David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Mishaps

Mishaps

• In opera, singers must be heard in the back rows of the opera house. Occasionally, this striving after volume results in a spray of saliva that can drench an innocent co-star. The tenor Pasquale Brignoli was known for his spraying. While on stage co-starring with Brignoli in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, contralto Emily Lablache asked him loudly, “See here, my good friend, can’t you for once spit on Donna Elvira’s dress?”

• The Russian Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Modest Altschuler, was playing Beethoven’s “Leonore No. 3” at an outdoor park. Just as the first trumpeter, stationed away from the orchestra, raised his horn to his lips to play the offstage fanfare, a park policeman ran over to him and grabbed the trumpet away from him, saying, “You can’t do that here! Don’t you know there’s a concert going on?”

• One of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s friends visited a pub where he heard a band playing an expert version of Eddie and the Hot Rods’ “Anything You Wanna Do.” When the band took a break, he bought them all drinks and advised them to form an Eddie and the Hot Rods tribute band. The band’s singer replied, “Nice idea. The only problem with it is that I am Eddie. And these are my Hot Rods.”

• Chubby Wise played fiddle for country singer Hank Snow. During a concert, Mr. Wise’s bow caught Mr. Snow’s toupee and flung it out into the audience. Someone in the audience went home with a very unusual celebrity memento. (Once, Mr. Snow got too close to the edge of the stage and fell off. He said, “Godd*mn it, Chubby. Why don’t you watch where I’m going?”)

• Fanny Brice was persistent. Once she was singing her big number in a show when her voice cracked — something no one could believe. She made the orchestra begin the song again, and she sang again, and her voice cracked again. So she told the audience, “Just stay in your seats. We’ll get it this time.” And she did get it, and she received a huge ovation from the audience.

• Bobby Jax played in his junior high school marching band in Paragould, Arkansas, where his most memorable exploit was falling on his rear end during a halftime performance. Because of this exploit, his fellow band members implemented the annual “Bobby Jax I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up Award.” Bobby good-naturedly became the recipient of the first award.

• Ernestine Schumann-Heink was rehearsing Wagner’s Das Rheingold, in which she played a nymph. She and the other women playing nymphs were connected to wires that raised and lowered them to simulate diving and swimming. Unfortunately, she disliked the motion and screamed, “For Heaven’s sake, let me down! I’m the mother of eight children!”

• After retiring from opera and movies, Geraldine Farrar began giving musical concerts. Mishaps sometimes occurred at these concerts. At one concert, a storm knocked out the electric power. Therefore, Ms. Farrar gave the concert by the light of candles. She held one in front of her, while her pianist played by the light of two candles stuck in potatoes.

• Opera singers sometimes have very tight travel schedules. On her way to London to perform, soprano Eva Turner stopped at Las Palmas to sing the part of Leonora in Trovatore. Her ship sailed just a half-hour after the final curtain, so her fellow travelers were treated to the sight of Ms. Turner in full costume climbing up a ladder to get on board.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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