Debating the merits of audience booing

Posted on: May 12, 2009

In Monday’s (5/11) Los Angeles Times, Mark Swed writes, “At the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion last month, there were loud cheers for tenor Placido Domingo and conductor James Conlon during the curtain calls for the premiere of Los Angeles Opera’s new production of Wagner’s ‘Die Walküre.’ But amid continued thunderous applause, a couple of jeers also greeted the fanciful director, Achim Freyer, when he came on stage to take a bow. … Art isn’t easy, but booing is. A mind-closing activity, it tends to be the expression of rigidity in the face of invention. Artists are almost never booed for incompetence (no one can deny the craft of Freyer’s stagecraft). They are booed for intent and out of partisanship.” But John von Rhein laments the “push-button standing ovation” in Monday’s (5/11) Chicago Tribune. “The trouble with these mindless displays is that they cheapen the distinction between the truly great performances that periodically occur and the average-to-merely good performances that are far more common. … A well-placed boo by a discriminating listener can be just the thing to perk up our complacent musical life. It can galvanize a performer to make an instant course correction. It might even jar neighboring listeners who are enjoying a mindless soak in aural bath water to a higher level of musical awareness and involvement.”

Posted May 12, 2009