dirac

To boo or not to boo?

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The incoming director of the Royal Opera House asks patrons not to boo.

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Booing has become more prevalent at Covent Garden, with recent productions including an exceptionally bloody Lucia di Lammermoor, William Tell and Idomeneo suffering the wrath of amgry ticket-holders.

 

I'm interested to hear what BAers think. Do you now or have you ever booed? Do you think that booing is justified? Have you wanted to boo but refrained, and if so, why? Would you say boo to a goose? Etc.

 

Thoughts, views, experiences with booers or booing?

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I personally do not boo, because a singer or dancer has so much to contend with. Even when I am disappointed in a performance I never forget that is a human being on stage attempting to do a good job.

 

With that said opera in Italy can be a blood sport, and it could be argued that if you put yourself out there for the applause you should also be willing to get booed as well. So philosophically I think people have every right to boo. However, I do not boo, because I don't get up there on the stage and do what they do with all the problems that can occur. They bare their souls for us and 99.9% of the time do not ever deserve booing. If a performer came out falling down drunk or some other ridiculous behavior maybe then he/she might deserve it. It would depend on the situation.

 

I do understand booing a production if it is purposely trying to shock for no good reason (many opera productions can be crazier than hell). However, I would more likely leave if disgusted by how a favorite work has been desecrated than to stay and boo. 

 

Despite my personal dislike of booing performers I don't think an incoming director should tell an audience not to boo. Would he tell them not to applaud?

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Posted (edited)

Never a dancer, actor, singer or instrumentalist, even though I have been sorely tempted a few times. I believe that no one gives a bad performance deliberately, and I respect the great risk each one of them takes by stepping out on stage. If I've really hated a performance, I'll just sit on my hands.

 

However, choreographers, directors and designers are fair game, and also conductors, if they've made life miserable for the performers and/or butchered the score. Booing is quite common at opera performances these days, and indeed I've seen instances when the booing started as soon as the curtain came down, the singers were cheered when they took their bows, and then the director and/or conductor were booed and hissed lustily when they emerged. I think it's a legitimate practice. 

 

I remember the late Lorin Maazel writing about contemporary opera productions--and railing against them---but arguing that walking out and lodging a written complaint with the opera company, preferably on public-facing social media, was a better option than booing. (Followed by a refusal to buy any more tickets to the production, and encouraging friends to skip it, too.) However, I can imagine a situation in which someone would wish to stay because the diva is singing beautifully, but the production is simultaneously horrendous, and then booing the guilty parties would be an option.

 

But no, an artistic director or intendant has no business telling audiences how they ought to respond.

Edited by volcanohunter

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I can only say that UK opera audiences are driven to booing, usually at the end and for the production team, I've only once heard a singer booed.  Sometimes the booing occurs during the performance, e.g. the gang rape of a naked woman to the ballet music of William Tell and Don Giovanni's last act feast consisting of pulling the entrails from a dead horse and eating them, that one elicited a cry of shame the night I went (the audience had tolerated the first act pile of excrement), but that is rare and dependent on what horrors we are forced to watch.  The booing for Lucia was at the end and thoroughly deserved, I won't be going back for the unedifying spectacle of Lucia humping her lover between the gravestones and her consequent miscarriage in a bath of blood.

 

Perhaps if the RO wants it's audience to stop booing it should stop force feeding us productions that are complete ****.

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3 hours ago, Mashinka said:

I can only say that UK opera audiences are driven to booing, usually at the end and for the production team, I've only once heard a singer booed.  Sometimes the booing occurs during the performance, e.g. the gang rape of a naked woman to the ballet music of William Tell and Don Giovanni's last act feast consisting of pulling the entrails from a dead horse and eating them, that one elicited a cry of shame the night I went (the audience had tolerated the first act pile of excrement), but that is rare and dependent on what horrors we are forced to watch.  The booing for Lucia was at the end and thoroughly deserved, I won't be going back for the unedifying spectacle of Lucia humping her lover between the gravestones and her consequent miscarriage in a bath of blood.

 

Perhaps if the RO wants it's audience to stop booing it should stop force feeding us productions that are complete ****.

I'm ITA with you.  I have never done it but I have heard it on a few occaisions.  I too think it's very upsetting to the artist(s).   But, the paying audience has the expectation and the right to see a competent and professional performance.  If the artist is not ready or able - for whatever reason, (ill etc.) he/she should not be performing.  However, casting (and *frequent casting*) is an administrative judgement call.  I remember when MacMillan's "Isadora" had its first performances and the one I attended didn't go over very well.  As for the Royal Opera, I remember a production of "Les Comtes d'Hoffmann" that evoked much of what you mentioned above in the fantasy sequence, and it was booed.   Years ago at the Met, I remember soprano Renata Scotto was boo'd at the curtain call and she gave the audience the "Bronx Cheer" in return and left stage right.  At the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi certain factions may whistle, and that goes for the opera and the ballet.             

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I could never boo any performer; it's so disrespectful.

It's so hard to put yourself out there and perform, people who haven't done it have absolutely no idea how difficult it is.

 

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I witnessed one case of good natured booing recently; it was a tribute to the effectiveness of the characterization rather than a comment on the quality of the performance.  It was at a Washington National Opera showing of Madame Butterfly and Pinkerton was such a cad that at the curtain call booing was very clearly heard mixed in with the applause. :devil::devil:  Luckily the tenor got it and played along with the crowd and it felt very appropriate for the old fashioned melodrama.

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9 hours ago, lmspear said:

I witnessed one case of good natured booing recently; it was a tribute to the effectiveness of the characterization rather than a comment on the quality of the performance.  It was at a Washington National Opera showing of Madame Butterfly and Pinkerton was such a cad that at the curtain call booing was very clearly heard mixed in with the applause. :devil::devil:  Luckily the tenor got it and played along with the crowd and it felt very appropriate for the old fashioned melodrama.

 

I've seen this kind of response a number of times, along the lines of the old melodrama, where you were encouraged to boo and hiss when the villain appeared onstage.  That can be great fun, but to boo someone who has just, however imperfectly, offered us the best that they were able to muster that day -- that feels cruel.

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I'm against booing the performers in most cases for the reasons cited above, but I've been to performances where there was good-natured booing of "bad" characters and that was obviously a different thing entirely. The production invited that sort of audience participation.

 

I suppose if a performance was really just a thinly-veiled political rally or propaganda piece, and some audience members didn't approve of the message, they would be within their rights to respond with boos, but it might be better, and safer, to simply walk out on the performance in that case.

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I haven't ever encountered such performances. 

I've sometimes felt like voicing my disapproval when a pianist makes textual alterations or doesn't play octave glissandi but I'd probably just ask them politely about it after the concert.

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Last booing at a ballet that I recall was PNB's Forsythe work banging on tables.  We get it back for the 3rd time next season.  Since I know what to expect, I'll peobably get a drink during that performance. 

 

I do enjoy hissing the baddies (Carabosse, etc) and I think the dancers "get it" and enjoy that form of appreciation.  Sort of like Alexis Carringtin on Dynasty: the baddies we Love to hate. ;)

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21 minutes ago, Jayne said:

Last booing at a ballet that I recall was PNB's Forsythe work banging on tables.  We get it back for the 3rd time next season.  Since I know what to expect, I'll peobably get a drink during that performance. 

 

I do enjoy hissing the baddies (Carabosse, etc) and I think the dancers "get it" and enjoy that form of appreciation.  Sort of like Alexis Carringtin on Dynasty: the baddies we Love to hate. ;)

 

And I loved One Flat Thing, so there we are -- I'll stay and watch, and let you know how it went!

 

I'm giggling here about the Dynasty reference.  And I'll think about her shoulder pads when we get to Swan Lake later this year, with the "Von Rotbart as Gene Simmons in Kiss" costume.

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10 hours ago, ballet_n00b said:

I've sometimes felt like voicing my disapproval when a pianist makes textual alterations...

 

I can see how that could qualify as butchering the score and might be legitimate cause to boo a performer.

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On 7/12/2017 at 5:43 AM, ballet_n00b said:

I could never boo any performer; it's so disrespectful.

It's so hard to put yourself out there and perform, people who haven't done it have absolutely no idea how difficult it is.

 

 

No, it isn't easy. On the other hand, few of them have been forced out there. You may receive a rapturous reception. The other side of the coin is that the audience may be audibly unhappy if they paid good money to see a poor or unprofessional performance. I have never had occasion to boo myself, but I can imagine circumstances where I might.

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I won't applaud a really poor leading dancer,and I know others that don't as well.

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On July 12, 2017 at 9:21 AM, lmspear said:

I witnessed one case of good natured booing recently; it was a tribute to the effectiveness of the characterization rather than a comment on the quality of the performance.  It was at a Washington National Opera showing of Madame Butterfly and Pinkerton was such a cad that at the curtain call booing was very clearly heard mixed in with the applause. :devil::devil:  Luckily the tenor got it and played along with the crowd and it felt very appropriate for the old fashioned melodrama.

 

I witnessed that once. I believe it was during curtain calls for Gomes' Purple Rothbart at ABT. You could hear laughter mixed in with the booing (and wild applause) and naturally Gomes ate it up. It was great fun.

 

Other than that I've never experienced booing nor done it myself. I couldn't imagine doing that for a performance that I felt was bad. I've definitely tempered applause for subpar performances and I think I've sat on my hands once or twice. For me to consider booing it would have to be something truly egregious like a performer stumbling out drunk (as someone else above suggested) or I don't even know what else. But, not for simply being bad.

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I could never boo a performer for all the same reasons given by so many here. But, like Mashinka, I haven't applauded for a performer whom I felt was egregiously off the mark. Even then, I end up feeling badly because I wonder if the individual has something going on (illness, injury, or family strife, etc.) that could have impacted that performance. 

 

 

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In Seattle, one of the distinctions is the standing ovation.  Lots of people stand up for work that I don't think is especially significant, but I wind up standing anyway since I can't see the stage if I stay sitting.  So I often stand, and not applaud, which feels very strange.

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2 hours ago, sandik said:

In Seattle, one of the distinctions is the standing ovation.  Lots of people stand up for work that I don't think is especially significant, but I wind up standing anyway since I can't see the stage if I stay sitting.  So I often stand, and not applaud, which feels very strange.

 

And then there's Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Southern California, where standing ovations are practically a house tradition (no wonder foreign companies like to perform there). I wonder if boos have ever been heard in that auditorium?

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