17 February 2005

Ask Sieglinde II

Opera v. "Classical" music

That bitch last night sharped on the high D-flat, phlegmed her way through the passaggio, refused to go chest, limped through the cabaletta, but rushed though the pianissimi, and then had the nerve to linger and tear up during her curtain call. Should I have boo'ed her? --Daniela from Flushing, Queens.

Dear Danny Boy, heck yeah. Opera ain't the symphony, girl. There are no rules. You can boo her. You can brava the fag maestro, you can throw confetti for the mezzo, you can interrupt the music to applaud the entrance of your favorite comprimario. Those folks over at Avery Fisher worry if they should applaud or boo between movements; they think they're attending "culture". But honey, the opera house is trash, filth, rot, and gut. We kill sopranos who don't sound like the CD.

As for boo'ing, we got Renée, who swore never to return to La Scala after being shunned by the loggionisti; Dear Renata Scotto sought her afterwards to welcome her to the club; Leyla Gencer, queen of La Scala, sent her flowers and told her not to worry. Muti's come scritto shtick gets boo'ed routinely, as are the design teams of any new production at the Met. Karita Mattila got some too, from a Christian fundamentalist (I suspect) idiot who didn't appreciate the full monty at one seismic Met Salome last year. Alexandra Deshorties got some feedback for trashing Mozart's music for Kostanze; the conductor Fredric Chaslin got boo'ed during his curtain call at one recent Met Vespri Siciliani for not covering a mistake committed by diva Nelly Miricioiu during her tragic Bolero. Back in the olden days, maestros got boo'ed for not allowing bis for hottie Franco Corelli; Callas got salad thrown at her in lieu of flowers; grande dame Licia Albanese even boo'ed fierce Catherine Malfitano's Butterfly; there was a "Brava Maria!" screamed from the darkness at one infamous Scotto entrance. I could go on.

As for applause, let's see: the greats have been applauded upon first sight, and Tosca's is a damn fabulous entrance to get that kind of love; I'm counting on the Millo-freaks to stop the show in May. Pick up most any Franco Corelli pirate, and you'll just know which point in the opera he first shows his pretty face by the applause and the bravo's that interrupt the music. His Vittoria! was a chronically cheered event. Dear Renata Tebaldi caused a tumult by simply showing up at the door with a blown candle as Mimi (who goes crazy for Mimi? unheard of). Even excessive applause from one faction gets boo'ed by the other. Go figure.

In short, the opera audience ain't shy, dear Danny Boy. We let them know how we feel, what we want, who we adore. The auditorium gasps at mistakes, sighs at the passing of a magical phrase. Queens laugh at corny situations and slapstick moments, we throw confetti (verboten at the Met, but who cares) and cheap flowers, we hiss at maestros that make our divas look bad, we stomp our feet and bang the walls, we clap after every ending cadence and curtain fall, and we shush the patrons who applaud after Parsifal acts. We are not shy.

So don't be shy. There are no rules of decorum. Just enjoy.