At the Met Opera, the Show Goes On After a Technical Mishap

At the Met Opera, the Show Goes On After a Technical Mishap

The Metropolitan Opera’s production of Puccini’s “Turandot” is one of the most lavish and intricate in the company’s repertoire, a spectacle that includes an imperial palace, a glittering throne room and expansive gardens.

But on Wednesday evening, audience members had to make do without the opera’s usual visual delights. A jam in the Met’s main lift backstage forced the company to put on a semi-staged version at the last minute, with the cast and chorus singing from an improvised set instead.

Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, walked onstage before the show to explain the situation.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to say that this is not going to be a normal night at the opera,” he said. “Although our scenery will not be working, the show will go on.”

Audience members were offered a refund if they wished to leave, and about 150 people did, the Met said. But most stayed, offering a hearty applause when the conductor, Oksana Lyniv, entered the pit. (The Met, which has about 3,800 seats, said that the performance’s paid attendance was about 80 percent of capacity before the problem was announced.)

Gelb said in an interview that the machinery jammed around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, while the Met was changing sets for “Turandot” after a rehearsal for Puccini’s “La Rondine,” which opens next week. Crew members tried using saws to cut through steel bars to free the lift, but their efforts were unsuccessful.

By about 6:30 p.m., one hour before the show was to begin, Gelb had to make a decision: cancel the show, or move forward with a pared-down version. He said he was reluctant to turn audiences away.

“Everybody rallied together,” he said.

The Met used a piece of scenery from the second act of “Turandot” — a wall in the imperial palace — as a backdrop, to provide some color. The action was confined to roughly the first 20 feet of the stage.

Gelb tried to encourage the singers by telling them that their music would be more powerful, telling the tenor SeokJong Baek that when he sang the famous aria “Nessun dorma,” “you’ll be that much closer the audience.”

Technical mishaps have rarely stopped productions at the Met. In 1966, when the Lincoln Center house was opened, a turntable malfunctioned at a dress rehearsal for Barber’s “Antony and Cleopatra.” The soprano Leontyne Price narrowly escaped being trapped inside the pyramid on top of it. And in 2011, a performance of Wagner’s “Die Walküre” was delayed for 45 minutes because of a technical problem with the 45-ton set.

Gelb said that he expected things to be back to normal in time for a performance of Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” on Thursday.

“Tonight as soon as show ends,” he said, “it will be all hands on deck to free this lift.”

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