Picks and Pans Review: Great Operatic Disasters

updated 04/14/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/14/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Hugh Vickers

Grand opera is such an extravagant art it's no wonder its bloopers seem more extravagant than those in other arenas. The author of this book is an opera producer in London, and the mishaps he has collected from all over the world are organized under headings such as "Animals," "The Audience," "Acts of God" and "Hair-breadth Scapes." A sample: "At the very moment when the courtiers are brutally mocking him in Act II, Rigoletto's hump slid slowly down his back. As their taunts increased, the audience was puzzled to see a hunchback transformed before their eyes into a perfectly normal man—except for an enormous behind." That happened at the Paris Opera in 1954. There are brisk, cartoon-style illustrations by Michael ffolkes. The floating soprano in his drawing above appeared in a New York City Opera version of Tosca, her death leap turned into slapstick when she landed offstage on a trampoline and kept bouncing back into view. (St. Martin's, $7.95)

From Our Partners