March Madness Part 2: Watch These 5 Shocking Moments Of Madness In Recent Opera

By Francisco Salazar

How do you go mad on stage? That is a question one might ask a soprano or a tenor when they are performing these complicated scenes on stage. There are multiple answers and each performer will undoubtedly have a different answer. It may be with a simple look or subtle movement. Or, it may be with unpredictability on stage, shocking audiences with something they had never seen or were not expecting.

As we continue March Madness (part one here) lets take a look at some recent performers who have shocked audiences with their unpredictable antics of some of the most beloved Mad Scenes.

Anna Netrebko – I Puritani 

Netrebko is one of those artists who is recognized among the finest singing actresses of her generation. She can run around the stage while singing extreme high notes, jump on couches, and lay on the ground, all while holding beautiful legato lines. She can even dance in her concert performances. But audiences couldn’t predict what this soprano would attempt in her 2007 run of “I Puritani.” As she was performing the cabaletta of the famous mad scene, “Vien diletto, e in ciel la luna,” Netrebko lay down at the edge of the stage and let her head hang over the orchestra pit while singing ornamentations.

Here is a look: 

Zuzana Markova – Lucia di Lammermoor

This Czech soprano is far from an established name in the opera world but her recent performance of “Lucia di Lammermoor” at the Opéra Grand Avignon in France had audiences and critics heralding her as the next great coloratura soprano. Not only does she demonstrate fierce tenacity as a singing actress but she interpolates not two, but three E Flats during the taxing mad scene. And her use of high notes is what shocked and riveted Bel Canto lovers.

Take A Look Right Here:

Evelyn Herlitizus – Salome

Herlitzius is probably better known for her incomparable performances as Elektra which have deemed as historical and some of the greatest performances in recent history. And those performances have seen the power Herlitzius can bring to a mad scene. But earlier in her career, Herlitzius also dominated the role of “Salome” to great acclaim. In her final scene, after kissing the head of John the Baptist, the soprano was asked to sing underneath a big sheet throughout. The production caused mixed reaction with audiences booing it. But as an audience member, one can’t get over the shock value or the intensity Herlitzius brings to her performance even if you can’t see her.

Listen For The Audience Reaction Right Here:

Natalie Dessay – Lucia di Lammermoor

You can say what you want of Dessay but when she was on stage, this was a committed singing actress bringing visceral experiences that are truly memorable. From her insane Olympia in “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” to her scorned Ophélie in “Hamlet,” Dessay knew how to create three-dimensional characters that one was emotionally connected with. So when she brought her Lucia to the Met in 2007, there was no doubt that audiences would see that from her. And when she sang Dessay captivated with a simple look from her eyes. One knew this was a Lucia that had gone completely mad. But what shocked audiences more was her scream in the middle section which resonated throughout the audiences creating an even more haunting effect for audiences.

Here is a Look At the Second Part of The Mad Scene:

Diana Damrau – Linda di Chamonix 

Donizetti’s “Linda di Chamonix” is not always seen as the most complex and the libretto can also be confusing. Nevertheless, Donizetti’s musical genius is astonishing and when it is performed at a high level, performers can create real drama. That was the case in 2011 when Diana Damrau performed for the first and only time in her career. Like most of her mad scenes, the soprano used her physical and vocal abilities to create unforgettable performances that audiences could not stop applauding. And what was most astonishing was Damrau could not let go of her character. Where most sopranos would let go of character to give a smile to the audience, she stayed in character showing complete commitment to the work.

Watch Damrau Tear up the stage Here: 


This is far from a recent performance, but when Gianna Rolandi sang Lucia at the New York City Opera audiences were mesmerized by the young soprano’s vocal talents and her committed acting abilities. But what was more astonishing was her final moments as Rolandi falls down the stairs and her head lands on one of the stairs.

Here is a look:


Special Features