Berry & Green

Creative. Strategic. Communications.

Operatic Catastrophe

The London Palladium. An historic building and the scene of countless unmissable showbiz moments. It’s capacity is just shy of 2,300. Like a gun mentioned in scene one of a Chekhov play, we must remember this fact as it may become relevant later…..

I am working on a one-off performance at said venue by The Three Sopranos. Following the global success of The Three Tenors - Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti, all of whom are household names in any respectable household outside Catford, a wily concert promoter has created the female equivalent, belting out Delibes and Puccini to anyone who knows their arias from their elbow (sorry!)

The only slight drawback is that whereas any one of The Three Tenors could walk into a Sainsbury’s and cause mass hysteria, the same could not be said to be true of the Sopranos. Kathleen Cassello, Kallen Esperian and Cynthia Lawrence are barely known outside niche operatic circles and therefore any spontaneous appearance in a supermarket would be greeted by the question: “excuse me, dear. Do you know where I can find the tofu?”

It’s not going to be an easy sell. But the promoter is confident, there’s money for marketing and we’ve managed to get a few interviews placed with the Sopranos, albeit in fairly low-key titles. All seems calm until three days before the show when a crisis meeting is suddenly called.

The promoter has spoken to the Box Office and done some maths and realised that the total number of tickets sold is…………47. And to make things worse, he’s invited his friend Luciano Pavarotti who, to make things monumentally bad, has said yes.

In theatre, the term “papering” is used to fill gaps in an audience with friends and family to make a show look more of a sell-out than it actually is. The next 72 hours saw Olympic-grade papering with virtually every music student on London offered a free ticket. In the event, the palladium was around 85% full. Yet only a tiny handful of eager audience members had paid for the privilege.