Song and dance at opera as director Sir Antonio Pappano lays into underperforming stars

Royal Opera House chief claims current crop lack commitment

Arts Correspondent

The Royal Opera House’s music director has taken aim at the “current generation” of opera singers, questioning their commitment after a rise in cancellations and suggesting their bodies were “weaker” than their predecessors.

Sir Antonio Pappano, who has held the role at Covent Garden for over a decade, did not name individual singers, but his criticism is sure to send tremors through the opera world.

The RoH has been hit by increasing numbers of big stars pulling out of productions in the run up to first night, and the British-born conductor hit out today.

“It happens more and more. There’s something about this generation of singers who are either weaker in their bodies or just don’t care,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s something that is very frustrating for me personally. I have to conduct these guys.”

He added: “Physically the organisms are not as strong. For Domingo to cancel he would have to be on his death bed. It’s just a different generation.”

Their commitment was also taken into question, that previously “a contract was a contract. The attitude is not the same,” adding it was taken “much more lightly, the idea of a contract. The idea of a commitment.”

The outburst was sparked by a discussion of Robert le Diable, a rarely performed work that was hit by a series of problems with its stars. Tenor Juan Diego Florez was signed up to star but pulled out after a change of heart.

Patrizia Ciofi was brought in two days before first night after the institution deemed that American soprano Jennifer Rowley – herself brought in when original star Diana Damrau withdrew due to pregnancy – was not up to the job. 

Another performer, Marina Poplavskaya, originally pulled out of the same opera due to a medical condition but subsequently returned. In July she replaced Anja Harteros in Otello, who withdrew “due to personal reasons and with great regret”.

At the time Kasper Holten, the director of opera, apologised to the audience saying “I am sorry that we have had some many cancellations this season.” Harteros had also pulled out of performing Don Carlos in May and La Boheme a month earlier.  Irish soprano Celine Byrne, who replaced her, withdrew six days later due to health reasons.

Some stars have built up reputations for cancelling at short notice. “Perhaps the ROH isn’t prepared as it should be,” one industry insider said.

Sir Antonio’s comments came at the announcement of the 2013/14 seasons for the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet. 

Erica Jeal, deputy editor of Opera Magazine, said: “I can see why Pappano would be so frustrated, cancellations have been a big problem at the Royal Opera House.”

She continued: “Everyone at his level is frustrated, although it’s unusual to express it publicly, especially at a press conference.”

Sir Antonio believed the increased pressures on singers are not helping and that the “commitments of the business are bigger, the stakes are bigger”.

“A lot of people are getting sicker and sicker. It’s a problem,” he said. “There’s so much travelling involved with singer. People are overbooked, overcommitted, there are too many new things, the stress on them and the amount of PR… you can’t imagine how much non-musical activities singers have to do today.”

He called for singers to plan bigger rest periods in between shows. “I don’t mean to be down on the singers. My life is singers, I adore them. I’m there for them but the business is tough. Now they’re on cinema, the PR, they have to rehearse more. The rehearsal process is much more strenuous than it used to be in the past,” he said.

Sir Antonio will conduct Wagner’s Parsifal and Verdi opera Les Vepres siciliennes in the coming season. There will also be a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss.

The Royal Ballet will include a new production of Don Quixote created by Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta and The Winter’s Tale, created by Christopher Wheeldon.

Arts & Entertainment
TV

Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit