The 5 most sensational flops in the history of opera
The public, son of his time, of his conventions, of his habits, often manages to overturn the judgment of a work. And here an indisputable masterpiece is greeted with disdain, jeers and whistles at its theatrical premiere: a merciless fate that only the passage of time can heal.
Let's see together the 5 most unexpected cases:
1. On February 20, 1816, two centuries ago, the most performed Italian opera in the world, Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Gioacchino Rossini, premiered at the Teatro Argentina in Rome. The main reason for the total fiasco to which this work, apparently conceived in only thirteen days, was the hostility of an audience too fond of the previous Barber of Seville, that of Paisello of 1782, and this despite Rossini , who feared such reactions, had cautiously changed the title of the work to Almaviva.
2. On March 6, 1853 at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, the world premiere of a new opera by Giuseppe Verdi, La Traviata, was held, part of the so-called popular trilogy which also includes Rigoletto and Il Trovatore. A resounding failure due in part to the subject, considered somewhat rough, and in part to the lack of singers. A year later the opera was put back on stage, again at the Teatro La Fenice, enjoying the well-deserved success that has since continued to grow.
3. On 3 March 1875 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, George Bizet's masterpiece, Carmen, was staged, whose arias are among the most famous of the operatic genre. Well, the first performance recorded a certain failure, also due to, as for Traviata, the subject considered rather rough. The author also did not live to witness the redemption of his greatest work, dying just three months after the first performance.
4. Almost thirty years later, on April 30, 1902, Claude Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande was staged at the Théâtre National de l’Opéra-Comique in Paris. Taken from the literary work of the same name by Maurice Maeterlinck, the same was at the origin of the fiasco that Debussy's work recorded at its first performance: in fact, annoyed by the choice of the theater director to entrust the first performance to the American Mary Garden rather than to the lover, Georgette Leblanc, the playwright literally boycotted the staging both by distributing insulting cards at the entrance to the theater and by placing a handful of troublemakers inside.
5. Just two years later another sensational failure was that of Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly, which debuted on February 17, 1904 at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Here is the report of the publisher Giulio Ricordi: "Grunts, roars, bellowing, laughter, trumpeting, sneering, the usual solitary cries of encore made on purpose to excite the spectators even more, here, briefly, what is the welcome that the public makes the new work of the master Giacomo Puccini.”.