David Bruce: Opera Anecdotes — Money

• An organ grinder once played music from Gioachino Rossini’s Barber of Sevilleunder the window of rival composer Fromental Halévy, who told him, “I will give you a Louis d’or if you go and play music from one of my operas under Rossini’s windows.” The organ grinder replied, “I cannot do that. Rossini has paid me two Louis d’or to play hismusic under yourwindows.” By the way, some of Mr. Rossini’s friends wanted to erect a statue of him. Told that the statue would cost approximately 20,000 lire, Mr. Rossini proposed, “Why don’t you give me 10,000 lire, and I will stand on the pedestal myself?”

• Vencenzo Lombardi greatly admired the tenor Enrico Caruso and early in Mr. Caruso’s career told conductor Leopoldo Mugnone that soon the tenor would be making 1,000 lire a night. Mr. Mugnone disagreed: “Nonsense! When Enrico Caruso makes 1,000 lire a night, I’ll be the pope!” Soon afterward, Mr. Caruso was making 1,000 lire a night, and Mr. Lombardi sought Mr. Mugnone. When he found him, Mr. Lombardi pretended to kneel and kiss the conductor’s feet. Mr. Mugnone exclaimed, “What the h*ll!” Mr. Lombardi said to him, “Haven’t you heard? Caruso is making 1,000 lire a night. You’re the pope!”

• Soprano Adelina Patti once lost her voice after two acts and was unable to finish the opera Don Pasquale. The director of the opera house was frantic, and having noticed another soprano, Madame Volpini, in the audience, he asked her to take over for Ms. Patti. Madame Volpini was no fool — she did take over, but at considerable advantage to herself. Her contract had not been renewed for the following year, but she managed to negotiate both a one-year contract and a raise of 5,000 francs before taking over for Ms. Patti.

• Getting paid for your work can be quite a challenge. Impresario Alfredo Salmaggi once stepped in front of a curtain to announce to the audience that the scheduled performance of Aidahad been cancelled because the tenor was indisposed. However, the tenor, Bernardo de Muro, immediately came in front of the curtain to make his own announcement: “I’m not indisposed! This b*stard won’t pay me!” Lots of shouting ensued, but eventually Mr. de Muro got paid, and the performance went on as scheduled.

• Opera singer Mary Garden was getting ready to sail to France when a young woman met her on the dock and asked, “Wouldn’t you like a perfume called after your name?” Ms. Garden would, and she signed a paper the young woman gave her to sign. When she returned to the United States, she saw her name and face plastered everywhere advertising a perfume called “Mary Garden,” and because of the paper she had signed, she never received a cent from the sales of the perfume.

• At a Verdi festival, both Arturo Toscanini and a rival conductor were asked to conduct. The rival conductor was jealous of Maestro Toscanini’s abilities, so he asked the organizers of the festival to pay him one lira more than Maestro Toscanini received. The organizers agreed, and after the festival was over, they gave the rival conductor a check for one lira. (Maestro Toscanini had donated his services.)


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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