What are your rules of good audienceship?
A few days ago I was in The Magic Flute audience at the Canadian Opera Company. The Canadian audiences have a reputation as very polite and dutiful, but on the cool side. All the same, my experience was that the occasional approving Whoo-hoo! during the applause is nothing out of ordinary in theatre performances and classical music concerts. (How do I know? I’ve voiced a number of Whoo!s in various halls and theatres and 1) was never the only one, 2) nobody gave me The Look.)
Luckily, the audience on that night wasn’t of the lukewarm kind. There were two men a few rows behind me who adored Aline Kutan (Queen of the Night) and gave her hearty and repeated Bravo!s after each of her two arias. A few other voices joined, my companion too. The same two men, and myself, and a lower-volume rain of other voices also got a little vocal when the conductor Johannes Debus came in to the pit for the first time and after the intermission. The woman sitting right next to me laughed embarrassedly to her husband, the “oh this audience is going to be lively tonight” kind but without the hostile vibe, I didn’t think. As the night was progressing, the clapping for Rodion Pogossov (Pappageno) got more and more passionate — I was part of that of course, because Pogossov was the revelation of the night — and after his ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’ everybody was going wild. I whoo’d, and am proud of it. When he showed up during the curtain call, again the audience went wild, I might have heard foot stomping even, and I did scream and wasn’t the only one.
The woman two rows ahead turned and gave me the Glare. Can you imagine! During the curtain call, I get the Glare! Note, however, what preceded this. The woman was one of the two who got up on their feet immediately as the curtain call started, and then remembered they lost something, and stood there, blocking our view. The Chorus was getting the applause, the chorus master came out, they bowed, and the soloists started coming out, and all the while the two women stood straight up, looking for whatever they were looking on the floor, for minutes! The lights were still off, of course. Around the time that Lisa DiMaria (Pappagena) showed up, they reluctantly sat back in their chairs and half-assedly joined the applause. In the “Oh right, we might as well join in tepidly since we get can’t get to our car as fast as we want” way.
One of those two women gave me The Glare. During curtain call.
So straight into the rulebook for a sensible audience goes:
— While the lights are off, you can’t stand up and stay up. Maybe the curtain call means nothing to you, maybe you want to make that dinner reservation, maybe your parking is about to expire — WE DO NOT CARE. You either move out of your seats quickly, or if you can’t find something, look for it from the seated position. You’re likelier to find it when your eyes are closer to the ground. Trust me on this one.
— Do not give glares if you think somebody is too passionate for your bourgeois taste. If you regularly went to the opera or classical music concerts, you would notice that there’s as much passion as there is in pop music performances.
While we’re at it:
— What is with the blanket-coughing? Can’t people cough in ones or twos anymore, it has to be the cough wave that just goes on and on during the performance? What happened with the attempt to suppress one’s sound production? I am a fairly tolerant audience member, but the ra-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta fire of coughs is infuriating.
I wish, though, that I can amplify my voice enough for a decent Bravo every now and then. I tried, and my voice gets drowned. It’s usually the men in the audience who can pull it off, lucky sex. For a woman, Whoo-hoo it’ll have to be.
Here’s a clip from Only Fools and Horses, when Del-Boy and girlfriend join Rodney and his posh girlfriend to an opera outing…