To announce or not to announce an indisposition before a performance
I had high hopes for the tenor, Simon O'Neill, considering his strong track record in hefty operatic roles, including Wagnerian, and impressive places where he has sung them, including Bayreuth. On Friday night, he didn't sound so good.
I remember thinking that he must have been indisposed, especially when he reached the final high A and, unless my ears deceived me, took it an octave lower.
However, no announcement was made concerning his health, so I chalked it up to just another tenor strained by Mahler's cruel demands (I've heard my share). But then I learned something very interesting from a treasured reader of this blog (y'all are treasured, of course, in this era of obsessive page-view-click-counters).
The comment-poster attended that same performance and stayed for the post-concert chat with BSO music director Marin Alsop. He says Alsop disclosed that O'Neill ...
I think an announcement should have been made before the singer walked onstage -- the audience didn't need to know the intimate details, just that he was a bit under the weather, but had agreed to go ahead.
Many's the time singers do perform after such a revelation, only to sound so good that people wonder why the issue was raised. But better to be safe, I say, to set up a sympathetic environment, than risk having a performance judged harshly for what might be the wrong reasons.
I remember attending a vocal recital in Washington early on in my writing days. The baritone sounded little more than adequate. As I was heading to the door after the performance, a woman rushed up to me (not sure how she knew who I was -- I didn't wear a name tag) and said, "You should know that my husband has been very sick, but decided to sing anyway." I replied -- and wrote in the review -- that the audience should have been told that, not just the critic.
I know this sort of thing can be a difficult decision for artists and for everyone else involved in a concert, but I still think no harm is done simply letting listeners in on the possibility that the performance might not be totally up to par because of an unforeseen indisposition. (I draw the line on announcing: "So-and-so begs you indulgence because he/she can't stand the color of the hall, or was still upset by the outcome of last night's game or 'American Idol' episode, but will try to do his/her best anyway.")
Sure, the actual performance might not sound any different if the artist in question were in the pink of health. And, sure, an artist might over-use the excuse announcement. Still, it seems to me that it's wiser to err on the side of sympathy than risk having any notes leave an unpleasant taste in the ear.
Do you agree?