British author and journalist Frank Johnson died on December 18, 2006 at age sixty-three after a seven-year fight with cancer.
Johnson attended the now-infamous Sunday night performance of Zeffirelli's Aida at Teatro alla Scala, where Alagna was booed-off the stage; after the performance, he filed his story, and checked-into the hospital where he passed away a few days later.
The Telegraph recently ran an article that highlighted Johnson's career. Johnson leaves a wealth of anecdotes, including this gem about his unique experience with Maria Callas and her bust of steel:
"At the age of 14 Frank appeared on stage at Covent Garden in Norma alongside Maria Callas. Children's parts at the Royal Opera House were taken by pupils at Frank's school, and he and a classmate (Arthur) were recruited to perform as Norma's two sons. Johnson recalled the experience in a hilarious article 25 years later:"
"Arthur and I learned with some consternation that a woman was coming to Covent Garden who was known as 'Opera's Tigress'. Furthermore, she had been in a 'storm' in New York. She had got the sack for a baritone who had held a final note longer than her in a duet. The latter was untrue, as the books now make clear, but that was no good to Arthur and me at the time."
"Of the performance, Johnson went on: 'I could not forget that when Callas bore down on us with the knife, her nostrils flared; that when, dropping the knife, she repentantly clasped us to her bosom, her perfume smelt like that of an aunt who was always kissing me; and that at the first performance on February 2 there penetrated, into my left eye, the tip of the diva's right breast, which partnership remained throughout the subsequent duet with [Ebe] Stignani...there are few men who can truthfully say that their eye made contact with the right nipple of Maria Callas.'"