A few interesting facts re: this Don Carlo drama before bedtime (it's almost dawn here, seriously: too late for champagne, too early for cappuccino, might as well go to bed).
- The freshly-demoted Giuseppe Filianoti was present at Scala tonight, not on stage obviously but in a third-level box (together with other friends/relatives of cast members, among them his replacement Stuart Neill's girlfriend). He left after Act I.
- The boos -- over here, a whistle is never just that, there must be like a whole conspiracy behind it or the Italians just don't have as much fun -- ruined what had been hyped as the first Dec 7th Opening Night conducted by the frequent guest conductor whom most observers consider the front runner to get, eventually, one day in a not so distant future, the coveted job of Music Director of la Scala (as we mentioned earlier, a post previously held, these last 75 years, by Serafin, de Sabata, Toscanini, Giulini, Cantelli, Abbado, Muti).
- Scala GM Lissner came out clearly, right after the show, with unusually undiplomatic words: "The boos? Clearly the payback for the Filianoti situation, in the opera house it is well known". Meaning that it was an organized protest to undermine Gatti "guilty" of having de facto fired Filianoti, even if technically the tenor's still under contract, but his schedule has been reshuffled with Stuart Neill's -- now Filianoti is demoted to second cast (the smart money says he won't appear in any shows with the second cast, leaving open the question, and the additional drama, of who will be hired on such short notice to complete the run as Don Carlo with the second cast).
The conspiracy theory that supposes Filianoti somehow orchestrated an anti-Gatti riot by egging dozens of spectators on, convincing them to boo, etc, is made less easy to believe by the fact that booing and whistling were quite widespread -- not massive but certainly not the work of a few hit men.
It also remains to be seen how would someone like Filianoti, a singer only occasionally present here and not exactly the most powerful man in the Italian opera business, would manage to infiltrate so many accomplices in the theater on a night when tickets are incredibly scarce, monstrously expensive, by and large given out to sponsors and VIPs, and even cast members get just a few tickets -- in some cases just one ticket! -- for friends and family to the Sant'Ambrogio opening night. Again, it's not impossible to fill the stalls with a personal claque, obviously -- not impossible but very complicated on Dec 7th of all nights.
An alternative hypothesis if you're conspiracy-minded is that a spontaneous movement of spectators moved by Filianoti's plight chose to boo Gatti in unison without having been somehow influenced by the singer or his entourage. Impossible? No. Very Likely? Bah.
If this conspiracy theory were true it would obviously leave the management and Gatti off the hook, erasing the painful fact that la Scala, in the post-Muti era, has had four Dec 7th opening nights -- Idomeneo/Bondy/Harding in '05, Aida/Zeffirelli/Chailly in '06, Tristan Und Isolde/Chereau/Barenboim in '07 and Don Carlo/Braunschweig/Gatti -- and this Don Carlo is by far the one that got booed the most -- even the Zeffirelli Aida, the one with Alagna (before he fled on the second night he regularly performed on Dec 7), didn't get as many catcalls, except for Alagna. Only Gatti, very likely the future Music Director -- if and when GM Lissner decides to give up some of his considerable power by sharing command of the place -- got such a bad reaction. Again, Opera Chic herself liked his work. But she can see why people would honestly find his conducting too uneven -- those speed changes -- and his vision of the score too unorthodox (the last two conductors who led Don Carlo here were Abbado in the 1970s and Muti in the 1990s, and both gave a much more even and conservative reading of the score).
Gatti -- whom Opera Chic personally liked and applauded heartily, as you can read in the post below -- is not the only one who got booed tonight, but on curtain call a nice chunk of the cast got hit by whistles and boos, too (not Zajick, OK); director Braunschweig and his team got a pretty good share of whipping, too.
Now the question is, did tne director -- whom Filianoti praised in his post-demotion interviews with two newspapers -- get booed also as "payback" by Filianoti loyalists? By Gatti enemies? Really? The costume design lady, too? Sets? What about the seriously underperforming Grande Inquisitore, were the boos he had to endure at curtain call an act of payback to hit Gatti and sink the prima?
It's Opera Chic's right as an American to find all this drama here both entertaining and appalling.
Maybe the Scala management is right, maybe this all happened because Gatti was a marked man, and people wanted to damage his profile and reputation to undermine him.
Maybe, his reading of the score was just too unpalatable for many (on this point OC disagrees) and the singing was substandard for such a big night (here OC agrees) and the staging really was just too drab and didn't really make any dramatic sense.
This analysis -- for full disclosure, as you can read in these last two days posts on this blog -- comes from someone who's really not a partisan here, from someone who would not have hired Filianoti in the first place, who thinks Filianoti has been treated very shabbily and in a manner unbecoming a world class opera house, from someone who generally likes Gatti and liked his work with the orchestra (not with the singers) tonight, and who thinks Braunschweig's work as director of Don Carlo was just dry, unfocused, and essentially forgettable.
Lots more on this Don Carlo with lots of pictures, reviews, conspiracy theories, and the usual in depth Opera Chic coverage tomorrow.