Milli Vanilli act saves 'Aida'

April 4, 2008 12:12:58 PM PDT
Desperate artistic times called for desperate artistic measures. So when the tenor got sick, the conductor stepped in to save the performance of "Aida." Pittsburgh Opera musical director Antony Walker sang into a microphone from the pit while still conducting the orchestra as ailing tenor Vladimir Kusmenko lip-synched on stage during Tuesday night's final act.

"It was an amazing experience," Walker said. "I could feel the orchestra and the audience were with me. And I hope I never have to do that again."

Walker, a trained vocalist, often sings during rehearsals.

"I have sung every note of 'Aida.' I do that with every opera I prepare," Walker said. "I find you can empathize with the singers better."

Kusmenko told Artistic Director Christopher Hahn that he was ill the afternoon before the performance so Hahn arranged for a substitute tenor, Eduardo Villa of New York's Metropolitan Opera, to replace him as Radames in the Verdi opera.

Villa was scheduled to arrive halfway through the performance, because Kusmenko's doctor felt he could begin the performance. But when Villa's flight was delayed, Walker was pressed into double duty.