Half-way through his rehearsal for the biggest opera event in Britain this year, Luciano Pavarotti made one of his more dramatic and unexpected exits.
With photographers lining the stalls, and the conductor and orchestra ready to begin the second act of Verdi's A Masked Ball, the Italian tenor announced that he was leaving, donned his scarf and hat and summoned his limousine.
With all the seats for tomorrow's production of A Masked Ball sold, and with Pavarotti's fans paying an unprecedented £250 for a top price ticket, it was an exit that the management of Covent Garden shuddered to see.
It also came as a surprise to the international press and television journalists who were on their way to a press conference to meet the world's most illustrious singer.
But the world's most illustrious singer had other ideas, leaving the Opera House just before lunchtime because he needed to rest his voice.
It was not the first change to advertised plans at Covent Garden that Pavarotti's visit has caused this week.
On Monday night the Royal Ballet's performance of Romeo and Juliet started a full 30 minutes late because Pavarotti's rehearsal that day had overrun.
Photographers at yesterday's rehearsal said the tenor looked a little unwell and his face appeared thinner than usual.
A Royal Opera House spokeswoman said the singer had suffered a bout of bronchitis recently and was keen to protect his voice. "He will definitely be singing tomorrow," she said. "He is in fine fettle. He is just being cautious. He cut the rehearsal short to save his voice."Reuse content