(K. Brent Tomer),
Opera has always been dominated by divas. Originally a neutral term (from the Latin for “goddess”) for female singers, it now has more to do with backstage than onstage presence. Kathleen Battle, an American soprano famed for her smooth tone on stage, is equally known for her behaviour backstage which the genteel New York Metropolitan Opera called “profoundly detrimental” when it dropped her from a production in 1994. Luciano Pavarotti, an Italian tenor, allegedly asked for two dressing rooms at each venue.
Opera houses are now finding that the sparring divas are not the sopranos or tenors treading the boards, but those behind the scenes. Last month, the premiere of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Giovanna d’Arco” at Milan’s La Scala ended with a spat—unfortunately captured on live television—between Moshe Leiser, the stage director, and Riccardo Chailly, the conductor of the production and the house’s music director. Mr Leiser had made a sarcastic remark (“congratulations, maestro!”) that Mr Chailly had not responded to. Mr Leiser called him an…Continue reading