Music: Man of Many Parts

Midway in Jacques Offenbach's frothy operetta La Perichole, a trapdoor opens slowly onstage; from the depths of a subterranean dungeon emerges a doddering old prisoner. He has been digging through various walls for twelve years, and now he is ready to escape. He lasts no more than four minutes onstage before he is forced to flee through the trap again. But to Offenbach fans at Manhattan's Metropolitan Opera, the sequence is one of the comic highpoints of the evening. The man responsible: Italian-born Tenor Alessio de Paolis (pronounced: Pow-o-lees), 64, who in a quarter-century at the Met has sung some 50...

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