She in her turn recalls seeing him in Otello at the Mariinsky in the '80s. "After the show, I'll never forget hundreds of people storming the stage! Past all the guards! And Placido stood there, barefoot, in a nightshirt - the closing scene of Otello takes place in Desdemona's bedroom - and calmly signed autographs. It was horrendously cold, it went on forever, but he had a look and a word for everyone. Phenomenal."
Someone who won't melt under the star wattage of Netrebko and Domingo. Someone who can nail those top Cs. And most importantly, someone reliable who'll stay the course. Two tenors before opening night is plenty enough.
Step forward Gaston Rivero, a finalist in Domingo's 2006 Operalia contest who's sung Manrico in Klagenfurt, Nuremburg, Limoges and, as you can hear above, Bordeaux.
Fancy seeing Daniel Barenboim and Anna Prohaska together in Berlin?
They're giving a recital in the Schiller Theatre at 11am on Sunday 20 October. A kind reader has donated two excellent tickets, just inches away from the stage.
If you'd like to get your mitts on them, please email me at inter-mezzo. hotmail.co.uk - first come, first served.
Before you head for the email, please bear in mind that the recital is in Berlin, and you will need to make your own way there. The tickets can be handed over either in London or Berlin, as you prefer.
Jonas Kaufmann isn't the only singer to get gonged. It's awards time in Berlin too, where Komische Oper veteran Jens Larsen has been awarded the title Berliner Kammersänger.
The bass departed Sunday night's Poppea naked, in a pool of blood. Well, he is playing Seneca. He popped on some trousers before returning to the stage to accept his award from Intendant Barrie Kosky.
Larsen is used to relieving the strain on the costume budget. He made his mark as Osmin in Calixto Bieito's 2004 Entführung aus dem Serail, where he became possibly the first ever opera singer to sing naked - in the shower. Larsen wasn't bothered. "After all," he said "who takes a shower in swimming trunks?"
Let them know your companions and your expertise, share your preferences regarding nudity, corpse count and lavishness of costumery, and they'll tell you (via highlighted boxes in the lower right hand corner) which of their productions will suit you best.
Pick a suspect combination (anything involving minor children and unhappy endings), and like the good honest Germans they are, they'll suggest you stay at home.
As in Quartet, the story centres around a gala organised to raise funds for the home.
But it's unlikely Dame Maggie Smith would sign up to perform in Villa Verdi, which opens at Berlin's Volksbühne tonight . In place of Hoffmann's gentle prostate jokes, 73 year old director Johann Kresnik has spiced up the geriatric goings-on with racy flashbacks and acres of bare flesh. Pictures below.