Anna Netrebko withdraws from the Royal Opera's Faust: If the star doesn’t turn up, why should the audience have to?

The audience should be given the chance of a refund

Share

The show must go on, but not always the star. The forthcoming production of Faust at the Royal Opera House will be without the global opera superstar Anna Netrebko, who has withdrawn from the role. These things happen, but rarely for such an odd reason as that given by Netrebko in a statement.

The Russian soprano confirmed she would no longer be playing the lead role of Marguerite, saying: “After much consideration and intensive preparation, I have come to the conclusion that the role is not right for me...

“I am very sad to be disappointing my fans and hope they will understand the difficult decision that I have had to make.”

Well, not really. We fans sort of thought that well-known roles in well-known operas were well-known by world-famous singers and did not cause surprises deep into the “intensive preparation” period. But let’s not attempt to understand the complexities of either the artistic temperament or the intensive preparation period. I’m more concerned with the simplicities for the ticket buyer. And surely the solution should be simple: if the star for whom you bought the ticket suddenly isn’t appearing, you should be given the chance of a refund.

It’s not just opera, of course (though late withdrawals seem unhealthily common in that art form). In theatre, the offer of refunds when understudies are on are rare. An honourable exception was producer Bill Kenwright a few years ago, who did offer refunds when his star Billie Piper couldn’t appear. But if he could do it, then why can’t it be common practice across the  performing arts?

One reader, Christine Godwin, emailed me after she was disappointed by the star being ill in a current West End production, with a lateral point, saying: “At what point should audiences be informed? The theatre usually has email addresses…” That’s true. At the very least, audiences could be emailed in advance if it is known that a star won’t be performing, especially if it is going to be a prolonged absence. Even better would be to use those email addresses to offer refunds.

Venues might kid themselves, all too conveniently, that we book to see a company, but it’s just as likely that we book to see a star, and if that star fails to materialise then the offer of a refund is, to use the phrase that performing arts venues seem to love, good customer care.

Poor service creates the most expensive seats at Aldeburgh

It’s a phrase they may not have heard of at Aldeburgh though. In one of the most astonishing emails I have received recently, Aldeburgh regular John Knight tells me how he went to see Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice at Snape Maltings concert hall there.

Mr Knight is a wheelchair user and booked specific seats. When he arrived, there were people in his seats who aggressively refused to move. An usher and then the general manager were called, but they refused to move the interlopers. Little did they know that Mr Knight was a donor to Aldeburgh Music to the tune of £20,000. He tells me he will now move that support to another music charity.

When I put all this to the Aldeburgh management, a spokeswoman said:

“We regret the unfortunate incident which was escalating in the calm moments before a production was about to start. We have apologised to Mr Knight who we have kept in touch with, and we deeply regret that he is aggrieved at our handling of the affair. Some lessons were learned, but at all times Aldeburgh Music’s staff and volunteers used their best endeavours to manage this situation.”

 “Some lessons were learned.” I bet they were. Expensive lessons, too.

Can’t sing? cowell’s people can’t even make it to the interview!

In the week that Simon Cowell reinstated Cheryl Cole as an X Factor judge, I’d ask both Cheryl and Simon to remind all contestants sternly that showbusiness is a tough game and you have to take the rough with the smooth and not go off in a sulk when things go against you.

This paper encountered such a sulk the other day when an agreed interview with the stars of a new show was cancelled following a news report that the show had some problems in its first preview. The show was I Can’t Sing, the X Factor Musical, and the impresario behind it was Simon Cowell.

d.lister@independent.co.uk

twitter.com/davidlister1

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
Andreas Lubitz runs the Airport Race half marathon in Hamburg on 13 September 2009  

Being sensitive to mental health need not lead us to downplay the horror of what Lubitz did

Will Gore
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing