At a day's notice, and with no rehearsal, Roberto Alagna has stood in for an ailing tenor to sing Aida – 10 months after he stormed off an Italian stage when he was booed in the same role.
The incident at Milan's La Scala last December triggered a worldwide uproar. On Tuesday night at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Alagna got a standing ovation.
The 44-year-old French-born son of a Sicilian bricklayer was filling in for the tenor Marco Berti, who fell ill on Monday. When the call came from the Met's general manager Peter Gelb, Alagna said: "I took it as a sign from God."
"Tonight, I have finally put away the ghosts of Milan that have haunted me," he said in a midnight interview. "It was a betrayal at La Scala! They closed the door on me, they abandoned me. And my blood is Sicilian."
His wife, the Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu, was at the Met to support him for his return. She was fired last month by the Lyric Opera of Chicago after missing rehearsals for La Bohème to be with her husband in New York, where he replaced another sick tenor in Gounod's Romeo et Juliette. "It was terrible. She just came to be with me here... and she's sung La Bohème so many times – she knows it so well," said Alagna.
It is all par for the course in the lives of opera's "power couple". "We are not 'Bonnie and Clyde," Alagna protested. "I am singing for love, for the people."
On Tuesday, Alagna's strong voice in Aida clearly enraptured the more than 3,000 spectators. Many seemed to be holding their breaths as he approached the high note at the end of Radames' first aria, "Celeste Aida", hitting the final high B-flat dead on.
On that note last December at La Scala he heard boos and hisses from a few spectators, prompting him to walk off the stage. Alagna explained: "I'm a Sicilian, I'm a bit hot-blooded."Reuse content