Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Law and Order: Opera Unit

A few of my friends and I attended an opera production earlier this year. We’re all friends through the music department, some of us majors, minors, or some merely enthusiasts. We fully comprehend music, respect the arts, and have fun enjoying a wide array of productions and concerts. But, sometimes, unintended offenses can be made. This is our story.

We arrived at the theater on time (read: fifteen minutes early), and made it to our seats. We scoured the program notes, and filled in any gaps any one had before the performance began. Lights down, curtains up, and all of us were immediately engrossed. Between Act I and II, some of the group I was with needed a break and refreshment and proceeded to the lobby for air and snacks.

One of my friends did return to his seat with a snack, which made me slightly nervous. I looked at my friend, giving the “I-hope-you-don’t-embarrass-us-by-eating-snacks-loudly-during-a-performance” look, which he received well. Lights down, curtain up. He didn’t finish in time for the show. Gasp attack as I saw from the corner of my eye his hand reaching into the bag of candy he had. However, he operated deftly throughout the entire act. I sat next to him and didn’t even flinch as he nommed on his candies. Achievement: successful opera snacking. Could have fooled me! Fast forward to intermission between Acts II and III. Confrontation ensues:

A woman walks up to our row. My friends and I got giddy, thinking she was so pleased seeing college students at an opera. Wrong.

“Omigosh. What are you doing,” she whined. “You’re eating candy, and making all that noise? Come on! This is opera, not the movies.”

(Doink doink…)

The people would like to point out that there are two points to this story: 1) opera etiquette and 2) stuffiness.

My friend made a critical error in bringing the snack into the realm of the theater. Though it may be seemingly innocuous, sometimes even the slightest of sounds can wreck a LIVE opera experience for someone else in the audience. Out of courtesy for others, snacks should really be consumed before coming back into the theater. It might not bother everyone, but there might be that one person (like my friend found out) that was extremely annoyed by it. Think about it this way if it helps: it’s kind of like when you are at your favorite band or singer’s concert, and that one really tall person is in your way. You have to struggle to see, so you’re not paying attention to what’s going on at all. You ask them to trade places with you, and they refuse to. Disturbing someone with that extraneous noise is quite similar to this situation. Just don’t do it, and pay it forward, friends.

Now, stuffiness. Opera and the movies are not all that different. I mean, the plots of operas have been the foundation or inspiration for many movies, books, and musicals. It really bothered me that this woman chose to make that comparison. While it is true that we are listening to art music and should be attentive to the details of the artistic presentation of the story and music, we should not lose the fact that we are in the theater to be entertained as well. To lose sight of that is another critical error in being an audience member. Are you having fun? If not, loosen up a little bit! Are you being moved? No? Then get your head out of the details for a moment to see the humanity in what’s going on at that moment on stage. 

Moral: Only you can stop etiquette faux pas and fight stuffiness.

Jessica (Boston College)

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