June 17 ought to have been a night of triumph for Olga Borodina: she had been scheduled to make her Vienna State Opera debut as Isabella in Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri, a comic coloratura role of which the regal Russian mezzo has made an unlikely but very successful specialty.
Instead, just as the performance was about to begin, a State Opera representative stepped onstage and made the following announcement to the audience:
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Originally you would have seen Madame Olga Borodina make her debut at the State Opera in Vienna tonight. Unfortunately, during the rehearsals an atmosphere developed which has made the Vienna State Opera, the management, decide to distance itself from an engagement [with Borodina], not just for this production but also for all others."
He went on to say that Agnes Baltsa had agreed to replace Borodina at short notice despite an injured leg. Vienna's Der Standard and Wiener Zeitung mentioned the incident in their reviews of the performance; an audio recording of the announcement later appeared on the web site Parterre Box.
A statement subsequently released by the State Opera press office says, in total, "All contracts between Olga Borodina and the Vienna State Opera have been dissolved by mutual agreement."
Explanations of this sudden development vary. An item posted on June 19 on the web site of the Austrian entertainment magazine Der neue Merker says that she abruptly stormed out of an orchestral rehearsal last week because everything was taking too long; other sources reportedly claim that she was annoyed that rehearsal assistants seemed ignorant of the intentions of the 1987 staging's original director, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, and that she was angry when her request to sing an alternate version of one aria was denied because the orchestral parts could not be obtained in time.