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 and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders