Opera director Mary Zimmerman and her creative team were recently booed by a Met audience for their new production of Bellini’s La Somnambula. The Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout provides an audio recording of the curtain calls, and muses on why boos are rare in New York, while common in Italy and sometimes elsewhere (google “Roberto Alagna La Scala,” or “Chereau ring brawl” for some celebrated examples).
Teachout also laments the “mandatory standing ovation” (which a WSJ reader attributes to our “everyone-gets-a-trophy” culture, but Teachout attributes to the cost of tickets). But then it gets confused. On the one hand, he imagines that an artist might rather be booed than treated with indifference, because at least booing indicates engagement. On the other hand, Teachout suggests a “silent boo” mechanism of having audience members recycle their programs in some sort of thumbs-up, thumbs-down choice of bins. (Mightn’t the most thoughtful critics want to keep their programs, skewing the results?)
Also on the topic of audience etiquette, Emanuel Ax asks “Why can we interrupt at the Met?” (or rather, why can’t we applaud between movements in an orchestral concert, just like we can after a big opera aria)?
Why, indeed? Even though I know “the rules” (and onced served as Enforcer in music camp where we used evening concerts to teach kids concert etiquett), I’ve wanted to applaud after a particularly rousing first or second movment of a beloved symphony. Who made these rules?
Actually, Alex Ross traced the history of clapping in 2005. It used to be that if you sat sedately between movements the artists’ feelings would be hurt. Hint: Alex’s sources blame Wagner for setting too reverent a tone in the hall.
John has written a review of the Copenhagen Ring Cycle on DVD, and Bonnie will be “live-blogging” the DVDs one by one. If you love or hate Wagner or Eurotrash, check it out here!