Forget about a tubercular Mimì, it was the Rodolfo that went down at a performance of La Bohème by the Royal Opera House last Friday – but fortunately an audience member jumped in to save the show. In a stroke of luck, the brave volunteer was none other than the Mimì’s real-life husband, American tenor Charles Castronovo.

Castronovo was there to support his wife, soprano Ekaterina Siurina, who was singing the role of Puccini’s seamstress for the first time at Covent Garden. But when tenor Atalla Ayan (who is scheduled to take over from Gianluca Terranova in Opera Australia’s Rigoletto in Sydney from August 4) ran into vocal difficulty during the performance, Castronovo rallied and sang the rest of the role from the wings while Ayan mimed. Thankfully, Rodolfo is a role that Castronovo is familiar with.

“We were incredibly grateful that Charles quickly agreed to step in and sing the second half of the performance from the side of the stage, while Atalla walked the role in costume,” said the Royal Opera House in a statement. “The audience received the news of this change graciously and greeted both Charles and Atalla with a wonderfully warm reception during the curtain call at the end of the performance.”

Notable audience members included author Katy Lette, who tweeted: “Thank god @stephenfry and I wore our waterproof mascara for La Boheme. We blubbed throughout, especially when the tenor’s voice cracked and the soprano’s hubby leapt up out of the audience to take over the role of her lover. Sensationally romantic.”

Fry replied to Lette with: “England desperately needs rain and we did our best to water London with our tears. Congratulations cast, crew orchestra and all @RoyalOperaHouse for a La BooHoo to remember.”

The last time Castronovo appeared at Covent Garden, he starred as Edgardo in Katie Mitchell’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor. Thankfully, the tenor had ample notice on that occasion.