French audience throws coins as musicians protest pension reforms

French audience throws coins as musicians protest pension reforms


norman lebrecht

March 22, 2023

We reported a hostile reaction in Lille to a lecture from the stage on the evils of pension reform.

Now in Lyon, it is reported, audience members threw coins at the national orchestra after a similar speech attacking Macron’s new bill.

François Apap, union representative of the National Orchestra of Lyon (Rhône), begins his speech… Behind him, on the stage of the National Auditorium, the musicians of the orchestra stand up to show their opposition to the government bill, but also to testify to the difficulty of their activity. ‘Our profession is currently in a very difficult period’, regrets François Apap on stage. Invective is then heard in the room: ‘No! … We are not here for that!’

There were insults: … ‘shut up’, ‘get out’, ‘play’… ‘asshole’… [A musician] saw a spectator throw a coin on stage.


  • Jobim75 says:

    Winter’s coming in France for 30 years now, maybe it has arrived….

    • London Bridge says:

      The best thing is to ignore French people and avoid going to France. Spending time interacting with French people is sadly, and far too often, an irritating, stressful and unpleasant experience. They are far too often miserable and unhappy and their never-ending strikes, protests and setting fires reflect that deep discontent. Books and articles have been written about it, but nobody should take any of their demonstrations and outbursts of anger and violence too seriously.

      The problem in France is that the country is ranked as one of the most unhappy places in the world, as we see year after year in the global ‘Happiness Index’. They also are the largest consumer of anti-depressants and other psychotropic drugs, so the underlying and repeated problem is not about raising the retirement age by two years, nor was it about all of the hundreds of other things that have provoked violent and bloody demonstrations in France year after year for as long as I can remember. These demonstrations are only symptoms of a deeply unhappy society and until their Government addresses the causes of their misery and sadness, nothing will change there, absolutely nothing.

      • Giora says:

        Well, the situation doesn’t seem to me so happy in the UK neither. Maybe you should do like the French and demonstrate more your discontent…. but maybe you contributed greatly to the actual situation by voting brexit..

      • Imbrod says:

        “Don’t like the French.
        Don’t like their Frenchified ways.

        Don’t like the French.
        Their notions don’t suit us, not their ideas.”

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        This is the face of government dependency and the cargo-cult mentality. A once-great nation sinks beneath the weight of its own entitlement.

      • Freewheeler says:

        I largely agree with your comment, but I don’t believe that a government can change the psyche of a nation by legislating to make people happy.

      • Max Raimi says:

        I spent a delightful week in the south of France last fall; virtually all my interactions with the locals were quite positive, despite my extremely rudimentary command of the language. Possibly Paris is a different story, although in the past that was not my experience. I am not at all convinced that having the nation guaranteeing that you will have access to health care and other basic necessities of life makes people miserable. Widespread uncertainty about paying for education, health care, housing, etc. in the US has hardly created anything resembling a utopia.
        BTW, the headline refers to “coins” being thrown; the article says “[A musician] saw a spectator throw a coin on stage.”

  • Alan says:

    Ridiculous carry on. Retire at 62. Average life expectancy in France is now 82.

    Who exactly do they think is going to pay for a pension lasting half as long as a working life?

    As usual with the French. No solutions. Just riot and burn things. Petulant children. Things change. Life moves on. Get on with it and stop bloody whinging.

    I’d have been hurling abuse as well. Do your job and stop complaining.

    • Angry french person going on strike says:

      82 on average. Life expectancy is very different depending on which part of the population you’re looking at: for men, life expenctancy is around 78, and lower if you consider the poorest class in society. Also, living longer doesn’t mean living in good health.
      The main problem with this pension reform is that it won’t save any money. The money that won’t be spent in the pensions will be spent on health insurance for disabled people who can’t work anymore, on revenu de solidarité active (RSA) for people below the poverty line etc.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      They don’t CARE who is going to pay. Nobody with an outstretched paw cares in the least. My son lived in France for a time 20 years ago and his friend was on anti-depressants for a marriage bust-up. The taxpayer paid for him to get taxis everywhere as you’re not allowed to drive – or you weren’t then – if you were on these drugs!!

      • Angry french person laughing very loud ahahah says:

        Ahahahah but stop mixing individual issues (being depressed and on medication) and social and political questions, it’s absolute nonsense

  • AndrewB says:

    Back in 2003 it was La Greve des intermittents du spectacle when the government reformed the benefit system for performers in France .
    This led to many difficulties and indeed some theatre and musical structures never raised their heads again, the just disappeared through lack of subsidies.
    At that time audiences quite often reacted violently to the reading out of statements from the performers.
    However some were very supportive of the artists.
    I remember a concert at La Roque D’Antheron ( near Avignon) where one half of the audience was booing the read out statement and the other half cheering it , remonstrating with those who booed.
    After the first section of the concert , a Brahms programme, there was a rapt silence . The music having soothed everybody.

    • MWnyc says:

      It wasn’t just reading out statements. Protestors made noise during performances and blocked audiences from entering some venues — when the presenters and venues had nothing to do with the reforms being protested.

      I had some sympathy for their arguments, but the protestors handled things just about as badly as they could be handled.

  • Ike says:

    After reading the headline “French audience throws coins as musicians protest pension reforms,” I clicked on the link worried that coins raining down on the stage had damaged many fine instruments (or perhaps improved some?). But later I read, “[A musician] saw a spectator throw a coin on stage.” Please remember, Norman, that the benefits of being an alarmist are short lived.

  • MMcGrath says:

    Mess with my musical evening? Brilliant response to toss coins!!
    Settle legitimate employment-related issues outside the hall (changing retirement age to bloody 64 isn’t one of them) with the well-established channels available in France. If you show up to play, don’t hold me hostage during a performance. Play.

  • bare truth says:

    Nor the editor of this esteemed site, nor his thought companions have yet explained who should bear the cost of pensions and high salaries for this historically government subsidized orchestras. The taxpayers? Please say it openly if that is what you think.

    European classical music, born out of aristrocracy and a tyrannical society, is now been rejected by the people. In Europe this is unfolding in front of our very eyes -, while American donors are continuing to support their orchestras – which are considered “woke” by elitist Europeans.

    Enjoy your European bands, while you can as they won’t last long! The people do not want them or need them!

    • Clara Schumann says:

      We do need them. The corrosion of the classical arts has destroyed society. I live in L.A./NYC and what happens in the streets is terrifying and shocking. Classical Arts reminds us what we are capable of. Popular music is sounds of the gutter.

  • Joel says:

    San Francisco Symphony musicians, whining “but we only make a quarter million dollars a year, how will we survive?” should take note of this during their contract negotiations.

    There’s not a lot of sympathy for them to begin with. Especially after I’ve spend $300 for tickets, only to be assaulted at the door with boo-hoo leafelets, and then gestured at from the stage.

    We can’t even enjoy our $20 glasses of wine during intermission without being buttonholed in the lobby during intermission by some disgruntled musician — who already earns four times what I do and works maybe ten hours a week, all sitting down.

    Seems the entire orchestra has performance degrees in the world’s smallest violin.

    • Clara Schumann says:

      Any idea what it costs to live in San Francisco? A studio apt in a decent neighbourhood is about 4k per month not including utilities, food, transportation, et cetera. The orchestral instruments and the maintenance is sky-high. These musicians train for decades to provide us with sublime music, they deserve every dollar they make.

  • Larry W says:

    It looks like “Shut up and play” translates to French, as well.

  • Affreux Jojo says:

    The progressive enjoy when those who finance their precious progressive projects treat the rest of the population like dogs.
    Case in point green, covid, Ukronato and bearded ladies teaching kids
    Now back to the BBC cuts, how dare you!

  • JanetAB says:

    I’d be delighted if all the rather unpleasant Francophobes who have hurled their vitriol at the French would stay away from that country. I should be embarrassed and ashamed of your presence there. Granted there are problems, but try looking objectively at the UK! I’m not surprised the great orchestras (and indeed singers) from Europe and elsewhere are staying away from the xenophobic cultural backwater that is today’s disunited Kingdom. We can’t afford them and we don’t appreciate them.
    Culturally this land is now almost entirely 2nd rate.