The opera "Carmen," like the drama "Macbeth," has a well-earned reputation as an unlucky vehicle for the actors and singers who dare perform it.Superstitious actors often refer to the Shakespearean drama as simply "the Scottish play," afraid that mentioning its name could somehow summon the demons of misfortune.
Writer Judith Green in an article in The Sun last week provided voluminous examples of how "Carmen" may be the musical counterpart of "Macbeth."
Despite a broken wrist, Mishura continued to perform the rest of the role as "gorgeously as she had before [the accident]," wrote Green in praise of what must have been a pain-filled performance.
Clifford C. Bruck Sr., a retired Western Maryland Railway executive and opera fan who lives in Guilford, recalled the other day that even the great soprano Rosa Ponselle wasn't immune from the curse of "Carmen."
Ponselle made her Baltimore debut as Carmen the last night of the Metropolitan Opera Company's three-night Baltimore season during the first week of April 1936.
The engagement that proved to be such a tumultuous and emotional one for Baltimore opera fans also had fateful consequences for Ponselle.
On opening night, an audience of 4,102 jammed the Lyric to hear Lucrezia Bori, Metropolitan Opera Company soprano, sing the role of Mimi in Giacomo Puccini's "La Boheme."
At the conclusion of the opera, which also included Met greats Lawrence Tibbett and Ezio Pinza, Bori stepped out in front of the curtain and in front of the footlights said her "farewell to the American operatic stage," reported The Sun.
"This is a sad evening for me. Yet, it is made happy by the thought that I will say farewell to opera here in Baltimore where I have so many friends, where I have learned to love the people who have been so kind. Tonight is the end," said Bori.
On closing night, two days later, before an audience of 3,400, Ponselle sang the role of Bizet's "Carmen," a role that the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians described as being her only true failure and one she "attempted perhaps unwisely."
The performance also included native Hilda Hopkins Burke.
"But Baltimore welcomed its own Metropolitan prima dona, Hilda Burke," with "richly deserved enthusiasm," reportedThe Sun.
Supernumerary for a night
Retired railroad executive Bruck, then a senior at Johns Hopkins University, recalled landing a one-night job as a supernumerary in "Carmen."
"I got it through a friend who knew Fred R. Huber, municipal director of music," Bruck said from his home.
"I was a chimney sweep and [was] paid the princely sum of $1. And the stage manager told us, 'For God's sake, don't open your mouth,' " said Bruck, with a chuckle.
"We did a lot of shuttling on and off stage and waiting in the wings. I was later distressed when my German professor complained that the stage was crowded with this gang of extras, and I was one of those extras," he said, laughing.