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Booing at the ballet???


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#16 Manhattnik

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Posted 29 April 2002 - 07:43 AM

I don't think I've ever booed anyone, although I've been tempted to. Oh, I did join in the boos directed at the NYCB orchestra at their first few bows after the previous couple of strikes, but that's understandable. I think for awhile after the strike before last the orchestra stopped taking their last-intermission bows because of the torrents of boos. But that was only because they richly deserved it.

I also remember the boos that frequently greeted Watermill. I remember an early or mid-Eighties performance where Villella came out for the curtain call only to be greeted by a torrent of boos. Although I'm sure he was used to folks booing Watermill by then (I don't recall it getting booed in the mid-Seventies), I won't soon forget his crestfallen look of hurt and surprise, which he soon covered with a perfectly poised professional mien. Regardless of what one thought of Watermill (I rather liked it, but that's another kettle of worms), booing Eddie Villella at the NYS Theater is beyond unforgiveable.

Other than that, I figure someone someplace might've liked a particular show, and who am I to spoil their fun? There must've been people somewhere who actually enjoyed Heather Watt's virtues as a performer (whatever they might've been -- I lacked such fine powers of discernment). I wouldn't have wanted to rain on their parade. Besides, it's hard to boo when one is biting one's knuckles.

The most recent incident of really inappropriate booing I recall happend last fall at a performance of the Met's somewhat unconventional but rather brilliant production of Eugene Onegin (and I'm too lazy to look up the credits). After Onegin (Thomas Hampson, that night) kills Lensky, the orchestra goes immediately into that grand polonaise. Many be-wigged footmen emerge, some make off with Lensky's body, others change a very passive Onegin's clothes from his outdoorsy dueling outfit to formal eveningwear. I thought it was a very clever transition, representing his years of indolent wandering before encountering Tatiana and Gremin. Apparently it left some disgruntled member of the audience feeling short-changed out of the sight of the Met Opera Ballet in boots and ribbons stamping and kicking their way through a real polonaise, and as soon as the music ended, out came a very loud and prolonged "booo!" from somewhere up near the rafters. There was an embarassed murmer from the audience, and the show went on.

It was really beyond tacky.

I do wonder if opera audiences might be more prone to booing than ballet audiences. Thoughts, anyone?

#17 Manhattnik

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Posted 29 April 2002 - 09:18 AM

The Onegin production at the Met was roundly booed when it premiered--it seemed that no one like it.

Well, I liked it. But what do I know?

#18 Manhattnik

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Posted 01 May 2002 - 08:07 AM

If there were a way to clearly differentiate between booing the dancers and booing the choreographer, perhaps I might consider it. Or perhaps not; it's just Not Done here, usually. Besides, this is a season heavy with old and new Diamond Project ballets, and I'd never get over my laryngitis.

#19 glebb

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Posted 01 May 2002 - 05:52 PM

I couldn't wait for 'Russian Hamlet' to end, but I still had to get on my feet for the dancers. I wanted them to know how much I appreciated their beautiful dancing.

PS. I loved 'Red Giselle'.

#20 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 21 April 2002 - 04:31 AM

I like your last sentence, Ed, and have often wanted to boo a really bad ballet. However, I could never do that because of the dancers. Maybe only if the dancers had finished bowing and the choreographer comes on stage for his/her own bow and it would be clear that we were booing the choreographer and not the dancers, but I think I would still prefer to let it be known by silence at that point instead of applause. Booing just seems to me to be too rude and cruel.

#21 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 02 May 2002 - 03:54 AM

i recall a performance of ruth page's 'bolero', a somewhat unusual staging which involved a young man taking his pick of comely ladies in a brothel and a mysterious young woman who enters at first all covered up, being greeted after one performance with *literal* vegetables being thrown at the performers!

#22 BryMar1995

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Posted 29 April 2002 - 05:42 AM

When I was still a student I attended a performance with a teacher whom I admired. At the end of a performance my teacher lept up and very loudly expressed an opinion of displeasure by booing. I must say I was embarassed and shocked, but also kind of caught up by the theatricality of the gesture. Later, reading about reactions to premieres of Rite of Spring and Afternoon of a Faun , I was taken by the whole idea of scandal at the ballet, and the heated discussion that followed a performance about which there were passionate differences of opinions. It sort of added more spice to the glamour of the world of ballet.

I could never bring myself to Boo at my fellow performers, although I've witnessed performances that I really disagreed with. Usually if I don't like what I'm seeing, I cover my face with my program or close my eyes and listen to the music or take a nap. The worst I can bring myself to do is simply withhold my applause. The only time I was upset enough to Boo was not when I was in the audience but rather onstage. We had just finished performing a rather experimental Forsythe work in Holland somewhere. During the ovation there was a lot of commotion and a lot of booing. I felt compelled to boo right back and shake my fist at the angry patrons. The adrenaline rush was exilerating, even if my behavior was questionable.

Rick McCullough

#23 rubria

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Posted 01 May 2002 - 05:47 AM

it probably is a cultural issue as well, whether to boo or to sit out a performance. having attended performances in quite a few parts of the world (including north america, china and europe), i generally would say it is a matter of cultural attitudes...someone mentioned in one of the posts how fascinating a strong "theatrical" response can be - loud, over the top booing is probably taken less seriously in a country like italy, by both audience and performer and seen more as an act of participation in the artistic discourse that is being established. In germany wild shouting at the end of a performance ís likely to be regarded as offensive behaviour.
Personally i enjoy the italian way. i think if it is understood on both sides - performer and spectator - that this is a dynamic, enjoyable ritual with a spark of good humour all around, then booing is acceptable...and i would say it adds a lot of passion to the discussion, which is only to be encouraged.;)

#24 felursus

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Posted 28 April 2002 - 08:28 PM

I have, on occasion, booed a conductor or a choreographer or a designer or even, on one occasion, a company director. By the time they come on for their curtain calls the performers have already been (hopefully) warmly applauded, so boos directed at non-dancers are clearly directed at them and not at the performers. There are occasions when booing is one's only recourse - especially when the non-performer's work is so horrendous that hanging, drawing and quartering would be too good for them!

As for Franco Corelli - I shall ask a voice teacher/singer I know who used to study with Corelli about said incident. There is, of course, the famous one also in connection with Nilsson. Nilsson and Corelli had a kind of love-hate relationship. Nilsson said (to me) that being a tenor Corelli had "resonance boxes where his brains should be". In "Turandot" she was always mannerly towards OTHER tenors - when they ceased to hold a note (when singing together), so did she. But with Corelli it was a contest of lung capacity - which Nilsson usually won handily. Once Corelli complained to Rudolf Bing, then director of the Met Opera about this. Bing suggested that in the scene where Calaf has to kiss Turandot Corelli should give her a little nip. A few nights later Corelli and Nilsson were scheduled to sing "Tosca" together. Nilsson sent a note to the Met management saying that she was cancelling because "a mad dog bit me". Needless to say Bing had to do a lot of work to make the performance happen!

#25 LaFilleMalGardee

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Posted 17 May 2002 - 02:04 PM

Ed Waffle wrote: So did I. Pet murder to express displeasure is going way to far.

I agree!!!
I also do not boo at ballets if I don't like them, I just do not clap.

#26 Calliope

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Posted 21 April 2002 - 12:53 PM

I'll never forget seeing several performances with Heather Watts at NYCB and hearing several people boo, loudly. Most of the crowd were brava-ing their heads off, obviously for the career, not the performance. I must admit, I've seen many painful performances like that and wish some dancers/AD's had more foresight about bowing out gracefully.

For the record, I stand with Victoria in not doing anything if I didn't like it, which has on occasion gotten a "dear, you can clap after the performance response" from my neighbors in the audience!

#27 Roma

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Posted 02 May 2002 - 09:37 AM

Well, apparently there was plenty of booing, hissing, stomping and screaming at the Bolshoi Theatre during the Benois de la Danse Gala last Saturday. When one of the ballets up for The Best New Choreography (or some such thing), a piece by Belgian Jan Fabre (sp?), called something like "My movements are as lonely as stray dogs", turned out to be a prolonged session of, I don't quite know how to put it, self-love, complete with drooling, screaming, and actual stuffed dogs (don't ask), the audience erupted in loud boos, began to stomp it's feet, screams of "get off the stage", "Shame", "Shame, Grigorovich" (it's basically his show) were heard, and the Minister of Culture actually walked out, as did many other people.
The second scandal of the evening occurred when it was announced that the much reviled Anastasia Volochkova was being presented with the Benois de la Danse prize for the Best Female Performance (for her turn as Odette-Odile in Grigorovich's Swan Lake). The entire audience fell into a deafening silence and then again came the booing, the stomping, and screams of protest.
Aurelie Dupont (the co-winner of the dubious prize) was greeted by loud cheers, bravas, and very vigorous applause.
The other nominees were Kirov's Svetlana Zakharova and Natalia Sologub.

#28 sylvia

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Posted 03 May 2002 - 07:09 AM

I haven't ever felt the need to boo (yet) and on occasion I'll withhold applause. I do feel catty about the ROH orchestra though, which can be exceptional on opera nights, and truely awful, not even trying on ballet ones as was evident in the last couple R&Js I've just seen. The rest of the audience just loves them though. Didn't they hear those duff notes?!!

#29 stan

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Posted 18 May 2002 - 07:55 AM

At the Closing Night Gala last Saturday, there were no boos directed at Volpe, presumably because the audience was well-prepared for the cancellation and the Met had gone out of its way to Concorde in the up-and-coming Salvatore Licitra from Milan. Of Licitra, they tell the story that he was booed at La Scala after the "Di quella pirra" in Trovatore which traditionally ends with some ringing high Cs. Licitra didn't do the high Cs because they're an interpolation and Muti, the conductor, believes in following the original score. Muti's predilections in this regard are well known so in theory the audience should have booed him rather than Licitra but I guess the Italians didn't see it that way.

#30 casloan

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Posted 21 April 2002 - 05:34 PM

I agree with those who have said they don't boo performers. I simply withhold my applause (or my presence if I know I can't stand a particular performer).

However, if a performance is truly dreadful, I certainly have voted with my feet (at a convenient interval, so as not to disturb other audience members who might actually be enjoying themselves). My feeling is that I've already had to pay for my ticket, why should I suffer further?

Ed's description of booing those responsible for a terrrible production reminds me of the hideous "Rigoletto" that Lyric Opera of Chicago did a couple of years ago. It was set in a men's club (!) and included, among other horrors, the rape of Gilda onstage -- surrounded by leering club members. We were there on opening night. Chicago audiences are generally tame, but when the production team had the nerve to step on stage at the end of the evening, the entire audience began to boo. Because WFMT-FM broadcasts Lyric opening nights live, thousands of listeners heard this reaction loud and clear.


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