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Baritone orders three phone users to leave Concertgebouw recital

May 17, 2017 by norman lebrecht

41 comments.


From Jane Hargraft:

I attended a recital tonight (at the Kleine Zaal of the Concertgebouw) with baritone Christopher Maltman and accompanist Julius Drake singing Eisler’s Hollywood Songbook. It was a very fine concert – but Mr. Maltman stopped mid-concert in the second half to address three young ladies in the back of the hall.

‘You are directly in my sightline, and it’s clear that you do not want to be here. I can see you chatting and using your phone. If you do not want to be here, leave.’ The audience applauded warmly.

This appears to be a trend. Actors on the London stage have complained recently of audience members talking and eating during their performance. Have other readers noticed the same thing? 


Comments (41)

  1. Alexander says:

    I noticed there was a kind of polite, but firm request before performances not to use gadgets during the performances in the decent opera houses and concert halls; not to eat in the halls is a part of common culture there . All the rest at people’s discretion unless staff members interfere to remove violators from the hall. There are special signs showing what isn’t allowed to do on the tickets also ( no phone using, no pictures etc). Usually artists try not to pay attention to such incidents due to it is not of their responsibilities, there are a lot of staff to watch that. Of course, most of the audience would contempt such violators as you told us here .

  2. Sam says:

    Absolutely right. 100%. So sick of phones in concerts (and everywhere else in our lives!) To NOT be interrupted is now the exception. Really, its that bad. Not to mention the addiction to checking FB during concerts, thereby polluting the experience with the distraction of light.

    Just heard one go off recently during the last measures of the Liszt piano sonata, to cite but one example. And the person even took the call! Entire performance killed dead in that moment, just as it arrived at its moment of immortality.

    And anyone who follows precedent here, and insults artists for wanting a focused hall in order to give the focused performance for which the audience is paying, has never been an artist.

    1. Suzanne says:

      Spot on, Sam.

    2. Laura says:

      Well said. I agree with you whole heartedly.

      1. Brian B says:

        Bravo. Agree completely. I always power OFF my phone entirely before a concert begins–or even an HD event- I don’t even want the vibrate on.

    3. Lavi J says:

      So true. We saw Don Carlo recently: beautiful, but 7 phones going just around us! If I had brought a little flash light would they just let me keep it on through the performance? It was so stressful we didn’t go to the next performance, Aida, and preferred to watch online. Which is sad and will not remain our solution, of course — just a momentary reaction. Wrote to the opera manager : nothing.
      Are they afraid if they get vigilant they’d lose the public? Instead we are creating a semi-present public to dedicated artists. We need a dedicated public not a ”background music” kind of public.
      Let’s all write to opera managers to address this. I think it’s in part our responsibility to support good art. We need to remain an active, not a passive, consumerist public.

  3. Robert Garbolinski says:

    Good for him. I am sick of seeing blue mobile screens at the concert hall, theatre and other entertainments even before the event starts or finishes. What is that matter with these idiots?
    These people should be publicly embarrassed and sent out of the venue and made to watch it on the latecomers screens.

  4. Michael Wilkinson says:

    I fully agree with all the comments – too many concerts are spoiled at places such as Brighton Dome.

    Another problem is the endless flash photographs taken of people in the theatre/opera house before and after performances. On the television news we are continually warned, for the sake of those with epilepsy, about upcoming reports with flashing images, and opera houses and theatres give notice of such things within productions, yet audience members – to say nothing of people in restaurants – flash away without any concern for others. It is as if nothing is real unless it is photographed.

    1. Alexander says:

      …. ( in regard to those endless camera flashing from cell phones) – I think this is because of the lack of self-confidence in people nowadays.In other words that kind of infantility which can be attributed to the era of total mass-media moronization . People cannot believe in something unless they have any kind of proof . Abstract thinking is substituted by the Net and gadgets, fresh ideas by ready-to-think cliches etc …. stop here to to give a rant out 😉

      1. Alexander says:

        …. not to give ….

    2. Marg says:

      ?? Endless flash photographs? I havent seen a flash go off in the Sydney Opera House in years – all the tourists wanting to have themselves photographed inside the Concert or Opera Hall before the show or during interval use phones, and there is no flash. Who uses flash photography inside concert halls these days???

      1. Bruce says:

        Plenty of people do. Phones do have flash capability, and some people apparently leave theirs turned on. They also use that annoying red-eye eliminator light which is useless when taking a picture of the stage from the balcony.

      2. Branimir says:

        Marg, you said: “Who uses flash photography inside concert halls these days???”

        Which world do you live in? All mobile phones today have camera, and flash! And most of them are in “auto” mode flash regulation, which means that flash usually flashes while in concert-hall dimmed light ambient.
        Exactly what happened few nights ago here in Zagreb at the beginning of Ivo Pogorelich’s recital. Before the beginning of the second part, audience was asked over the speakers very politely not to make photos or recordings. Didn’t help. There were flashes again and for a moment it looked like Pogorelich is considering whether to sit and play, or leave.
        He played. Marvelously.
        PS. Please, restrain from turning this into another discussion about Pogorelich’s playing, we are talking about gadgets at concert venues and theaters. Tx. 🙂

        1. Alexander says:

          Hopefully Branimir and Bruce answered our Margie completely and exhaustively what I did mean . Thank you all 😉

  5. Sam says:

    PS: Solution (no good just ranting!)

    A representative of the venue – not a generic recording or remote announcement from backstage – addresses the audience from the stage, with grace and humor, telling them that if they intend to use a phone before the concert is over they should leave now, out of respect for the work of the artist, and to honour the art form itself. Then they should ask everyone to check the phone of his/her neighbour. No silent mode, just OFF. The element of authorized, collective self-management would help. And it’s unlikely anyone would turn their phone back on without shame…

    1. Theodore McGuiver says:

      That’s what happens where I work. Seems to work, too.

  6. Theodore McGuiver says:

    Good man. More of this, please.

  7. Laura says:

    Excellent

  8. Jeanne Ommerle says:

    Patti Lupone famously let ’em have it. Good for her, good for him.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WruzPfJ9Rys

  9. Mervon Mehta says:

    As a the venue manager and artistic director of a theatre in Toronto I address the audience before each concert and include the following phrase “Please turn off all of your devices until after the performance. We give you permission to be social media free for our next two hours together.” I get applause every time and there are minimal disruptions during the concert.

    1. Jane Hargraft says:

      Of course you do, Mervon, you are my hero! xoxox from the Nederlands!

    2. Brian B says:

      Great closing line.

  10. Bruce says:

    I already liked his singing. Now I like him even more. I hope others adopt this approach.

  11. Mike Schchter says:

    Well done, fine singer, sensible man.

  12. Jane Ennis says:

    I always turn my phone OFF before I go into the auditorium. (Actually sometimes I leave it at home).

  13. Susan W says:

    I was irritated by the flashing screens of a couple “chatting” at a recent concert in Portland, Oregon. But it occurred to me that they were actually trying to be polite by not making noise. For that reason I think it would be an excellent idea for whoever introduces the performer to request dark screens at the same time they routinely request silenced ones.

  14. Melisande says:

    As I was present at this recital by Maltman and Drake in Eisler’s Hollowood Song Book first my congratulations for their stellar performance of this significant and rarely heard work. Moreover my admiration for Maltman’s kind and awfully polite remarks to those young ladies who so distressfully interrupted their concentration.
    Time has come to address the audience before the start of a recital/concert/opera from the stage or let hear a spoken tape in order to protect musicians and audiences alike from visitors who are only interested in themselves.

    1. Garry Humphreys says:

      Hi Melisande! If you were there, please can you tell me whether the chatting ladies did actually leave? What was the outcome (an important element in the story)? No-one has reported this during this discussion. Many thanks!

      1. Melisande says:

        It appeared that the three women didn’t leave the hall after they had been addressed by Maltman. I suppose they didn’t want to be looked at in this shameful situation. Hopefully they learned from Maltman’s polite request!

  15. Valerie Martin says:

    Novadays it’s natural to have the smart phone with you all the time. Said devices will be commonplace at the symphony soon enough according to a quite insightful article in this classical musician’s blog
    https://www.yevgenychepovetsky.com/single-post/2017/04/27/Pros-and-cons-of-smart-phones-at-classical-concerts-Mark-Zuckerberg-makes-a-point

  16. Kelvin Grout says:

    I find myself troubled by this discussion. I have performed many, many times at the Concertgebouw and luckily never experienced the problem of mobile phones interrupting my concerts. However if classical music is fighting for survival, shouldn’t we stop this pretentious, elitist attitude that scare many people from attending classical concerts? So what if people talk, use their phones, cough, unwrap sweets, rustle programmes etc etc that’s life. Demanding total silence in some sort of religious dedication to the art seems rather over the top to me. Asking someone to obey these self made rules is surely more to do with the ego of the artist than the sanctity of the music. It’s about the music, not about you, would seem to me something we should all think about. Get over yourself, don’t enforce impossible regulations on the public and let everybody have a good time.

    1. Theodore McGuiver says:

      Since when has wanting people to behave in public been unreasonable? Theatres and concert halls are some of the last bastions of civilisation in a world where we are encouraged to shed our sense of value to the detriment of cultural progress. As you say, it’s about the music, not about you. Those not interested in that concept should stay at home, text to their hearts’ content and leave concerts and theatres to those who are actually interested in what’s going on up front.

    2. Saxon Broken says:

      The problem is not that it disturbs the artist(s), the problem is that it disturbs **other audience members**. Trying to remain reasonably quiet and still enables other people to enjoy the concert. While I understand I can’t expect complete silence, and I am sympathetic if someone next to me tries to stifle a cough, I do nevertheless expect other audience members to make a reasonable effort to neither distract nor disturb my enjoyment of the concert (and texting or accessing facebook in the seat next to me or in front of me is disturbing). If a significant minority of the audience can’t be bothered to adhere to such standards, then I will stop attending live concerts.

    3. Melisande says:

      May I consider this opinion by pianist Kelvin Grout as a provocation?

      1. Kelvin Grout says:

        You may!

    4. Erin Wall says:

      Perhaps as a pianist, you’re not as disturbed by these devices because you don’t have to focus your gaze into the audience during your entire performance. Speaking as a singer, we absolutely do, and the camera flash and screens lighting up and audible chatter do indeed disturb and distract when we’re trying to perform. As a performer and audience member, I also find it heartbreaking when some awful ringtone breaks a magical moment in the music.

      I understand not being an elitist, but I also feel as a performer that gadgets are detrimental and distracting to many of us onstage. If houses want to encourage this kind of thing, limit it to the upper sections of the house where it is less visible and distracting to performers, and also to the audience members who would like to enjoy a screen & chitchat-free performance.

    5. Holly Golightly says:

      Your comments are called “enabling”. Whether you have somebody in your own life whose behaviour doesn’t quite meet generally acceptable standards or whether you behave like this yourself when in a similar situation – in short, when you are not able to affect or influence the behaviour of others positively – people would expect to read such remarks. For the rest of us, we’re interested in raising the bar on social expectations rather than patronize with enabling. I expect you’ll wave all this off casually as “elitism”. Yep, that’s what people who won’t or can’t enter the social bargain always say!!

      Meanwhile, I suggest that the disruptions referred to keep a number of people away from concerts, myself included.

  17. Steve Bauman says:

    Grounds for Justifiable Homicide?

  18. OperaSpook says:

    It’s little short of outrageous that any artist must address audience members for showing this kind of disrespect; but alas it is not a new practice. I recall being in the audience of a West End theater performance of ROSE starring Glenda Jackson, circa 1980, when part-way into Act I some bright spark seated in the stalls began to take photos of her, mid-monologue, with a flash! Without missing a beat,she turned to the offender and snapped “do that again, and I’ll have you thrown out!” and continued with her performance. He was suitably embarrassed and did not do it again, but what ARE people thinking?

    1. Holly Golightly says:

      You are way too generous in referring to any of it as “thinking”.

  19. Musician says:

    The point is simple: silence and also stillness is an essential part of sound and any kind of expression, it has nothing to do with elite behavior. It is to understand this that will improve our judgement of right/wrong behavior as spectators. So we will understand, that anything distracting other spectators is disturbing and should not be tolerated. If an spectator is alone watching a performance, then please. But probably the artist on the stage will in that case feel annoyed. So they should ask themselves “why do I go to a performance if I’m going to disturb” Simple: stay at home or don’t disturb at the performance!


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