A story from behind the scenes of the 1977 production of Bizet’s Carmen
“As a spear-carrying extra (paid £2 a night not to sing) I found myself being roped into a football match, playing for the Abbado All-Stars against the London Symphony Orchestra. Did I ever believe that I might play in a side which had conductor Claudio Abbado as striker and tenor Placido Domingo in goal? That morning, Abbado displayed all the footballing skills of a member of AC Milan rather than those of the musical director of La Scala; Domingo too would have loved to play a more active role mid-field but his insurers would not allow him any more risky a position than goalie.
The gentlemen of the LSO attacked the game with the same relish as they attacked the overture to Carmen each night in the King’s Theatre pit and should have won easily... but for one small constraint imposed on them: they had been instructed to avoid any powerful shots towards goal for fear of injuring the most valuable piece of real estate in the operatic world. So Domingo had to “save” namby-pamby soft lobs while Abbado and Piero Faggioni, the director of the opera, scored crucial goals at the other end against the run of play.
The crowd of spectators was pretty thin but we appreciated the support of two ladies, heavily wrapped-up against the dreich Edinburgh weather, Teresa Berganza who had the title role in the opera and Mirella Freni, who sang Micaela. The hurling of abuse and advice in equal measure from these two was not to be expected as they possessed the most glorious mezzo and soprano voices in the musical firmament; rather we were treated to genteel applause at the all-too-few big moments.What a match, what a memory!”
By Niall Lothian, from Spear Carrier to Chairman of the Edinburgh International Festival