• Enrico Caruso was a strong believer in personal hygiene. Once, he and his wife accepted an invitation to sit in the box of a French tenor. However, after he was seated, Mr. Caruso turned to his host and said, “Monsieur, Madame cannot remain unless you go home and brush your teeth.” The French tenor went home and brushed his teeth. By the way, according to Mr. Caruso’s wife, Dorothy, in the course of each performance he lost three pounds.
• While in Milan to direct The Nutcrackernear the end of his career, Rudolf Nureyev handled an ultimatum by a principal dancer with finesse. As Mr. Nureyev was walking away from the set, the principal dancer said that she would not dance on opening night unless her boyfriend also had a leading part. Still walking, Mr. Nureyev ordered that another principal dancer be found to take her place. The ballerina immediately retracted her ultimatum.
• Opera singer Grace Moore often answered her own telephone; however, being a celebrity, she disguised her voice with a French accent until she learned who the caller was. Sometimes, she was unable to identify important callers and so would not speak to them. Discovering the truth later, they were not amused at the precaution she had taken to preserve her privacy.
• John “Trane” Coltrane used to play long saxophone solos, and once he told Miles Davis that he didn’t know how to stop. Mr. Davis replied, “Try taking the saxophone out of your mouth.” By the way, jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie started out playing the trombone as a kid, but he quickly switched to trumpet — he couldn’t play all the notes on the trombone because his arms were too short.
• As a young boy, ballet student Alexander Godunov was short, even considering his age. After being told that tomato juice would make him grow, he began to drink gallons of it. He also heard that sleeping on a soft bed would keep him short, so he began to sleep on boards. Something worked — he grew to be over six feet tall.
• Even people who don’t like classical music like Gioacchino Rossini’s “Overture” to William Tellbecause it is the theme music of the Lone Ranger. According to Rossini, he wrote the music at a furious pace in an apartment on the Boulevard Montmartre in Paris because he was trying to block the noisy street from his mind.
• George Frideric Handel once had trouble with Francesca Cuzzoni, one of the singers in his opera Ottone. Being quite strong, Handel picked up Ms. Cuzzoni and held her out a window, two stories above the street, and threatened to drop her. Ms. Cuzzoni decided to sing her part the way Mr. Handel wanted her to.
• Conductor Claudio Abbado has an interesting way of dealing with an orchestra whose members speak too loudly during rehearsals. He speaks softer and softer and finally stops speaking entirely. At that point, the members of the orchestra realize that they need to be quiet in order for the rehearsal to proceed.
• Choreographer George Balanchine was remarkably unperturbed during crises. In 1954, shortly before the premiere of his Nutcrackerballet, he learned that the costumes weren’t ready. Therefore, he picked up a needle and a costume and started sewing along with the seamstresses.
• Colonel W. de Basil sometimes insisted that he be photographed although the newspaper photographer really wanted only photographs of the Colonel’s ballet troupe. In such cases, the photographer pretended to photograph the Colonel — but there wasn’t any film in the camera.
• Tony Baines, a bassoonist for the London Philharmonic Orchestra, once made the error of showing up for the ballet in tails rather than black tie. No problem. He simply dipped his tie in black ink. Of course, it dripped all over his shirt, but he declined to let that bother him.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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