Covent Garden to singers: Do not applaud each other

Covent Garden to singers: Do not applaud each other


norman lebrecht

December 15, 2017

At the foot of the Royal Opera House memo instructing singers how and when to appear for curtain calls, a new advisory had appeared in bold lettering.

It reads: Please note: It is House policy to request that singers do not applaud each other onstage. Thank you.

(signed) Emma Turner, Stage Manager

Now why would they do that?

Are they scared that Diva Joyce would ovate one bari-hunk at the expense of another?

Do they fear Mourinho-like bad losers in the backstage?

Has somebody complained to the management?

We really ought to know….


  • Thomas Silverbörg says:

    Applauding the colleagues onstage is the norm in Eastern Europe, but not in the west. It least it used to be this way.

  • Nik says:

    Usually the singers only applaud when the conductor comes on and the orchestra rises. Is that still allowed?

  • Ungeheuer says:

    No problem. Opera is ensemble work so the show of singers applauding other fellow singers strikes me as inappropriate and just mere display of chumminess. That’s what people should do in their living rooms with their friends but not on the stage.

  • NonBarihunk says:

    This is not a new policy at Covent Garden. I received that memo almost 30 years ago when I made my debut there. Signed then probably by the late, great, legendary Stella Chitty whom few would argue with.

    • Dominic Stafford says:

      Indeed, this was alway the case. And Stella ruled her stage. She once told Domingo (in response to Marta coming onto the stage during rehearsal) something along the lines of ‘If your wife values her life, she will leave my stage’. She did.

      I ought to add that, though feared, Stella was universally adored.

      • Martain Smith says:

        Sounds like the sort of woman we need today – everywhere!
        I HATE singers applauding each other ..or immediately rushing toward the pit when THEY are the subject of audience reaction.
        As that line goes in the musical CHICAGO, “Whatever happened to CLAAAS”!

      • Martain Smith says:

        Anyone else here getting a “Duplicate” message pro-forma??

  • Basso says:

    I think it was a policy that Nicholas Paine bought in many years ago

  • Cynical Bystander. says:

    I had always thought that curtain calls were an integral part of the performance but then we dispensed with the curtains and the singers each stroll onto the stage as part of a lineup. When the Maestro finally is summoned by the leading diva they all then hold hands and run towards the front of the stage, hokey pokey style. Unfortunately never actually falling into the pit which would be an appropriate comment on this puerile practice. Rather singers acknowledging their peers than indulging in this juvenilia. Sadly, Pappano is the worst offender in this and if I’m not mistaken he was the originator of it at ROH.

    • Bill Worley says:

      Hear Hear. I have been saying for a long time that curtain calls at Covent Garden are tatty. Would that they would go back to the good old days where principals took their solo calls in front of the House Curtain and if flowers are to be presented can we please have the wigged flunkies back rather than some anonymous stage hand who tends to thrust a buch of flowers into the arms of a diva in the same way that you would hand over a bag of shopping.

      I remember a soprano telling me that she received a stern letter from John Tooley telling her not to kiss the flunky after she had received a bouquet of flowers.
      Of course those were the good old days

      • Anon says:

        Tatty indeed. And made more so by the audience witnessing the orchestra packing up, dusting down, putting on coats, and wandering out of the pit all whilst the singers are acknowledging applause. Looks utterly terrible, all for the sake of another 30 seconds. ROH are some of the worst offenders at this.

        • Robert Roy says:

          Hang on a minute! Very few orchestral players can afford to live in central London and so those few seconds can be the difference between catching public transport home or having to wait for the next bus/train.

          Show some consideration.

      • Cynical Bystander. says:

        My greatest memory and one of the campest things I ever experienced at an Opera performance was of a Gergiev Lohengrin at ROH. The performance was red hot not least the Ortrud. At the, proper, curtain call as we clapped and clapped, a tiny hand grasped the curtain as if needing it for support. We knew, and she knew what was about to happen. And then it did. Out stepped Gwyneth Jones, pale and trembling and the auditorium went wild. Did she milk it? Of course she did because her performance that night for it’s ‘minor’ vocal imperfections was what every Ortrud should be and every opera lover longs to hear and see. We roared, she swept the stage with her humility, we roared, she started to move back but relented, purely for our sake you understand. Finally she left and the rest of the cast came out to equally rapturous response. But she was the star that night and everyone knew it. No marching on from the flies. She had given her all, she wanted us to show our appreciation. We did and she deserved every breath if it. Now that was a Curtain Call.

        • Bruce says:

          Wow, that sounds wonderful! Have you seen “Quartet”? It sounds like her role in that was not a stretch at all for her 🙂

        • Alan says:

          Outstanding memory. Heard her many a time at Covent Garden. She was always huge fun at the stage door too.

        • martain smith says:

          I can well believe it. Jones was an artist on and off stage.. and a winning one at that!
          Where do we have such personalities today!

    • Nick says:

      Nothing surely beats Beverly Sills’ less than successful debut at the Garden as Lucia which I witnessed from the amphitheatre. A planeload of Americans had flown over in support and she was wildly cheered after every scene and Act. The curtain call, though, was a farce. At the end of the opera there was an overlong pause, Then the curtains slowly opened. All we saw was Sills standing spotlit mid-stage amidst an entire stage filled with floral baskets. I have no idea how many florist shops had been raided for that little scena but it was absurd, tacky and wholly unnecessary. Then the curtains dropped in again before a more traditional curtain call event took place.

  • Serge - Orchestra Stage Manager - La Monnaie Opera House - Brussels says:

    Maybe it is a security measure applied to fully follow the indications screamed by the stage managers on the sides of the stage while doing the curtain’s salutes. Or, having the soloists applauding each other may, also, add extra time to the show and bring the theater to pay an extra service for the technicians if they work few minutes after the end of their scheduled working hours.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    they all then hold hands and run towards the front of the stage, hokey pokey style. Unfortunately never actually falling into the pit which would be an appropriate comment on this puerile practice

    Ha! Love it. Agree entirely.

    • Another Hasbeen says:

      Well I do remember a certain conductor at Covent Garden some 30 years ago being rather overwhelmed by his performance and falling into the prompt box at his curtain call. Fortunately the prompter had long since departed to catch his train…

  • ROH Insider says:

    Though it appears these signs may be freshly printed, there have been signs saying this in the dressing rooms for at least 2 years.

  • Patricia says:

    Non applauding each other on stage has been a policy for many years at Covent Garden- the artists perform for the audience and surely they don’t need to join in the public praise!!!

  • Joe Singer says:

    This is an old policy—it has been in effect for decades.

  • SC says:

    Yet every time I go to Covent Garden, come curtain time we see at least one member of the cast applaud at least one other member. Seems this rule, however long it has been in place, is frequently ignored.

    Speaking personally I like to see high spirits.

  • Cynical Bystander. says:

    Am I right in remembering that in the MET broadcasts of a few years ago Peter Allen I think would say something to the effect “And now the bow lights are on” and you had to imagine the singers taking their individual and collective bows in front of the golden curtain.

  • DESR says:

    Bayreuth does curtain calls best. No competition. Fabulous curtain shwooshing down from the wings – not these frightful knickers-up, knickers-down jobs. (Even worse, just blackout…)

    No clapping your chums – though the prompter often gets his for her hand pumped over and over again, just to show how very ‘umble they are.

  • Costa Pilavachi says:

    You know what? Just do what you want to do and ignore these petty, absurd bureaucrats . Life is too short. These are the same people who tell you to wear a tie to certain pompous restaurants and don’t let you circulate with a glass in hand for some strange, so-called health and safety reasons. Ignore them and do whatever the fuck you want. As we say “on the continent”, (soon to be “foreign” again), OUPH!

  • Brian B says:

    So does this mean Scarpia can no longer sarcastically slow clap Tosca after Vissi d’arte? I’ve seen it dozens of times, it’s now practically a tradition.

  • AMetFan says:

    A-holes. The whole point of applause and acceptance of applause is spontaneous approval (nor not). With everything affecting classical music and opera in particular (declining sales, dearth of great singers, the growing number of cancellations), this is the least of their problems. Some of my most memorable moments working in an opera house were those moments when my fellow artists and the audience expressed shared enthusiasm and congratulations. Enough, already. Get a grip.

    • George Rutherfurd says:

      At Verona this past summer, not only did principals applaud one another, two of them performed an encore together during the curtain call. A new one for me!

  • Has-been says:

    I remember you telling how crude Bernstein was at a Tanglewood party, grabbing a handful of shrimp out of the bowl as he sipped his drink. You told us Brendel and you were pretty horrified. Manners matter. I guess you were more concerned with manners then.

    • Costa pilavachi says:

      My dear Has-Been, I was not so horrified by the eating manners but rather how he spoke to Brendel, you can read the whole awful story in Leon Fleisher’s delightful and moving book as the event happened at his 60th birthday party.
      As for manners, how can applauding fellow artists be considered rude, unless you are speaking of my manners??
      Anyway, always good to hear from you and have a great Xmas.
      By the way, it was barbecued chicken, not shrimps….

  • Jamesay says:

    When I trained our tutors told us that
    A. . Bows or curtain calls were to be staged tastefully and choreographed as an integral part of the performance as they often were one of the last memories audiences had of that experience.

    B. bows or curtain calls were an act of thanking your audience NOT thanking oneself or others.

    I agree with the person who quoted “ whatever happened to class”?
    Yes it may be a subjective opinion but I think
    The Met is THE WORST offender at these crass “love ins” where casts become self indulgent practically ignoring the paying audience THEY should be thanking for attending.
    I’m afraid I find it all too lovey dovey and incestuous and frankly embarrassing to witness.
    When I direct opera I interestingly receive whoops and sighs of relief from casts who agree with my request not to applaud one another. This year alone four very prominent singers and two very prominent conductors told me privately that they were pleased I had made the request as they have had experienced these “love ins” and find them
    OTT and embarrassing yet becoming unavoidable. They didn’t want to be seen to be rude or offensive if they didn’t take part.
    In other words mob rule has taken over and these performers were feeling emotionally compelled to applaud colleagues for fear of not doing what’s become the new and vulgar norm.
    1. Take your bows.

    2. Accept thanks from your paying public.

    3. Thank your paying public

    4. Then!!! applaud each other once the bloody curtain comes down!!!!!

    • Randall says:

      It is frowned upon to applaud one’s colleagues in a German house as well.However there is invariably a non ensemble guest singer every night not familiar with the house rules.When he or she starts applauding the rest of the singers follow.Guests are generally given more leeway and generally do what they please.What do you think,we want to be traipsing forward holding hands to the edge of the stage to bow?Or is it just maybe the request of the stage director that we do so?And for the orchestra musician,ensemble singers have to catch the same train as you do…

  • AMetFan says:

    If only people showed as much concern for what occurs before the curtain comes down.

  • Ian Bond says:

    Applause on-stage by a cast for principal performers is the most amateurish/un-professional of habits and should not be allowed under any circumstances – it is redolent of the worst excesses of amateur stage productions.