So in an effort to be more cultured I
coerced brought along some friends to the opera yesterday. Actually, it was the lure of a (and possibly shirtless) all-male cast that got me there (one man in particular).
Once seated, we amused ourselves by observing the opera demographic. Most were of a rather advanced age, and unsurprisingly considering the ticket price, moneyed. Seeing this, one expected the patrons to be, well, polite. What one didn’t expect was to be on the end of Opera Rage.
No, this was not where opera patrons took ‘e’ and boogied all night to ‘Don Giovanni’. Oh no, opera patrons take opera far too seriously for that. At the opera, one should clap in the right places, with the right level of exuberance (extremely exuberant when the shirtless lead takes a bow). They are wrathful to those who cough too much, who doze, who happen to laugh/clap/breathe at the wrong time, and particularly those who happen to bump their seats a little in an effort to get comfy.
If you have been to the Sydney Opera House, you would know that seats there aren’t exactly salubrious. In fact, they’re highly uncomfortable. And when one is trying to
endure enjoy a 3 hour opera, one will tend to shift a bit while in the process of crossing one’s leg, perhaps bumping the seat in front of them.
But when a patron (in this case, a man of middle-years, probably an exec of some kind) turns around and hissy fits, “You’re bumping my seat!!”, giving you a look of such complete hatred that it could have frozen the sun, before holding up his nose and making a dramatic exit worthy of an Oscar, I couldn’t help but be completely stunned.
When the shock wore off I quickly came to the realisation that going to the opera was a more dangerous endeavour than I had anticipated. In fact, I would place it as being more dangerous than going to something like the Big Day Out. I mean, if heathen (ie. rock) fans were so damn sensitive there’d be an all-in brawl even before the support band warms up!
So is my SOP’s (Sensitive Opera Patron) reaction characteristic of the general opera goer? If so, then opera has an uphill battle if it wants to survive. 2/3 of the people in that theatre would be dead in 15 years, and the rest? I wouldn’t guarantee them coming back if they’re faced with such attitude. Then again, it might be a good thing for the art that they lose their humourless patrons. Perhaps it can spark a revival of sorts, with new ‘rules’ and a more relaxed atmosphere?
But that’s all by-the-by since it’s tainted my image of the arts just a little bit. Oh, I’ll be back for another opera – but only when they bring in more comfy seats. With leg room.