bart

Audience behavior

75 posts in this topic

You hear lots of complaints about the behavior of audiences in all sorts of performances. Movies, of course, are the worst. But I guess my experience with ballet and opera, as well as serious theater, have been pretty lucky so far. Which is why WindFlyer's comment on the Kirov-Maryinsky - Orange County, CA, thread -- was an eye opener.

Let me start with a rant... This was one of the worst audiences I've had the displeasure of seeing a performance with in a very long time... Crying babies, chirping cell phones, murmur of conversation well into the first few minutes after every intermission, untimely applause—when Vishneva lined for the start of the fouettés, the audience started clapping before a note sounded ... It came very close to ruining a good afternoon of ballet for me.
:clapping:

Babies? (They can afford the tickets?) Cell phones? (Well, that's not really a surprise, though around here peple tend to wait until the instant they hit the lobby, leading to an awful lot of solitary individuals wandering around during intermission gabbling and gesticulating into empty space.)

Richard Wagner -- trainer of audiences who sat in silence in complete darkness, while focusing every particle of their being on what was taking place on the stage -- would be appalled. And, with the current high price of tickets, so am I.

Any other stories of particularly bad audience behavior at the ballet?

Share this post


Link to post
:clapping: I once saw a teenager in an orchestra seat at the Metropolitan Opera, during an intermission, take off his shoes and rest bare feet on top of the seat in front of him.

Share this post


Link to post

Somewhere in the Archives there's a thread on a topic similar to this one and some of the posts are hilarious. I agree with WindFlyer about the audiences at the Orange County Kirov tour; I was at 4 performances and the audience was impossible at all 4. At one Swan Lake they applauded the lights dimming at Act I.

Giannina

Share this post


Link to post

It's probably very un-p.c. to mention this, but at Sadlers Wells I'm told they have an 'inclusivity' policy that allows people with severe mental problems into performances. All highly laudable, but the reality is that performances suffer from frequent disturbances from the audience. There were a number of shouts and cries during a BRB performance there on Tuesday night and on another occasion I heard someone howl like an animal throughout the entire show. I feel it is time to question the wisdom of this.

Share this post


Link to post

I was sitting behind a fairly large party of 20-somethings at a performance of the Bolshoi here a couple years ago, who were all text messaging during the performance. They'd silenced their various phones and PDAs, but as they typed and read their messages, they kept flashing their screens around, and the backlighting was just like a flashlight as it glared in my eyes.

Share this post


Link to post
at Sadlers Wells I'm told they have an 'inclusivity' policy that allows people with severe mental problems into performances. All highly laudable, but the reality is that performances suffer from frequent disturbances from the audience. There were a number of shouts and cries during a BRB performance there on Tuesday night and on another occasion I heard someone howl like an animal throughout the entire show.

That sounds like something from Saturday Night Live (a satiric American television comedy show).

Share this post


Link to post
I was sitting behind a fairly large party of 20-somethings at a performance of the Bolshoi here a couple years ago, who were all text messaging during the performance. They'd silenced their various phones and PDAs, but as they typed and read their messages, they kept flashing their screens around, and the backlighting was just like a flashlight as it glared in my eyes.
I had a similar experience at an Ailey performance, but the "children" complied when asked to "turn off the lights." A bit resentfully, but they did comply.

Share this post


Link to post

One more example of multi-tasking, I suppose. (Unless they were text messaging their reviews to make particularly early deadlines at the Times.)

One of the things that divides us increasingly, I think, is the way in which "paying attention" means so many different things to different people. Is this kind of behavior a variation of "keeping one eye on the clock" for people who don't want to be there anyway? Or do they really believe that they are being fully attentive to what is going on?

I am at one far end of the spectrum: I simply cannot break away from the old patterns of aiming at 100% concentration on the performance, at least where serious art is concerned. Nor can I understand why anyone would bother to purchase tickets, take valuable time, and travel some distance to a theater only to disregard and miss a great deal of what is being performed in front of them.

Share this post


Link to post

Just last week we sat behind a couple who could not keep their hands off one another and kept exchanging passionate kisses constantly. I thought that was annoying until that stopped when she had a violent coughing spell for many minutes. The woman beside me finally leaned forward to offer her a cough candy which she declined and then took produced one of her own. :clapping:

Share this post


Link to post

It was not at a ballet, but last week-end at the cinema (showing an Iranian film "Café transit" (Border café)), there was a old gentleman who fall asleep from the first minute of the film and who snored VERY loudly during ALL the film. At first, the snoring noises caused some giggles in the audience, but after a while it really became annoying, especially in all the quiet scenes when the snoring was sometimes louder than the dialogues... I guess most of the audience regretted that his neighbors didn't dare to wake him up.

Share this post


Link to post

Several years ago we attended the Met Opera on a Monday evening. Directly behind us was an elderly fella who was obviously plagued with a cough and cold and sneezed and coughed right behind us almost continuously. It was awful and so terribly distracting.

My reaction was that it was rude of him to subject others to his interruptions and his germs!

I complained to the house manager at the first intermission. They could obviously not eject someone for sneezing and coughing, but they provided us comp seats (much better) in the parterre I recall. Apparently Monday night is when the most "old timers" show up and so I now try to avoid Monday nights at the Met for that reason... sick elderly people who are hacking, coughing and sneezing!

Personally I don't care how demonstrative the audience is after the curtain falls, but I find audience noise during the performance very distracting to the experience.

The Met will not seat anyone after the lights dim for the performance so they do have a sense of respect for the audience and the performers. But how to control rude audience members who have no respect for others? I wish I knew... or someone else did.

Share this post


Link to post
Just last week we sat behind a couple who could not keep their hands off one another and kept exchanging passionate kisses constantly.

Some one should have told them that's what box seats are for. :wink:

I remember attending an opera performance in eastern Europe. It was Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina, so the theater was practically deserted. By the second act, those of us who were seated in the central balcony of the first tier moved to the first few rows. Midway through the act a couple who hadn't been there before came in and sat down in the last row. In no time all sorts of unseemly noises were coming from back there, but I didn't dare turn around to look. I don't know whether it was an illicit tryst, or whether they were just an ordinary middle-aged couple that had sneaked into the theater get some privacy, as in that part of the world it's not at all unusual for several generations to live together in a small apartment. In any event, they weren't able to use a box since that opera house had a practice of locking unoccupied boxes once the performance began. No doubt the theater had previous experience of boxes being used for amorous purposes. A number of years ago I remember watching a documentary series about Covent Garden in which an usher described just such an incident.

Share this post


Link to post

Last week I made a trip to Pittsburgh for a performance of Pagliacci in which a friend was singing Tonio. He gave a wonderful performance, stealing the show IMO.

At the curtain call, three post-retirees in front of me booed him. When the lights went up, I leaned forward and asked "Why would you boo the best singer in the cast?" The reply "Oh he was very good dear, but you always boo the villain".

Share this post


Link to post

I hate to be a curmudgeon, but... In Denver, it's just been in the last couple years that people have started bringing babies and pre-school children to the ballet and symphony. The results have usually been predictable. On Sunday at Dracula, a pre-schooler on the other side of the aisle talked the entire second act. I was going to say something to the parents during the intermission, but the usher was joking with them so I figured that I wouldn't get any support.

Share this post


Link to post

What happened to the good old babysitter that I used to use whenever I wanted to attend an event? I won't even entertain going to a matinee of Nutcracker and indeed have gotten to the point of not really wanting to attend any performance at all of Nutcrackerl. We went to a local performance of a fairly "on the edge" modern dance offering where the dancer stripped down to NOTHING and there were several very young children in the audience with their parents. I did not even consider what I thought about the entire performance- I was too busy thinking about what those small children in their party dresses and ballet buns thought about the whole thing.

Share this post


Link to post

I hope those youngsters did not do what I have so often seen children do at intermissions or after the performance -- imitate what they'd just seen! :wink:

Share this post


Link to post

Let's see... there was the elderly deaf couple arguing about their marriage, apparently oblivious to the production on the stage... there was the guy in the front row who stood up and started taking flash photos, and then picked a fight with the usher who tried to get him to stop... and then there was that guy snoring so loudly through Jean Erdman's performance, whom someone informed me naught could be done about as he was her husband, Joseph Campbell. But recently? beyond the usual kid stuff at Nutcracker (which I tolerate because Nut always seems like a mission to bring ballet to young children)... only me, furious that I had bought a dance ticket at a theater where one couldn't see the dancers below the knee because of the sitelines.... I kept trying to sit high enough in my chair to see a little better (angering the people behind me).

Share this post


Link to post
and then there was that guy snoring so loudly through Jean Erdman's performance, whom someone informed me naught could be done about as he was her husband, Joseph Campbell.

Oh dear, it's not fair to make me laugh that loud!

Share this post


Link to post

Imagined conversation later:

Jean: . . . and someone was snoring through the whole thing -- and
loudly
!!! I could barely keep my focus!

Joe: Well, that was rude! Someone shoulda beaned that boor!

Someone shoulda!

Share this post


Link to post

I remember somebody humming along with the orchestra at a performance of Sleeping Beauty...or was it Nutz? I've tried to block it from my memory. :wink:

Then there are the ubiquitous seat-kickers and ladies marinating themselves in perfume.

Share this post


Link to post
I remember somebody humming along with the orchestra at a performance of Sleeping Beauty...or was it Nutz? I've tried to block it from my memory. :wallbash:

You should make a point of never sitting too close to the orchestra pit while Valery Gergiev is conducting. He grunts along with the music all performance long.

Share this post


Link to post
I remember somebody humming along with the orchestra at a performance of Sleeping Beauty...or was it Nutz?

I've done this accidentally -- it's very embarrassing.

Share this post


Link to post

I remember somebody humming along with the orchestra at a performance of Sleeping Beauty...or was it Nutz?

I've done this accidentally -- it's very embarrassing.

Me, too.

Share this post


Link to post

I just had a doozy of an "audience behavior" experience last night at Washington Ballet's premiere of the 'Morphoses/Carmina Burana' program at the Kennedy Center.

No, it wasn't the hummer, or the seat tapper, or the cellphone multitasker. This is a new one: The 'Artistically-Moved Sigher.' I had the 'honor' of sitting next to a well-groomed, middle-aged lady who spent the entire performance vocally reacting (sigh, ooh, ahhh, etc.) to almost every movement on the stage. If something really moved her, she accompanied her vocal noise with a wild gesticulation of arms/hands, often mimicking a conductor. She emitted some sort of sigh/noise every 10 seconds or so. About 15 minutes into the night's first ballet (Wheeldon's 'Morphoses'), I finally had to whisper something to this lady: "Could you please keep your reactions to yourself?" This made it only worse, as the lady snapped back to me: "When the artistry moves me, I have a right to react!" So I answered forcefully: "Wait until the time for applause." That sort-of shut her up...for this first ballet.

Thank goodness, after intermission, she & her friend switched seats...so I had the lady's friend sitting between us. HOWEVER, the next ballet was "Carmina Burana." You can only imagine how the Orff music moved her, in comparison with the relatively staid Ligeti score of the first work. In other words, she was every bit as loud, to my ears, during "Carmina" as she had been in "Morphoses." What a double-show!

Has anyone else experienced an "Artistically-Moved Sigher" as an audience-neighbor?

Was I too harsh with this "Artistically-Moved" individual? What else could I have done?

p.s. I wish that I could write about the performances on stage but this gal really ruined it for me. It was tough to concentrate on two performances at the same time. :blink:

Share this post


Link to post