MILAN (AP) — Richard Wagner won over La Scala's ardent Verdi followers during the gala season premiere on Friday with a production of "Lohengrin" that packed surprises -- including the last-minute arrival of German soprano Annette Dasch in the role of Elsa after two singers fell ill with the flu.
Dasch, who has sung the role in the Bayreuth festival since 2010, got a call at her home in Berlin at 6 p.m. Thursday to take the stage for Milan's premiere cultural event the next evening.
"It's one of those moments when you think, c'mon, what kind of person am I? Am I courageous? Yes I am! So I will just do it," Dasch said back stage after the show, already changed into jeans and clutching her 10-month old daughter who traveled with her nursing mom and was still wide-eyed after a nearly 5-hour dose of Wagner from backstage.
Not an hour early, Dasch was taking curtain calls in a 15-minute long ovation along with Barenboim, tenor Jonas Kaufmann in the role of Lohengrin, Evelyn Herlitzius who portrayed Ortrud and Rene Pape as Heinrich der Vogler.
Few singers have faced been called to one of the world's premier stage on such short notice. La Scala was forced to look abroad after not one but two sopranos fell ill. Anja Harteros had to cancel with the flu both the premier and a preview performance for youth earlier in the week, which was performed by Ann Peterson, who herself then fell ill.
Dasch arrived in Milan at midnight Thursday. On Friday, she spent time with conductor Barenboim -- he put it at five minutes -- and some two and a half hours with director Claus Guth.
Dasch had worked previously with both Barenboim and Guth -- and had even sung Elsa to Kaufmann's Lohengrin in Bayreuth.
"I just tried to focus and really listen to what Claus had to say with the concepts. With Barenboim, I know he is literally the best accompanist in the world. ... So I knew I had the support," she said.
Both Barenboim and Kaufmann praised Dasch's adaptability and performance.
"It was full of surprises even for us. Usually the surprises are for the audience, but this time also for us, for me certainly, another soprano, who fortunately I already knew," Kaufmann said. "I have to say what she did was truly a miracle. To keep calm, she was fantastic."