The Berlin Staatsoper's season was supposed to launch last Saturday with Anja Harteros, a full orchestra, and a long-sold-out evening of Italian operatic arias.
On Friday afternoon, the Staatsoper sent out a curt press release - the concert was cancelled due to illness.
Sounds simple, doesn't it? Not so. In fact, it proved a massive headache for Staatsoper staff, as well as a major disappointment for ticket holders, many of whom came from overseas. Volker Blech of the Berliner Morgenpost sets out the details. A fascinating glimpse at how many problems one little sick note can create:
Tuesday 9:30: the Staatsoper's director of opera, Ivan van
Kalmthout, is informed by her agent that Anja Harteros is unwell, so she can't attend the planned rehearsal with the orchestra that evening. But she hopes to have recovered in time for the general rehearsal on Thursday and the concert on Saturday.
Tuesday 11:30: van Kalmthout tells Marco Armiliato the bad news. The conductor says the Staatskapelle are well prepared, so it doesn't really matter if they skip today's rehearsal.
Tuesday 11:45: the orchestra are told their 6pm rehearsal is cancelled.
Wednesday: an email from her agent informs van Kalmthout that Harteros will be there at 2pm the next day.
Thursday 7:30: van Kalmthout gets a phone message from the agent to say that Ms. Harteros can't make today's rehearsal due to illness, so she must, with regret, cancel Saturday's concert.
Thursday 10:00: van Kalmthout discusses the news with Armiliato. Both are eager to save the season opener. So, with Harteros's agreement, they decide to rehearse without her, in the hope the concert can still go ahead.
Thursday 11:30: the executive board of the Staatskapelle offer to call the orchestra in on Saturday for an extra rehearsal, so that Harteros has the chance to practice with them before the concert.
Thursday 15:00: the agent tells Staatsoper press officer Johannes Ehmann that Harteros's scheduled newspaper interview today can't go ahead. Two or three interviews had been set up to publicise the concert; these are now in doubt.
Thursday 18:00: the general rehearsal takes place - without Harteros. Van Kalmthout says he is convinced the show will go ahead as planned.
Friday 10:00: van Kalmthout receives a medical certificate from Harteros's agent. It says she cannot sing on Saturday night. She is, apparently, terribly sorry. He immediately calls the Staatsoper's Intendant, Jürgen Flimm.
Friday 10:45: van Kalmthout and Flimm meet with general manager Ronny Unganz and Andrea Kaiser, head of communications, to decide how to proceed. Music director Daniel Barenboim is informed - he is not in town. All agree it is now too late to find a replacement, especially as the programme which has been rehearsed is quite specific, and ticket buyers probably particularly wanted to see Harteros. Flimm makes the decision to cancel.
Friday 11:17: the press officer is informed.
Friday, about 11.30: the head of communications discusses the practical issues with the box office and finance department. There is to be no replacement concert, so purchasers can return their tickets, which cost 28 to 84 euros.
Friday 12:36: press officer Ehmann sends out the official press release. He shares the news with the listings services and the music critics. Harteros was supposed to do an interview with RBB Radio; Flimm stands in.
Friday, to 20:00: the box office do their best to contact all 900-plus ticket buyers. Around 250 are informed by email, and another 100 by phone. Nearly 100 foreign visitors who have booked their hotels will be informed by their respective reception desks.
Saturday 19:00: not everyone has found out about the cancellation. Around 50 ticket holders turn up, including four from London. They all get an immediate refund, a glass of champagne or orange juice, and a guided tour of the theatre.