ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) _ Even before she sang a note in ``Don Giovanni,'' there was a thunderous ovation Sunday for opera star Cecilia Bartoli, performing on crutches after breaking her ankle.

Three hours and four curtain calls later, patrons of the Zurich Opera stomped their feet and shouted, ``Bravo!'' as Bartoli and other cast members came back for bow after bow.

The 31-year-old mezzo-soprano slipped on ice while leaving opera house after a rehearsal last week, but she was determined to perform.

When she first started rehearsing, ``it was hard, because this situation with crutches was new for me,'' Bartoli told The Associated Press after the opening performance of the Mozart opera.

Bartoli used her crutches to add flavor to her part as Elvira, the woman enraged by Don Giovanni, her former lover.

``Since I have the crutches at the moment, I said to myself I had to use them,'' she said. ``After all, this could happen to Elvira.''

Bartoli's ankle was not the only potential disaster for producer Juergen Flimm, who had to replace another leading singer, Laszlo Polgar, when he developed a bad cold Sunday morning.

Manfred Hemm flew in from Austria and rehearsed the role of Don Giovanni's servant, Leporello, in half a day.

Bartoli has sung Zerlina in ``Don Giovanni'' but never Elvira. She is scheduled to perform the role through March 16 in the Flimm production, which is conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and has Rodney Gilfrey in the title role.