running, the show will go on.”

After crews worked through the night, the congestion was resolved, although there was some damage to the tracks backstage that the Metropolitan was still repairing Thursday morning. Thursday night's performance of Verdi's “La Forza del Destino” was expected to go ahead as usual.

On Wednesday, members of the public were offered a refund if they wished to leave, and around 150 people did so, the Metropolitan Police said. But most of them still applauded warmly when the orchestra's conductor, Oksana Lenev, entered the pit. (The Metropolitan Museum, which has about 3,800 seats, said paid attendance for the show was about 80 percent of capacity before the issue was announced.)

Gelb said in an interview that the machines broke down around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, while the Metropolitan Museum was changing the set for “Turandot” after a rehearsal of Puccini’s “La Rondine,” which opens next week. Crew members attempted to use saws to cut the steel bars to free the elevator, but their efforts were unsuccessful.

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By about 6:30 p.m., one hour before the show was to start, Gelb had a decision to make: cancel the show, or go ahead with an abbreviated version. He said he was reluctant to turn away fans.

“Everyone came together,” he added.

The Metropolitan Museum used a piece of scene from the second act of “Turandot” — a wall in the Imperial Palace — as a backdrop, to provide some color. Action was limited to approximately the first 20 feet of the stage.

Gelb tried to encourage the singers by telling them that their music would be more powerful, telling tenor Sukjong Baek that when he sang the famous song “Nessun Dorma”, “it would be much closer to the audience.”

To show his gratitude to the audience, Pike sang a rare reprise of that song. The Met was unable to drop gold confetti onto the stage at the end of the opera due to overcrowding, so instead they shot it from the balconies above the audience.

Technical mishaps rarely halted productions at the Met. In 1966, when the Lincoln Center house opened, the turntable broke down during a rehearsal of Barber's “Antony and Cleopatra.” Soprano Leontyne Price narrowly escaped falling into the pyramid above it. In 2011, Wagner performed “Die Walküre”. delay For 45 minutes due to a technical problem with the 45-ton set.