Diva's song of sorrow over missing night

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The Independent Online
Memory, as someone once pointed out, is the thing that you forget with. After forgetting to turn up to sing at the Glyndebourne Festival, the promising mezzo soprano Sarah Connolly yesterday said she was sorry.

On Monday night Miss Connolly, 32, should have been at the renowned opera festival to sing the role of Madam Larena in Tchaikovsky's Yevgeny Onegin. Instead she was at her home in west London playing the part, of well, herself.

She had put the wrong date in her diary. The performance was delayed as organisers at the Sussex Downs opera house contacted her understudy, Clarissa Meek, who lives seven miles away. This was complicated because Miss Meek did not at first hear her telephone ringing because she was up a ladder painting the outside of her house. The performance eventually began 35 minutes late, with Miss Meek in the role.

The presence in the audience of Bob Horton, the chairman of Railtrack, might have helped British Rail make the decision to hold the last London train for opera buffs later returning to London.

Yesterday Miss Connolly's agent, Allan Beavis, said "She is very sorry and was very distressed about the whole thing. She has spoken to Glyndebourne and they have been very gracious. She is going to be back for the rest of the run." The next performance is tomorrow, and the run continues until August.

As she looks back on the incident, Miss Connolly might take heart from two sources. The American playwright Eugene O'Neil once wrote what "beastly incidents our memories insist on cherishing . . . the beautiful things we keep diaries to remember". Having got the performance date wrong, it is unlikely the young diva will forget the consequences of her mistake.

She might also smile, knowing she is not the first to make such an error. On 9 March, 1778, the actor Samuel Reddish was due to play Alonzo in a public performance. He forgot to turn up and the part had to be read by another actor. After the incident the bold Reddish went on stage and apologised. He added to this by issuing an affidavit which confirmed he suffered from forgetfulness. Unfortunately there is no happy end in the Reddish tale; he died in an asylum for the insane.

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