Last time round, the leading lady broke her leg - on stage, on the first night. This time, the show hasn't even opened and already disaster has struck Covent Garden's Il barbiere di Siviglia.
The start of Saturday morning's general rehearsal was delayed for over half an hour while Royal Opera House staff struggled to raise the safety curtain. But they just couldn't sort it out. With a paying audience tapping their feet outside, it was decided that the show would go on. In costume, on the narrow strip of stage in front of the curtain, and with no access to the wings. Like a Sitzprobe, only standing up. The announcer seemed as if she was trying to convince herself when she claimed it would be "better" than the real thing, because the singers could concentrate on singing and "wouldn't have to worry" about acting.
Surprisingly it turned out she was almost right on the first count, and way out on the second. There have obviously been enough rehearsals to pull this cast together as a team. The inventiveness of their improvisations and their sheer commitment told the story better than some of the full stagings I've seen lately.
With a narrow gangway suspended over the pit as the only route to the stage, I had the most amazing view of everything from what is normally a restricted view pit side seat. All the singers had to enter via the stalls, and the chorus, too numerous to fit on what was left of the stage, had to stay there. There must have been a few heartstopping moments on the back desks as the Botha-sized Bruno Pratico (Dr Bartolo) wobbled again and again across the narrow strip of ironwork above their heads.
I don't think any cast could quite match the one the Royal Opera House pulled together last time, but this one comes a lot closer than you might imagine. Aleksandra Kurzak continues to mature. Her liquid soprano has become fuller and a tad darker without losing any of the breathtaking agility. What John Osborn's voice lacks in individuality it makes up for in colour and flexibility. Although he didn't (surprisingly?) attempt the Cessa di più resistere that Juan Diego brought the house down with last time, I think he'll be a winning Almaviva. Though seemingly struggling with a cold or something, Levente Molnár dominates the stage in the way a great Figaro should, and Ildar Abdrazakov sings Don Basilio so beautifully that it's hard to miss Furlanetto. The speed of Bruno Pratico's is a marvel to behold, and his sinister characterisation lends a necessary touch of darkness.
Rory Macdonald's conducting is most pleasant surprise of all, especially after his scrappy Hansel and Gretel. He has learned well from his mentors, shaping this music with as much love and attention to detail as Mark Elder might, propelling it forward with Pappano-like dramatic instinct. It's not quite idiomatic - the storm scene was positively Wagnerian in scale - but will prove to any lingering doubters that Rossini was no mere routinier.
Whatever happens on stage, this will not be a so-so revival - definitely worth booking if you haven't done so already.