Other than that, it was easy

When opera professionals next gather to swap stories about their craft, it's a safe guess that someone will bring up last week's run of "Aida" in Pittsburgh. It may just have set a record for overcoming challenges and still completing each performance.

The Giuseppe Verdi classic was one of the most-anticipated productions of the season in the Steel City. But as opening night approached, it became clear that the mezzo-soprano in the role of Amneris wouldn't be able to go on stage because of illness.

With time running out, artistic director Christopher Hahn located company alumna Marianne Cornetti and asked whether she'd be able to substitute. She could, but there was one problem: She happened to be thousands of miles away, in Amsterdam. By the time she hopped a flight home and sang her final number, she'd gone more than 24 hours without sleep.

But that was only the beginning of the week's tribulations. When the second performance rolled around, the tenor in the role of Radames announced that he was doubtful his voice would hold out through all four acts. Solution: Turn to Anthony Walker, who conducts the orchestra but also is a trained vocalist. For the final act, he sang the role and waved the baton at the same time as Radames lip-synched the words up on stage. Said Hahn, "This could be one for the history books."

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