It’s customary to wish a successful performance by saying “break a leg!”
This does not literally mean that you wish the performers to break their legs but that you wish them to perform so well that it wouldn’t be surprising if they actually broke their legs.
One hour before the “cinco de mayo” concert in central La Coruña, our second concert in this coastal city and our third in Spain, I witnessed a most dramatic event.
The concierge led us to the grand piano behind the curtains. He pulled while the guitarist pushed at the piano. In one “swoosh!” they rolled the piano on its three feet to centre stage but not without some commotion. As a bystander, I saw the covered wooden stage dip under the weight of the 6 ft grand piano.
One more pull and push — the leg towards the treble end of the piano folded under, like the way a person trips on his own foot.
People stopped talking.
A vision flashed before me: that the other two legs would bend and break, causing the piano to crash land on my lap as I play it. I quickly dismissed the thought and scurried to get a chair.
Nothing fitted between the chair and the piano except for empty space. Psychologically the piano looked better with the chair than without anything underneath as its broken leg was now lying on the floor, a useless piece of wood. The concierge went to call for help.
I retreated to the dressing room trying to recover from shock. There was a electric keyboard — maybe that’s the back-up.
Meanwhile, the guitarist sat alone on stage practising his runs. Later on, he confessed that he was practising solo pieces in case he’d have to play alone.
Ten minutes before the concert was to begin at 20:00, I heard the tinkling of the ivories. Opening the doors of the dressing room to the main hall, I looked towards the stage and saw a makeshift assembly.
Was the piano tuner not available? Or did he come without proper tools? Would it be strong enough to withstand my fortes? My fortessimos? My mind was filled with questions.
In other words, would I be safe?
A man came towards me and shook my hands. Introducing himself as the director of the centre, he said that it was a new piano, only 2 years old. This shouldn’t have happened.
Meanwhile, we were eager to warm up before the people started streaming in. Already I saw a familiar face in the audience. It was Miguel, an enthusiastic pianist I met in Utrecht and by coincidence ran into the other day at the beach. [another story]
“Christina asked me to translate for you,” he greeted me. “She was bitten by a fish.”
“Would you take a video of us while we rehearse the encore?” I asked. “It’s just a mobile telephone.”
Afterwards, Miguel offered to take photos for us.
Since then, the concert is no longer the “cinco de mayo” but the “break the piano leg” or “break a leg” concert!