To add to the excitement of an open-air performance, you never know how the weather is going to develop in this part of the world.
For the summer performances of the Frankfurt Chamber Opera (Kammeroper), the bandstand of the Palmengarten is used as the stage, and it has a roof on it, but both the orchestra and the audience sit out under the open sky.
On July 17, 2004, they put on a beautiful premiere of 5/8 of Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro. The weather was warm and sunny for the first half, in fact during the overture some of the musicians on one side of the orchestra had to wear sunglasses because the sun hadn’t gone down quite far enough yet to get out of their eyes.
Acts 1 and 2 went really well, allaying all fears of people who had been to the dress rehearsal and seen everything go wrong that possibly could.
During the intermission a few harmless clouds started to gather, but nobody minded that particularly.
Then a short ways into Act 3 some gusty winds started coming up. Conductor Anton Zapf lost some loose sheets of music that were blown off his music stand all of a sudden, but he kept on conducting. Parts of the stage set started swaying violently as gusts of wind found their way into the interior of the bandstand. Johannes M. Kösters as Count Almaviva kept on singing even though various curtains were whipping him in the face and free-standing spotlights started falling over.
Then the first raindrops fell, and that is always the signal for the musicians to grab their instruments and head for cover. Usually, if it’s just a bit of quiet summer drizzle, the orchestra regroups itself under the roof and the performance continues after a few minutes in concert form for those audience members who don’t mind sitting in the rain. But this time there was a storm warning and in fact a violent hailstorm was under way in other parts of Frankfurt, so they reluctantly canceled the rest of the premiere and invited everyone to come again the following Tuesday.
Which a lot of people did. The weather held that day, but for the remaining fourteen performances it was rather mixed, with some beautiful evenings alternating with stormy ones.
Originally the American soprano Christine Graham was scheduled to sing Susanna (the one who marries Figaro after all the complications have been resolved), but she had to cancel out because she got a full-time job (hurrah!) in the opera ensemble in Coburg. Her replacement Jana Degebrodt was also fine, however, so except for the mixed weather it was all quite successful.
My photos in this post are from 2004. I revised the text in 2022.