Thursday, January 22, 2009

Something I Can Applaud To

If you're new to the world of live opera and classical music then you've probably clapped after hearing a wonderful aria or a stunning movement. Apparently this is a mistake. And you'll know this is a mistake by the glares and the venomous shushing that will come your way.

Concert pianist Emanuel Ax thinks that is time we change the rules about when to applaud. This is something I applaud.

At a time when we're all desperate for new audience members it might make sense to rewrite the rule books to make our art form seem more inviting.

-- Edward


AriaGirl said...

I think we all saw what happened with the music industry when Napster and other file sharing software came along. It took the industry several years and millions in lost profits (maybe even billions?) to even begin to recover. There has to be a delicate balance between maintaining artistic integrity and appealing to new audiences. Nobody says we have to give up the core of what makes opera unique - but without adaptation, there can be no survival.

smorg said...

Hear! Hear! There's a middle ground indeed. As long as the applause started after the last sung note, I don't think I'd complain (though there are a few instrumental preludes and stuff that I wouldn't like interrupted until it is totally done either).

Somehow.. I think the audience here has became more 'conservative' than they used to be. I keep reading about star singers getting 10+ curtain calls and even a rain of shredded programs at the Met back in the mid 1900's. Now if I hear about someone getting 5 curtain calls in an American opera house I'd be surprised...

Gruberova supposed got more than 30 minutes worth of one (I'm inclined to think well deserved... the lady is practically supernatural!) as Lucrezia Borgia in Barcelona last year, though, so they still have a healthy group of enthusiastic audience in Europe. I'd have loved to be there... that would be such a fun thing to participate in! :o)

Patty said...

I'd never heard that one wasn't to applaud after an aria. Certainly they do it where I play, and they do it in San Francisco. Hmmm. Is it frowned upon where you are?

Now orchestra concerts ... that's another story.

I really don't mind applause between movements, for the most part. But sometimes a movement ends in such a way that applause is so jarring. Sometimes someone out in the audience just can't wait to get that first clap in, and that can drive me bonkers.

But yes, I think we can relax on all of this. I've not got a problem with it. Still, I'm not willing to go quite as far as a rock concert sort of atmosphere ... I really do want and hope people will listen. :-)

But that's just my few cents' worth.

San Diego Opera said...


I think the audience here in San Diego is split -- some are fine with clapping, others are not.

I can't help but thinking of that Simpsons episode however with Bart as Mozart -- at one of his concerts, Otto (the perpetually stoned bus driver), is standing in the front row holding up a lighter and yelling "K.331, 3rd movement part! K.331, 3rd movement part!" while pantaloons are being thrown on stage.

From all accounts these performances were indeed the rock concerts of the day.

As to why it changed over the years... I'll leave that to Alex Ross, who is much smarter and a better writer than I'll ever be.