|Animals Get the Upper Paw|
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During the famous opening night fiasco of “The Barber of Seville,” a cat wandered onstage during the First Act finale, sparking (as you might have guessed) cat-calls and every manner of bad behavior from the audience. But it’s not the only time an animal’s unexpected appearance (or reaction) was stolen the spotlight from the human performers in an opera. Here are several classic instances:
• A Great Pyrenees, a very large and gentle breed of dog, wandered onstage in a Sadler’s Wells tour of Carmen. Delighted opera-goers assumed it was intentional although, in fact, the dog belonged to a worker in a nearby office. The dog trotted downstage and stared, mesmerized, at the conductor’s baton, hoping for a game of “fetch.”
• Actor Peter Ustinov tells of introducing his young daughter to opera in a Roman performance of Aida. When a parade of animals, elephants, camels, horses, etc., all decided to answer nature’s call simultaneously, Ustinov’s daughter loudly inquired, “Daddy, is it alright to laugh?”
• In a now-infamous 1970 performance of Carmen at the Verona Arena, a startled horse leapt into the orchestra pit, landing on the kettle drums with an enormous crash! Later in the show, a cat wandered onstage to rub up against tenor Franco Corelli as he was preparing to dispatch the leading lady.