Mezzo-Soprano Sues Metropolitan Opera Over Stage Fall

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The mezzo-soprano Wendy White is suing the Metropolitan Opera for a 2011 accident where a set collapsed from under her during performance of Faust, causing her to fall eight feet to the stage and injure her torso.

White, 60, was performing the role of Marthe during an evening performance when a faulty hinge reportedly gave way. She suffered no broken bones but the tumble caused nerve and muscle damage that has prevented her from singing, according to a suit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Friday [PDF].

"She cannot sustain a performance with the rigors and endurance that's required of a principal soloist of her caliber,” said her lawyer, Martin Edelman. "It’s been a devastating blow to her career and her self-image, and the loss of enjoyment of one thing that she’s treasured. It’s been very tough for her to come to terms with it.”

Edelman said White held off on suing until now because she was hoping her injuries would heal and it wouldn't come to a court case.

The Metropolitan Opera responded in a statement: "We deeply regret that Wendy White is unable to return to the Met, but since this is a pending legal action we are not able to offer further comment."

White, who has given over 500 performances in a 23-year history at the Met, was walking onto an elevated platform on the set of Faust when the hinge gave way. Her co-star René Pape, who was nearby and playing Méphistophélès, reportedly yelled, "Curtain! Curtain!" The show stopped for some 40 minutes. White was seen by the house doctor and taken by ambulance to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital.

According to Edelman, the Met’s own investigation found that the platform was held together not with “standard door-type hinges” but a flimsier shutter hinge.

The suit seeks unspecified compensation for loss of past wages and future wages, as well as pain and suffering, which Edelman said was acute because of the “loss of enjoyment of life which includes the emotional consequences of the loss of a career."

WQXR carries the Met's Saturday radio broadcasts.