I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Do the public really think that creative artists working under the strain of a La Scala opening night – one of the glitteriest occasions in the opera world – under the glare of the world’s press and an international viewing public, don’t have arguments? Is anyone actually surprised?
Certainly it is rare that a microphone should be near enough to catch the words said, but it is nothing more than what goes on in countless households, the world over, every day.
It also happened in a building which was the crucible at the centre of a fire that smouldered at the centre of Milan on 7 December which, after having been named as a probable target for a terrorist attack, was surrounded by 750 police, and there was even an armed police officer on stage. Tensions were running high.
I was there when the spat – 15 seconds? – broke out, or rather when the Belgian director of Giovanna d’Arco, Moshe Leiser, hurled a few words towards the back of Riccardo Chailly’s head as he left the stage for his dressing room. But there was nothing more. No clenched fists, no knives, no spitting.
The Guardian and countless other newspapers have picked up on the story and the YouTube video of our three-hour backstage coverage has been removed – for the moment – because of that 15 second interlude. Yet there are countless examples of flaring tempers in opera, but not just four angry little words… real hands-on screaming-matches.
Certainly it was a surprise after the enormous success of La Scala’s new production of Verdi’s opera, in fact, there was a brief hush backstage before everyone shrugged their shoulders and joined in again with the cries of “Bravi!” It’s normal. It happens.
It would not be normal if such events never happened. No differences of opinion… no opinions full stop. Creative death.
As Anna Netrebko said in our interview a few seconds later, “Viva Verdi!”
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.