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audience reaction to ballet, opera, chamber music, etc.

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#1 Ed Waffle

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Posted 23 February 2000 - 12:38 PM

The way that audiences react and the expectations of how they will do so differ significantly among performing art forms.

The appropriate response to opera seems to fall into two categories—Wagner and non-Wagner. For a Wagnerian opera, one is expected to not applaud until the end of an act— except for “Parsifal”, in which applause may be held until the entire opera is over (and the audience awakens). For all others, especially nineteenth century Italian works, the expectation is that there will be occasional interruptions of applause after well-known arias. It is remarkable and part of opera lore when a big aria does not stop the show.

In chamber music recitals or symphonic concerts, of course, applause is expected only at the conclusion of a work—it is considered ill-mannered to applause between movements, no matter how beautifully the movement has been played and how profoundly affected one may be by it. It is even more exaggerated at song recitals, where it almost breath-holding quality of the silence between the songs of a series seems to be part of the experience of attending the concert, and one which I find increasingly annoying.

I remember being surprised at the first ballet I attended when the dancers would finish a variation and then come to the footlights to bow and accept applause. In opera when the work in interrupted by applause (sometimes quite raucous and prolonged) the singers almost always simply stand and stay in character until it subsides. The conductor is the one who decides when to continue. In ballet it seems less intrusive—something happens which will cause applause, a recognition of it and then on with the show.

Are these pauses to accept accolades put into the work based on how a producer or choreographer thinks the audience will respond? Are they also typical in the rest of the world (Russia, France, England for example)? Are they recent additions or are they part of the tradition of ballet?

#2 Alexandra


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Posted 23 February 2000 - 11:02 PM

Another good question. I think it's up to the artistic director. Fokine was *adamant* that his ballets not be interrupted by applause, yet the last time I saw the Bolshoi do "Les Sylphides" each soloist came to the footlights for a bow.

I do think applause is different country by country. (In Copenhagen, when it's really good, the audience stomps on the wooden floor, but only at the end. It's great; get all the energy out through the legs) But they don't applaud much. It's also different in different times. I have a very fond memory of Nureyev receiving a standing ovation after his solo in the third act of Sleeping Beauty once. Now, he demanded it. He stood in fifth position, raised his arms, and made it absolutely clear that nothing was going to happen until everyone in the Met stood and acknowledged his (not insignificant) accomplishment. It worked.

#3 Guest_JerryB_*

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Posted 24 February 2000 - 10:35 AM

NYCB used to make an announcement before the Goldberg Variations to please not applaud between variations. (And maybe Dances at a Gathering, I'm not sure about that.) I assume that Robbins didn't like his work interupted either.

#4 Giannina


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Posted 24 February 2000 - 11:09 AM

Applause during ballets is a pet peeve of mine...don't even get me started. Suffice it to say Jerome Robbins was my kind of guy!


[This message has been edited by Giannina Mooney (edited February 24, 2000).]

#5 cargill


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Posted 24 February 2000 - 12:46 PM

One habit the Russians have which really bothers me (I don't know if they still do it) is stopping after the fouettes for the ballerina to take her bows, and then continuing with the pas de deux. It seem to me to interrupt the mood so, and dampen the excitement of whatever steps come afterwards--besides being irritating, it is not theatrical, since the whole dance should build. But I bet ballet dancers would like to imitate opera singers, and get curtain calls after every act.

#6 E Johnson

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Posted 24 February 2000 - 04:19 PM

Even in the United States there is not conformity. At NYCB, I think it is much less common to interrupt a performance for applause than at ABT.

#7 Guest_Intuviel_*

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Posted 24 February 2000 - 04:25 PM

In Russia, the dancers *do* get curtain calls after every act Posted Image! I rather think it makes sense to stop the music after the fouettes because the audience is going to applaud loudly no matter what, so if the music stops, the danseur's grands pirouettes a la seconde are not overshadowed as much. It also lets the ballerina rest for a minute.

The rule my parents taught me (and that I usually follow) is not to applaud if the music is playing. There are a few exceptions (as in NYCB's Swan Lake~~although they don't stop the music after the fouettes, it is generally acceptable to applaud). However, you can also use the principle "If the dancer bows, applaud. If they don't, don't applaud." This works well, too~~I know that once after doing a corps part exceptionally well synchronized, I had to stand perfectly still for quite some time while the audience applauded for what seemed like forever. I had to hold a high arabesque unsupported, and although I appreciated the applause, I would have been happier if the audience had waited until the next break in the ballet.


[This message has been edited by Intuviel (edited February 24, 2000).]

#8 Manhattnik


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Posted 24 February 2000 - 06:14 PM

Of course, in City Ballet Swan Lake, they usually stop the fouettes before they stop the fouettes.....

#9 Manhattnik


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Posted 24 February 2000 - 06:18 PM

Having just recently started going to the opera (it's something to do between ballet seasons), I've notice, well, first of all, that the Met ALWAYS sells out, night after night, but, also, that opera audiences are much, much, much quieter than ballet audiences, and people are much more aggressive about shutting up noisy neighbors than in the ballet. More power to them, I say.

#10 Andrei


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Posted 25 February 2000 - 09:55 PM

It had started not in Russia but in France, when after every variation public was free to express yourself by applause, if she likes it or by rotten tomatos, which came from Italian Opera, as you know. Public could demand to repeat variation or even to throw out a bad dancer. Ballerinas commanded conductor what to do, when to start and when to finish variation and this tradition still alive in some companies!
By the way, I think about bows as very complicated art form. How long I have to bow, how low I have to bent, specifically to whom I have to make gestures, what's my relation with partners and so on and so on ...
Another things, if you go from the stage to early, when the wave of applause is still up, public is going to miss the begining of the next piece and you can ruin other person performance. I had standing ovation in my life and it's very important to feel auditorium and manipulate them.

The best public in Italy. They have American openness, French taste, German loudness, Japanese togetherness Posted Image. Russian public is very cold or let's say perky.


#11 Guest_Intuviel_*

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Posted 26 February 2000 - 11:16 PM

I noticed that one night at NYCB, the audience applauded between every single waltz in Liebeslieder. It was very annoying, and broke the mood completely. The next night, however, the applause came only during the pause and at the end, and I felt that it was much more appropriate. The State Theater audience *can* be rather unmannered and clap~happy at times. It's almost like going to ABT, where the audience screams and whistles at every opportunity!

About NYCB and fouettes, you're exactly right! I think the only two people to actually do all of them were Weese and Meunier.


#12 Inna


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Posted 26 February 2000 - 11:26 PM

I thought somebody might find it interesting.
" During a performance of Swan Lake on 25 November 1907, he (Vaslav Nijinsky) became so flastered that he stopped dancing his variation of the pas de trois in the first act and began taking his bows while the orchestra was still plaing. For this he was "verbally rebuked" by the dirctor of the (Imperial) theater."
This info. came from the Archives USSR, and was used by Peter Ostwald in his book "Nijinsky, a leap in to madness".

#13 colwill



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Posted 05 March 2000 - 09:56 AM

I have just watched a TV presentation of ABT dancing La Corsaire and was most perturbed by the constant interruption to the ballet by applause which seemed to occur after most variations and frequently in the middle. This demonstrated bad manners in distracting the audience from the dancers who were also peforming simultaneously and broke the flow of the dance. Here in the UK there is often no applause at the end of a soloist's performance, mainly due to lack of knowledge of the ballet (Royal Opera House audiences excepted). I find that I have to start the applause and the audience then often wait for me! I do think that the Russian companies extract every last drop of applause by repeated returns for more.

#14 Ari


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Posted 05 March 2000 - 12:04 PM

I find that I have to start the applause and the audience then often wait for me!

This reminds me of the eternal Episodes problem. The first part of the ballet is "abstract" dance to atonal music, and the audience invariably sits through it in baffled silence. They have no clue as to when it ends, so there has to be someone in the house who's a ballet veteran, and a fearless one, who is willing to clap decisively at the proper moment. Then the rest of the audience will follow.

Of course, the opposite problem also occurs. In Liebeslieder Waltzes, despite the fact that the program clearly states that the ballet is in two parts and that the curtain will be lowered between them, many members of the audiences applaud insistently after the first part, expecting the dancers to come out to bow. The last time I saw it, a woman in the fourth ring continued to clap loudly after everyone else had given up, so that I had to whisper to her, "Ma'am, they're not coming out. This is just a pause." She raised her eyebrows but stopped clapping.

#15 Dale


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Posted 06 March 2000 - 02:46 AM

Oh Ari, I was at that performance too. She was in row A and really thought the dancers were just being coy. A few nights later two women next to me (who, by their talk, sounded as if they go to the ballet pretty regularly) didn't understand about the pause, and were happy when I told them it comes in two parts. I think the problem is that the "order" is in very small print, and after looking at the dancers' names in the program, few people read on. When the ballet is performed last in the program, almost an eighth or more of the audience gets up and leaves (and misses the best part IMO).

Some nights are different than others at NYCB. There was a performance of Episodes this past season with a really experienced crowd -- they got everything and really appreciated what, in my opinion, was an excellent performance. Then there are the audiences who will only clap for Whelan or Woetzel as if to say, "Oh, I know them so they must be good."

But the ABT audience is out of control, whistling and clapping every element sometimes, especially those slow turns of Carreno's. I was at a mixed bill when his fans were going wild, then some SAB kids decided that it was fun just to scream at any pause. It was too weird, like being at the circus. However, I read a couple of dancers that felt that American audiences were too reserved and preferred those in the UK.

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