From the Mists of Time: Brawl Disrupts Verdi Premiere (9-7-1923)

Tower2The Cobalt Opera Society’s premiere of Verdi’s La forza del destino was cut short this evening when a figure wearing a “plague mask” and a voluminous black cloak appeared unexpectedly in the second act. Dropping dramatically from somewhere above the stage, he landed with “cat-like grace” according to mezzo-soprano Maria Genovese (making her operatic debut in the role of Preziosilla).

“He had an old pistol the size of my arm in his left hand,” Genovese said, “It looked like a prop, but too old. Too used. And the sabre in his right hand looked real enough.”

“All my time in the theater, I’ve never seen anything like it,” veteran stage manager Irving Lewiston stated. “Well, maybe once.”

The intruder proceeded to duel with Ignazio Bassani, the young baritone playing Don Carlo di Vargas while the rest of the cast fled the stage. Despite his skills as a singer, a surprising display of strength, and the massive, claw-like hands that sprouted from his back, Bassani was little match for his attacker, and was felled after a spirited effort. A final blow with the attacker’s sword caused the performer to dissolve into an oily, black substance described as smelling like “brackish water and sulfur.”

The attacker vanished as quickly as he appeared, leaping up into the darkness above stage to then flee from an upstairs window.

Police believe that the attacker may have been the mysterious figure known as “The Venetian,” a theory supported by Lewiston.

“It took me a few minutes to recognize him,” the stage manager stated. “After all, the only other time I saw the Venetian was over fifty years ago and I was just a kid then. But once the fight started, the memories came back. I’m positive that’s the same man I saw grappling with The Devil’s Coachman in Lafayette Park in 1871.”

A spokesman for the Cobalt Opera Society will be resuming performances next week with understudy Achille Barbot replacing Bassani.



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