What singers threw up on the stage

Leaves that mean the world

A while ago the most beautiful position in the world of classical music was advertised again: The Royal Opera House in London was looking for a "flower presenter", an employee whose main task is to give flowers to the artists on stage during the final applause. The Royal Opera is the only opera house in the world that has made a permanent position for it. It is a tradition there that especially devoted fans order lavish bouquets for singers and ballerinas and leave them with the porter - for operas only on the premiere evening, for ballet performances always. The "Flower Presenter" checks the size of the container. Bouquets that look too puny on stage are taken straight to the cloakroom, the rest to the side stage. When the curtain has fallen, the presenter steps on the stage and hands over the bouquets - with displayed dignity, humility and nobility. Until a few years ago, uniforms consisted of knee breeches, gold-trimmed tailcoats and white wigs. The times are over, today a proper suit is enough. Other laws still apply, including unwritten ones: bouquets for male dancers are generally not presented on stage; if bouquets have not arrived for all soloists or even only for dancers from the corps and not for the prima ballerina, no one gets flowers on stage.

Outside of London, it is not the audience who takes care of the flowers, but mostly the artistic management office, in the jargon of the music world: "the house". And with noticeably less euphoria. The artist's bouquet is seen in many places as a decorative accessory, aunt-like and unfashionable, only a prop of an always the same, usually somewhat embarrassing drama for the flower bearer, which has to be performed at the end of the evening while the first spectators rush to the parking garage down in the stalls: awkwardly handed over, then a snappy kiss-left-kiss-right, and now?

Yes, difficult. In any case, on the concert stage there is hardly a more effective means of eliminating a violinist, pianist or conductor without violence than handing him a bouquet of flowers. Now play an encore: impossible. Put away the bouquet: yes, but where to? There is a threat of stains on the score on the music stand. Laying on the floor is a difficult gesture - a gift is a gift. Especially since a bouquet of flowers does not look good lying down either. Attractive, non-slip and crush-proof, a bouquet could only be stowed in the bell of the tuba. It would be best to give the bouquet back to the flower messenger straight away (on some evenings, in the rush of applause, the artist only notices after long seconds that someone is standing there and smiling in the bouquet).

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Most male artists simply pass the matter on and push the bouquet into the hand of a surprised lady from the first violin, while others pluck the bouquet apart and randomly distribute the stems in the ensemble. But it can also end in an even more destructive way. By far the worst place to deposit the bouquet is the concert grand. There is a small area next to the music stand that seems made for it, but piano makers strongly advise against it: A chandelier falling on the grand piano could probably do no more damage than a bouquet of roses still moist with flowers, which the pianist bowed with a clumsy one Arm movement bumps into the felt hammer mechanism above the soundboard (if you think that this is hair-raising, you're wrong).

The Vienna Philharmonic does not want flowers that have a strong scent, the Berlin Philharmonic do not want white bouquets - they would not be easy to see in broadcasts of the concerts on the Internet

Some concert and opera houses, on the other hand, understand how to use the potential of the moment that - despite all conventions - is the only improvised one on an otherwise completely rehearsed evening. These houses are starting to control the part of the ritual that really matters: the bouquet. There are now style books for this, but they are not called style books, but rather, very appropriately: scores.

As far as possible, the Vienna Philharmonic does not use flowers that have a strong scent, such as mimosas, hyacinths, freesias or lilies. The Berliner Philharmoniker do not have purely white bouquets because they cannot be seen clearly in the broadcasts of the concerts on the Internet, apart from that: the largest possible flowers, the strongest possible colors. At the Salzburg Festival, bouquets are tied in tissue paper with a bow, in a color that matches the stage design of the respective performance - in the case of the golden yellow one Love of Danae 2016 about yellow, white and orange.

Order the flowers from the Lucerne Theater La Traviata recently read: An opulent bouquet of white roses, reminiscent of camellias, for the singer of Violetta, "may look glamorous" was on the order form. In addition, 17 small bouquets of roses, "shimmering between yellow and rose-red", for the rest of the cast. The annual Donizetti Festival in Bergamo is the most meticulous: three white lilies, two white roses, two yellow, two orange, plus three Inca lilies, gypsophila and green.

No other present can express the appreciation for the service just performed like a bouquet of flowers. Nobody would think of giving stage performers anything practical, such as a violinist with a set of new strings or a soprano with a basket of sausages and wine. Flowers are useless, but beautiful, and also ephemeral. It is also the evening on which they are presented.