Cher Public

But I’m a jeer leader

The Royal Opera’s Sir Antonio Pappano (not pictured) considers the question of booing at the opera and comes to exactly the wrong conclusion. [The Guardian]

  • Liz.S

    Thank you, LaC. I thought it was the other way around myself. Booing at the villains is OK but booing at bad performances is not OK because it’s hurtful?
    At work, do you dare say “don’t give me negative reviews because it’s hurtful”? It’s a part of life for everybody :-)
    Artists who sings Iago or Duke of Mantua marvelously deserves boos just because they are playing villains? -- of course, not. People have liberty to express their opinion towards the artist’ performances but complaining at the performers’ roles is more unreasonable and immature.

    • Armerjacquino

      “At work, do you dare say “don’t give me negative reviews because it’s hurtful”?”

      This is a false opposition. Negative reviews already exist in the world of performance. The analogy would literally be trying to do your job while the rest of the office was booing you. You know, like kids.

      • La Cieca

        The audience is not strictly comparable to co-workers, but more accurately to clients. And clients generally are allowed to express themselves any way they like, because of the adage that the customer is always right.

        Nobody is defending booing that occurs while a performer is singing. Booing happens at the same time as applause. So if booing is a distracting interruption of the artistic process, so is applause.

        So I ask which you would prefer: an audience may applaud and boo, or an audience may do neither. I don’t think it’s fair to to say, “React any way you like, so long as it’s positive.”

        What’s most disappointing in this piece, though, is Pappano’s encouraging of audiences to treat Pinkerton and the Queen of the Night as if they were Abanazar.

        • Armerjacquino

          I’d say that’s another false opposition. Booing isn’t the counterpart to applause, it’s the counterpart to cheering. Applause is neutral- it says ‘thank you for working to entertain us for the last three hours’. So, as Pappano says, withholding applause is a gesture that says someone hasn’t been as entertained as they would have liked- but that of course doesn’t garner the attention of others, which is actually what booing is all about.

          And is ‘react any way you like, so long as it’s positive’ such a bad rule of thumb anyway? Are kindness and unkindness morally equivalent? Cheering is designed to make someone’s day better, booing to make it worse. I know which person I’d rather be. If a singer gives a subpar performance I don’t take it as a personal affront.

          I don’t see what it’s supposed to achieve, either. ‘Oh wow, these people are right, I can’t sing, I must retire immediately!’ or ‘You know what, I *wasn’t* trying hard enough! Thank god I’ve been reminded!’. Not in this lifetime.

          But it’s not really the practical or, for want of a better word, ‘moral’ elements I object to, tbh. I’ve been posting here for a more than a decade, and I’ve heard the pro-booing arguments whenever they pop up every few months or so. None of them will ever address my major objection, which is that I find it embarrassingly, cringingly, toe-curlingly childish. It’s a tantrum.

          • La Cieca

            So you propose the banning of cheering then?

            • Armerjacquino

              I don’t propose the banning of anything. Where did I say I did?

          • Luvtennis

            I attended one of the Fledermaus performances last season at the Met. Me no likey. I really wanted to boo Gelb -- after all he is responsible for the cast and production -- because the performers were simply doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. What to do…..

            • Pirelli

              WERE the performers doing their jobs to the best of their abilities? Hearing the production on Sirius, I was disheartened to hear how musically messy it seemed.

          • MissShelved

            I often wonder if garnering the attention of others isn’t what’s behind that one soul who needs to bellow “bravO!” at the end of every aria. Yes, we get it.

      • Ivy Lin

        IMO booing is like not tipping after a meal. I know some people NEVER tip and technically tipping is completely optional. So you are within your rights to not tip. But I’d only not tip after a served meal for the most egregiously bad service. In fact, in my whole life I’ve only once not tipped and that was when I asked for a glass of water and there was a huge roach resting comfortably at the bottom of the cup.

  • Rick

    Booing the villains, at least in a serious opera is, in my humble opinion and hoping not be in for a tongue lashing from some of the more redoubtable parterrians, totally gauche. How do you get the idea to boo Pinkerton? Are we, the audience, children who cannot distinguish between the singer and his/her part? Do we also think that Madame Butterfly has magically risen from the dead (or is a ghost or zombie) when she comes out for her curtain call?

    No, booing the villain might have it place in pantomime or farce -- but not in opera.

    Booing a horrendous performance or a stage production one really dislikes, well, I guess there can be situations where that is warranted (although I would probably not do it).

    • Cameron Kelsall

      I remember how ridiculous it seemed, at the Broadway production of Porgy & Bess a couple years back, that the audience heartily booed Philip Boykin, singing Crown. He did some ridiculous curtsy as if to say, “I’m just a big softie.” Tradition or not, it felt so unnecessary.

    • Paul Johnston

      Would you boo Pavarotti as Pinkerton? I think not

  • Next thing we know, when the messaggiera tells Orfeo Euridice is dead, English audiences will start shouting “Oh no she isn’t,” “Oh yes she is”- and of course, towards the end “She’s behind you…”

  • Leontiny

    At a few Butterflies the Pinkerton was very fine, and caddish, and the audience boo’d him, affectionately, at the curtain. In a couple of cases the singer was initially taken aback, then figured it out and responded appropriately.
    At a memorable Aida in the Terme di Caracalla when it was still a performance space the audience disliked the tenor and made armpit fart noises. It seemed entirely appropriate. The singer responded by giving them “the elbow”.
    Speaking of Butterfly has anyone seen the ROH with Ermonela Jaho as Butterfly, and Elizabeth deShong as Suzuki? It plays in cinemas here next weekend. Marcelo Puente is the cad.
    And in other Brit offerings, off topic, has anyone been to Longborough Opera in deepest Cotswolds? They are reprising a much admired Tristan and Isolde this June. And yet another country house festival, Grange Park, has a brand new opera house! They are doing Die Walkure in June -- conducted by Stephen Barlow, hubby of Joanna Lumley. Seems a worthwhile outlay of cash.
    And Brett Dean and Matthew Jocelyn’s Hamlet at Glyndebourne with Barbara Hannigan as Ophelia? Anyone else thinking of attending? She was beyond incredible in Benjamin’s Alice, and ROH Written on Skin.

    • manou

      Hello Leontiny -- I have indeed seen the Pappano/Jaho/DeShong Butterfly and heartily recommend the HD replay if anyone is able to see it. I have been to Longborough and saw the previous T&I (Negus conducting -- Rachel Nicholls v. good Isolde).

      We are also going to the Walküre and I am curious to see the new building. There is also opera at the former venue (Grange Park Festival, confusingly) -- Calleja in Tosca will play there.

      • CarlottaBorromeo

        Manou -- the Tosca is at the “new” Grange in Surrey. The new company at the “old” Grange (in Hampshire) will perform Carmen, Il ritorno d’Ulisse and Albert Herring (and a Verdi Requiem which rather bizarrely seems to have a dinner interval after the Sequence and before the Offertory).

        • manou

          Tell me about it -- I have been trying to order dinner at the wrong Grange…..