Opera house says bring more boos

In what looks like another round of fake news kicked off by an attention-seeking executive at English National Opera, two UK companies say they are encouraging the booing of stage villains by first-time oepragoers.

Stuart Murphy, chief executive of English National Opera, said the company had noticed booing on Saturday nights, when under-18s are given free seats in the balcony as part of a series of measures to entice new young opera-lovers.

“I certainly think there’s a thing that people are comfortable being more vocal nowadays.

“People feel – I don’t know if it’s an American thing – people feel more comfortable being expressive.”

Anybody at ENO ever been to La Scala, Vienna or Bayreuth?

Read on here.


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  • “An American thing…”
    Yeah, being an American pretty much implies uncultured boorish behavior these days.

  • Pity the poor tenor who has to sing Pinkerton in ‘Butterfly’. I’ve never heard him escape the usual cascade of boo’s when he takes his curtain calls.

    • You evidently didn’t read the article (and maybe NL didn’t, either) because it wasn’t confined to ENO. It’s a trend story that cited common experience at Scottish Opera, Covent Garden, Grange Park Opera and Theatre Royal Glasgow. The director and singer who were quoted in the story actually welcomed — to the point of amusement — the practice of “booing the baddies.”

  • Erm, people have been doing this for years and years and years. It isn’t new in the least -and nor is the irritation with it. I know few who like it. However, I don’t have an enormous worry about it and it is certainly not the Free Ticket seat occupants doing it alone.

  • So-called “pantomime booing” of villainous characters is a fairly widespread tradition in the UK – and a healthy sign of immersion in the drama. If singers have been properly briefed by the company – or are familiar with UK audience conventions – they’ll hopefully take it as the compliment it is. Opera bores who affect to find it troubling are often merely being snobbish: as if the great unwashed should be fastidiously assessing the quality of a singer’s high Cs instead of being swept up in a total theatrical experience.

    • Clearly classical music isn’t your thing, is it?

      You stick to Dick Whittington & His Cat at the Paignton Palais, mate. They let you chuck beer there too, I hear??

  • A sad generation that can’t distinguish appreciation for the performer from its own response to the character.

  • It seems only the male villains are booed. I wonder if anyone would have booed Montserrat Caballe, Joan Sutherland or Beverly Sills after a performance of Lucrezia Borgia. All in all I think it is a stupid idea. After all Opera is not Pantomime!

  • Can do without that in any part of London or Hritain, thank you, unless it’s a bit of fun for a villain in a curtain call. Singers, whether you like them, or certain individual singers, or not, work very hard. They don’t need to think they will get booed by the musicological armchair experts – who think they know everything about singing but can’t sing a decent note themselves, or else had failed careers – before they even start. Uncouth behaviour and we just don’t need it. ENO is a fine company that make opera affordable in our own language.

    • An alternative view is that the singer is paid to appear on-stage and entertain the audience. If the audience want to enjoy themselves by booing the villain on stage then tough: that is what you are paid to do, so suck-it-up.

  • Ridiculous, pathetic practice.
    Another way to strip opera of whatever shred of dignity it still has. I remember booing villains in children plays, but that was over after elementary school. When do the audiences officially grow up?

    • Creating the culture of stupidity has already been done excellently by Eton College. All ENO has to do is flog them tickets.

  • Well done Murphy. Don’t be surprised if the next step in your audience being expressive is by their throwing beer bottles and vomiting.

    • Nothing could be worse than the brot who yelled out to Blanche Theobaum after a performance of Tristan and Isolde at the Met, “show us your tits ” ! This was many, many years ago.

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