When the nice Berlin Staatsoper announcer shuffled sheepishly on stage before curtain up, the collective groan was loud and predictable. Who would be missing from this evening's Siegfried?
The answer was Siegfried himself - Lance Ryan. But the rider I've never heard before. "He's not in the house," he said, "and we don't know where he is."
Never mind. Up the road, Simon Rattle was due to present Die Zauberflöte in concert a couple of hours later. Just enough time for their First Armoured Man to sing the first act of Siegfried before dashing back to the Philharmonie.
The Staatsoper clearly have superior heldentenor emergency planning. Andreas Schager was ready to go just five minutes after the scheduled start. And he's one of the few working tenors who've actually sung the role before (to some acclaim). Of course he couldn't manage the staging as well at that notice, so one of the assistant directors walked the role while Schager sang from the wings. (Listen to him singing Rienzi).
Schager finished Act 1 to a true - and deserved - hero's ovation. Ryan, meanwhile, was still MIA. Finally, towards the end of the interval, I learned from front of house staff that Ryan had just turned up. No explanation. The Staatsoper announcer came on stage again to announce he would be singing the rest, leaving Schager just enough time to make his Berlin Philharmonic booking. Again no explanation.
Ryan, always a convincing actor, put on an extra-committed show. At the curtain call, he threw up his hands in apology. But still no explanation.
So what happened? Travel delays? (Ryan was in Vienna the previous night.) Possible, but you'd think he'd alert Berlin if he knew he'd be late. Did he just overlook the unusually early 4pm start? Or is there some exotic and fabulously embarrassing reason of the dog-swallowed-the-keys-to-the-handcuffs variety? Any clues welcome.
(If you're in Berlin and want to hear more of Andreas Schager's Siegfried, he's a late replacement for Ian Storey in Götterdämmerung on Wednesday.)