There is no peace for Verdi in Parma.
As a second production of its Verdi Festival the Teatro Regio presented I vespri siciliani on October 10, starring Giacomo Prestia as Procida, Leo Nucci as Monforte, and the lovebirds Daniela Dessì and Fabio Armiliato as Elena and Arrigo.
Armiliato receives a fair amount of boos during the performance. Right before the fifth and last act, the management announces that Armiliato is indisposed, but has agreed to finish the performance. This does not prevent further boos at curtain calls, while, as it always happens, other member of the audience were trying to shush the booers.
In televised interviews right after the performance, both Armiliato and Dessì claim that the fracas had been caused by a very small group of “facinorosi” (bullies) intent in damaging not so much Armiliato as the Verdi festival itself.
A couple of days later Armiliato writes on Facebook that the day after the premiere he has been seen by a leading expert at the hospital of Brescia, and he has been diagnosed with a labyrinthitis.
The Teatro Regio asks tenor Carlos Ventre to be on call for the second performance, but Armiliato insists in going on stage.
Enrico Stinchelli, famous critic, co-host of the RAI radio show La barcaccia, writes an opera letter to Armiliato on the Italian forum Opera Click. In brief, while Stinchelli is sorry to hear about the tenor’s health problems, he adds that in his opinion Arrigo is not a role suitable to Armiliato’s voice to begin with. According to Stinchelli, Armiliato does not have the facility in the upper register to perform this part (and for the record, this production cuts Arrigo’s arietta with its high D at the beginning of the fifth act).
Armiliato replies with his own open letter, disputing Stinchelli’s assessment and comparing the booers to the Serbian hooligan who had forced the Italy vs. Serbia soccer match in Genova to be suspended with their vandalism just a few days before. He also claims that there is a whole tradition of Italian spinto and dramatic tenors tackling the role of Arrigo, and throws himself in the famous age-old diatribe of pitch in the 19th century.
Then Armiliato cancels the third performance. Apparently Carlos Ventre is no longer available, so the management sends on stage a young Korean tenor, Kim Myung Ho, dressed in civilian suit and holding a score.
Who knows what is going to happen in the next two final performances?