David Lister: Covent Garden does the decent thing

Share
Related Topics

It was the one cast change that the Royal Opera didn't want to happen.

The tenor who was to star next week in Handel's Tamerlano was taken ill with abdominal pain, and will have to have surgery. When that tenor is Placido Domingo, it's bad news not just for him but for the thousands of ticket buyers who had queued, and besieged the box office by phone, for a chance to see the world's most famous living opera singer in action.

These things happen; in fact they happen quite a lot at Covent Garden, where singers seem to drop out quite regularly. But in this case, something highly unusual also happened. Announcing that leading American tenor Kurt Streit will step into Domingo's shoes, the ROH said in a statement: "Although it is not customary Royal Opera House policy, in recognition of the withdrawal of such an exceptional artist in a rarely performed opera, we will be contacting all ticket holders with details of a 20 per cent credit note."

It certainly is not customary. The response of opera houses and theatres to disgruntled audiences deprived of seeing their favourite star is that accidents happen, understudies and replacements are carefully selected and they are "a company". One books, apparently, to see a company, never an individual star.

But as the Royal Opera House rightly admits, the reality is that sometimes one does book to see a star, and with many stars, Domingo for example, no replacement can be in quite the same league or have quite the same cachet.

So, one must applaud the Royal Opera House for doing the right thing, or at least 20 per cent of the right thing. Having acknowledged that a refund is due to people who booked for Domingo, it seems odd and illogical that it should be for only a fifth of the ticket price. Audiences should surely be offered a complete refund as they are not getting what they booked for.

But that aside, I'm more interested in the breaking of custom and offering any sort of refund. For, while Domingo is a megastar, he is not unique in that regard. Over at Kingston upon Thames, Dame Judi Dench is starring in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and let's be honest, for all that it is a first-class production by Sir Peter Hall with a fine cast, Dame Judi is the chief attraction. If she were to fall ill, would audiences be offered their money back?

The same goes for Mark Rylance in Jerusalem. What understudy could compare with one of the greatest actors of his generation? Even Keira Knightley in The Misanthrope will have brought in a new, young audience to the West End, who would be peeved to find she was ill and they were getting no refund.

I suspect that producers of these and other shows won't be best pleased with the Royal Opera House for breaking with precedent and acknowledging that many people book for big names as much as for the works they are in. They book for Domingo rather than a rarely performed Handel.

The Royal Opera House has done audiences everywhere a favour in acknowledging this fact, or giving it a 20 per cent acknowledgement. But where does that leave the rest of the performing arts? Next time I find a star is "off" I will plead the Domingo ruling and ask for my money back. The precedent has been set. And it's a fair and correct one for audiences.

Nice ride, shame about the gig

The "Houston, we have a problem" headlines were out in force this week, when Whitney Houston, above, gave a dire performance in Australia. People walked out and demanded refunds as the singer reportedly appeared breathless and exhausted, and is said to have looked disoriented. But if her own performance was lacking, one must applaud the creativity of her tour's promoter, Andrew McManus. He said: "I am personally amazed at the few who are trying to derail the project... if they expected to hear Whitney of 20 years ago, go buy a CD, but if they wanted to see a true professional artist give 100 per cent and have a red-hot go at songs that make the greatest vocalists shrink, well come along and enjoy the ride of an amazing talent, on stage, letting her heart and soul out for us all to enjoy."

So, there you have it. If you want to hear the songs done properly, listen to the CD. If you want to enjoy the ride of a performer having a red-hot go, see the live performance. It's a novel approach to defending an off-form artist and avoiding refunds, but full marks for originality.

Alice and the misleading movie title

When it comes to a film, what's in a title? The new Alice in Wonderland, which had its world premiere in London on Thursday, is another tour de force by director Tim Burton, with a great performance from Mrs Burton, Helena Bonham Carter, below, as the Red Queen. With Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and 3D glasses for cinema-goers, the film has a lot going for it. But what it most definitely is not is Alice in Wonderland.

The plot is about a grown-up Alice returning to Wonderland and encountering some of the characters from the original story. So why did Burton not call it Alice's Return to Wonderland? Could it be that such a title might have attracted slightly fewer viewers?

The film's the thing, but I still feel it slightly disingenuous to bring in family audiences expecting to see a much-loved story on screen, only to find that they will be seeing something altogether different.

What's in a title? Quite a lot.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference