At the Met Opera, the show goes on after technical mishap

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The Metropolitan Opera’s production of Puccini’s “Turandot” is the most lavish and complex in the company’s repertoire, a spectacle that includes a royal palace, a magnificent throne room and vast gardens.

But on Wednesday evening, the audience had to make do without the usual visual pleasures of opera. Due to a jam in the Met’s main elevator backstage, the company was forced to put on a semi-staged version at the last minute, with the cast and chorus singing from an improvised set instead.

The Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, came on stage before the show to explain the situation.

He said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sad to say that this will be no ordinary night at the opera.” “Although our scenery may not be working, the show will go on.”

The jam was cleared after crews worked overnight, although there was some damage to the backstage tracks, which the Met was still repairing on Thursday morning. Thursday night’s performance of Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” was expected to go ahead as usual.

On Wednesday, patrons were offered a refund if they wanted to leave, and about 150 did so, the Met said. But when conductor Oksana Liniev entered the pit most of the crowd stopped and applauded heartily. (The Met, which seats about 3,800, said the performance’s paid attendance was about 80 percent of capacity before the problem was announced.)

Gelb said in an interview that the machinery jammed about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, when the Met was changing the set for “Turandot” after a rehearsal of Puccini’s “La Rondine,” which would open next week. Crew members tried to use saws to cut the steel rods to free the elevator, but their efforts were unsuccessful.

At about 6:30 p.m., an hour before the show was to start, Gelb had to make a decision: cancel the show, or proceed with a reduced version. He said he was reluctant to alienate the audience.

“Everyone rallied together,” he said.

The Met used a fragment of the scenery from the second part of “Turandot” – a wall of the royal palace – as a background to provide some color. The action was limited to about the first 20 feet of the stage.

Gelb tried to encourage the singers by saying that their music would be more powerful, telling tenor Seokjong Baek that when he would sing the famous aria “Nessun Dorma”, “the closer you will be to the audience.”

To express his gratitude to the audience, Bach sang a rare reprise of that aria. And the Met, unable to drop golden confetti on the stage at the end of the opera because of traffic jams, shot it over the audience from the balconies.

Production at the Met is rarely halted due to technical accidents. In 1966, when Lincoln Center House opened, a turntable in the dress rehearsal of Barber’s “Antony and Cleopatra” malfunctioned. Soprano Leontyne Price narrowly escaped being trapped inside the pyramid at its top. And in 2011, a performance of Wagner’s “Die Walküre” was delayed 45 minutes due to a technical problem with the 45-ton set.

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