One of Robert "Believe It or Not!" Ripley's more famous radio broadcasts (which can be heard from time to time @ Ripley's Retro Radio), as its feature item, dealt with the "Barcarolle" from Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann leading to almost-imminent death afflicting those playing same in one form or another, including:
the composer himself having died suddenly after finishing the same;
the Ring Theater in Vienna going up in flames on the night of the opera's premiere, with some 900 people yielding up the ghost as the opening notes of the "Barcarolle" were played; and
China's notorious Empress Dowager Cixi being rather fond of the "Barcarolle" to the point of ordering her court musicians to learn the same after hearing Italian workmen @ the Summer Palace site outside Beijing singing same--under pain of execution, no less--and eventually using same as an insturment of torture against political opponents, only to be ended with the Empress Dowager's death by an overdose of opium in 1908.
Is any of this true?
Posted by Mouse on :
I don't know about the others but none of the online bios I read on Cixi made any mention of opium being involved in her death.
Posted by asnakeny on :
quote:Originally posted by die daagliks phosdex: [*]the composer himself having died suddenly after finishing the same;
Offenbach had written all of the music and had orchestrated the first third of the opera when he died, so I'm not sure that this would count as "suddenly after finishing" it.
[*]the Ring Theater in Vienna going up in flames on the night of the opera's premiere, with some 900 people yielding up the ghost as the opening notes of the "Barcarolle" were played
Sure enough, Tales of Hoffmann was the work being performed (it was only the Austrian premiere, though, as the work had already been staged at the Paris Opera House) when the Ring Theater went up in flames (the death toll was somewhere between 450-850). (Wagner had to make a rather snarky comment about it, of course.)
However, as the famous Barcarolle doesn't come in until either the beginning of Act 2 or 3 (it depends on the staging), and as the fire started on stage and spread to the audience, it's unlikely that anyone died "as the opening notes were played".