Ringing phones twice stop an opera

Ringing phones twice stop an opera


norman lebrecht

February 22, 2020

We hear from an audience member at Welsh National Opera in Cardiff:

In (Verdi’s) Les Vepres Siciliennes, Carlo Rizzi stopped the overture and barked something at the audience when a mobile phone went off. Then in Act One, straight after the opening chorus, another phone (different ringtone).

Rizzi halted the performance and turned and spoke to the audience about how damaging it was for everyone’s concentration. Got a round of appause then continued with the opera.

They are now in the intermission.

Whatever next?


  • Gustavo says:

    Smart phone terror is a criminal act.

    No excuse!

    • George says:

      These egomaniacal singers need to get over themselves. It’s 2020. Phones are a part of our world now. It’s not going to change.

      • Allen says:

        So, would you be happy with a similar interruption during, for instance, your wedding ceremony or the funeral of a family member? How about your surgeon being interrupted whilst performing brain surgery?

        Your argument is just plain silly.

        • Maria says:

          Yes, totally stupid, arrogant and downright selfish. There is never that ‘all important phone call!’ Just fake self-importanceand obsession, and narcissism, and on a basic level, downright rude and inconsiderate towards the hardworking performers. Just turn your phone off completely, end of story, and concentrate on why you are there – the opera, an evening meal, a wedding or indeed a funeral!

      • Paul Brownsey says:

        This isn’t only about the singers. It’s about the rest of the audience. Who or whom do you think you are, to interrupy my enjoyment of the performance with your wretched phone noise?

      • Peter says:

        And turning off one’s phone in such a situation is simply common courtesy. Period!

      • Christopher Clift says:

        George – that is UTTER tosh – however what theatres should do since ‘…phones are part of our world now…’ Is to construct a Faraday cage type of barrier round the entire auditorium to bar the signals

  • Alexander Hall says:

    I regularly encounter such imbecile behaviour by members of the public who should know better. A leading member of the Southbank management team sitting immediately in front of me couldn’t wait to switch on her mobile phone after the first concert item and proceeded to engage with her device at regular intervals (I am sooooo important, I need to do this). What I fail to understand is why the U.K. is not interested in following the example of Singapore, where all mobile phones are automatically blocked as soon as people enter an auditorium. Are we so afraid of human rights’ lawyers jumping up and down and screaming blue murder?

  • Paul Brownsey says:

    I hope the audience member didn’t phone you with this information while the performance was continuing.

  • Kolb Slaw says:

    My solution was to have the host ask the audience who had cellphones or other devices, then ask them to take them out. Then asked them to make sure they are shut off, and sure enough, some were not. That worked like a charm. And everyone appreciated it. Far better than to wait for an offense to spoil the evening. Be proactive. Or have ushers take them to the coat check.

  • fflambeau says:

    Well done Maestro. He cannot help the boorish behavior of the people, these days.

  • Spartacus says:

    Wow, that’s an old photograph

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    What a horrible invention these mobile phones proved to be. Throughout the world everybody is glued to these devices. I am sure, like every harmful invention (including motor vehicles), this must have been originated in the USA.

    • christopher storey says:

      err…well actually, motor vehicles originated in Germany

    • Stuart says:

      I am sure that you go without one…BTW, your statement is as untrue as it is prejudiced. Just think of all of the “harmful” inventions developed before the 1770’s. Also, think of ways that cellphones save lives if you can wrap your mind around that one.

  • squagmogleur says:

    Well, I suppose railway stations are places where people are mostly on the move, in a hurry and preoccupied with where they are going , so they are less inclined to stop and listen. In a department store, however, where people are browsing and stopping occasionally and are somewhat less goal orientated it would probably be a different story. On the other hand, for a lot of people listening to music is something that they experience as a part of some other experience (such as watching a movie or TV programme, music video or something to move and dance to) rather than listening to the music for its own sake. They rarely experience music in the abstract and haven’t, therefore, developed the attentive listening skills needed to engage with the music in the absence of other, extra musical references. This would not apply to music that doesn’t require constant attention in order to follow the moment to moment coherent linkage of ideas such as much Minimalist or Ambient music. Even so, the fact that the pianist was performing live, and therefore providing a visual element to the listening experience, might have been expected to generate more interest from the passing passengers than it appears to have done.

  • Angela Skala says:

    Bravo Carlo Rizzi!

  • Cyril says:

    A phone went off during a pianissimo moment of Yuja Wang’s recital last Sunday.

  • Escamillo says:

    Bravo Rizzi! Phones should be confiscated at the cloakroom – like hats, umbrellas, radios and revolvers.

  • sam says:

    Und wenn ich mich von der Unterbrechung verunsichert fühle? Danach Schwierigkeiten habe wieder den Focus zu finden? Darf ich das dann auch laut sagen? Wenn Papa spricht haben alle betreten zu schweigen. Gibt inzwischen die anders sind

  • Jung says:

    This will never stop. Most times it is people who don’t realize their phone is turned up or have used it during intermission and forgotten to turn it down. A smartphone blocker system installed in theaters is the only solution. Physicians and EMS take note… stay home when on call.

  • Larry W says:

    So, scolding an audience twice during a performance is less damaging to concentration than ringtones? A recorded announcement before the performance and each act should alleviate the problem.

    • V.Lind says:

      I hear recorded announcements before every theatrical event I go to and I can assure you they do NOT work.

      When I lived in Hong Kong, in the 80s, when mobiles were just coming in and ere not the blight on society they are now, the recorded announcement included watches!

      Curiously, on the rare occasions when I go out to the cinema, phones are off without a recorded request — but of course before the credits start rolling, the place is lit up by hundreds of phones being activated at once.

      I still find it mystifying, as well as mind-numbing.

  • I saw Alfred Brendel do the same thing at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall in the 70’s. The audience buzz that so annoyed him was partly his fault. He began the recital by marching onstage double-time; he began to play simultaneously with his rear end touching the piano bench. Thus the “rude” listeners were caught off-guard. He lectured us that he had played all over the globe, but this audience was the WORST ever. And yes, he got applause. No cell phones then, just candy wrappers and talking.

  • Karl says:

    A few months ago Yannick stopped the orchestra during the slow movement of Bruckner’s 4th because the audience was coughing too much.

  • Piano Lover says:

    I attended a concert by D.Barenboim here in Belgium in 2010.
    Part of the audience was sitting at the back of the stage(that is a this left when seated at the piano) when a phone rang while he was bowing towards those spectators…he never turned to them again after that ….
    Another time when giving his Schubert sonatas(in Vienna?) a child started crying at the very beginning of his recital…he asked the lady to keep the child quiet…
    I would expect some spectators to text while “listening” to a concert…
    Sad world.