The call came a few hours before Carnegie Hall's season-opening gala concert _ Thomas Quasthoff, one of the stars of the night, had an inflamed vocal cord and could not sing.
Carnegie managers were still searching for a substitute minutes before Wednesday's final rehearsal for conductor Franz Welser-Moest and the Cleveland Orchestra.
"We had everybody on the phones," said Clive Gillinson, in his second season as executive and artistic director of America's premier concert hall.
Then someone remembered that German soprano Dorothea Roeschmann was in town for her Metropolitan Opera performances of Mozart's "Idomeneo."
"One of the guys at Carnegie Hall said, 'Hang on for a minute! Dorothea Roeschmann's got tickets to the concert tonight!' Gillenson recalled in a telephone interview. "So we said, 'Right!' She's here!"
They tracked her down at her hotel, and she agreed to fill in, asking if they could perform two arias from "Idomeneo."
But, Gillenson said, "it's about the only Mozart Franz Welser-Moest hasn't actually conducted."
So they agreed to do arias from Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro."
But that didn't end the pre-show drama. The wrong music arrived from the Met for the rehearsal, so a stagehand sprinted the mile to Lincoln Center, got the music, and ran back _ in time for the rehearsal, Gillenson said.
The concert before a black-tie-and-gown audience celebrating Carnegie's 116th season went smoother. The Austrian-born Welser-Moest, in his fifth season as the Cleveland's music director, scheduled an all-Viennese program. It was largely lite fare, starting with von Suppe's cartoonish "Light Cavalry" Overture and ending with Johann Strauss Jr.'s Overture to "Die Fledermaus."
Mozart's joyful and often comical Piano Concerto No. 17 also was on the program. The 36-year-old Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes gave an animated performance. During the orchestral introduction, he sat at the gleaming Steinway airplaying over the keys while awaiting his entrance. The second movement, which is evocative of a lost romance, was played with heartfelt pathos.
Two other light works by Strauss _ "Artist's Life" Waltz and "Annen" Polka completed the program.
Quasthoff was to have provided the heavy substance _ five songs from Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn." Five years ago, just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, he opened Carnegie's season with an unforgettable performance of songs from the collection.
But on Wednesday, his inflamed throat forced him to cancel.
That enabled the 39-year-old Roeschmann to give her first performance in Carnegie's Isaac Stern Auditorium since 1992. She sang "Porgi amor" ("Grant love"), "E Susanna non vien!" ("Still Susanna does not come!") and "Dove sono" ("Where are the golden moments?"). Her voice was powerful, filling the vast hall, and she sang with dramatic vocal and physical gestures and without a score. Despite the short rehearsal time, the orchestra had no problems accompanying her.
"For her to be a trouper that way and actually help bail everybody out was just phenomenal that she agreed to do it," Gillenson said.
"It's very demanding on an artist. Literally with an hour to spare you come into a rehearsal, and that's it. It's not the normal way to prepare mentally for a concert. It was really fantastic that she agreed to do that."
Quasthoff, who was scheduled for five appearances this season in Carnegie's prestigious "perspective" series, still expects to perform on Saturday night with the Cleveland.