Break a leg! I mean a foot!
“Break a leg” and “the show must go on” are among the most overused injunctions in the performing arts. On Friday, Anne Akiko Meyers joined the lists of performers who have obeyed both.
To be exact, she didn’t break a leg. She broke her foot. But it didn’t stop her from performing Mason Bates’s challenging violin concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra on Friday and Saturday nights (after Thursday night’s unhampered performance).[From Thursday night: NSO showcases Kennedy Center composer in residence, older American gems.]
“I thought I just completely sprained my foot,” the violinist said by phone from her home in Austin, Texas on Monday afternoon. “It was black and blue. But I didn’t know it was broken. I have never broken anything in my body.”
On Friday night, all that was evident was a slight limp – and slightly unconventional footwear, sturdy platform sandals. (“They’re like wearing sneakers,” Meyers said.) Sitting in the audience, I might not have noticed either had I not been tipped, off the record, before the concert, that Meyers had had a bad fall in the afternoon. That explained the placement of a stool on stage; but in the event, Meyers walked out, did not use the stool, and played the difficult concerto with aplomb.
By Saturday morning, the foot had ballooned. For Saturday night’s performance, Meyers used a wheelchair to get on stage – but still played standing up.
“You cannot sit and play Mason’s music,” she said on Monday. “It doesn’t work.” Besides, she added, “If I had sat, I would never have gotten up.”
The accident itself was relatively benign, or perhaps “domestic” is a better term: Meyers was pushing a stroller with her two daughters, ages four and five, while checking her e-mail on a smartphone, and didn’t see the curb at the edge of the sidewalk.
“It happened at like two o’clock,” she said. “I had a soundcheck at four.” There wasn’t time to go to the doctor, and besides, she was pretty sure what a doctor would say: “You need to ice it, and elevate, and medicate: three things I couldn’t do at that moment.”
Her misadventure is reminiscent of the time in 2009 that the mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato fell on stage and broke her leg during a performance of “The Barber of Seville” at Covent Garden. DiDonato finished the performance, on crutches, and then went to the hospital. She sang the next performance in a wheelchair.
But opera staging involves so much physical activity that people are apt to get hurt once in a while. (I remember a night when the stage knife failed to retract when Don Jose stabbed Carmen, drawing blood from the mezzo-soprano Elena Zaremba. Fortunately he only hit her arm.) Generally speaking, the concert stage tends to be a less perilous place.
Meyers is not cancelling any performances. Next on her schedule is a recording in London of a new piece by the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, Szymanowski’s violin concerto, and Mortin Lauridsen’s arrangement of his popular “O Magnum Mysterium.” At least no one will see her footwear for that.