An opera is only as good as its lead diva's/divo's health (when in doubt/duress, bring in a shock & awe director or a preening conductor), but dehydrating air travel, hotel swapping, restaurant roulette, meet & greet with touchy-feely fans, off-kilter hours and daily misting under collegial spit thrust our beloved singers into germ-ripe environments overrun by lackadaisical antibiotics. ♪ It's like raa-aaaai-ain on your wedding day ♪
Regardless of how it has affected the new generation of artists (you can ask Pappano about that), the Gheorghiu/Alagna/Villazon imprint of rewarding unpredictable artists, doctor's notes and un-punched timecards with fat contracts drafted by opera's biggest intendants (hello The Metropolitan, Vienna Staatsoper and Salzburg) has moistened the disappointed masses, stars in their eyes turned to white dwarfs, intermissions exited for scavenged dinner. Sure, the stakes and profits aren't as big as in professional sports, so what's the incentive aside from the paycheck for singing through sickness -- Pride? Integrity? Don't ask this guy. After all, aren't these the impressionable teens of the Gung Ho generation? Ok, fair enough -- it wasn't released in Romania.
We're sure it's complicated and we'd never wish for an artist to jeopardize their long-term health, so when feverish artists show up (but not dangerously-so), we're always in awe, like what happened at last week's Der Fliegende Holländer in San Francisco that bowed against all odds -- like how Gockley canned the director (Petrika Ionesco) and revised 40% of the production kit with in-house staff and how the original Senta withdrew, citing ~illness~, which hurled American soprano Lise Lindstrom towards her house debut. Who knew that opening night had brought Lindstrom to her knees with strep throat (we didn't but they wrote about it here)? At the end of the pre-production nightmare (Mercury's in retrograde, right?) for Wagner's short-but-hairpin-curve opera, Lindstrom and Greer Grimsely in the title role both elicited favorable reviews, despite the improvised staging.