Never in my life have I received such treatment. They threw an apple at me!
Well, watermelons are out of season.
Lasspari and Otis B Driftwood
(The Marx Brothers A Night at the Opera)
Starting softly and getting louder, the gentleman got in three boos before the rest of the audience knew the piece had finished. Definitely not one of our fans who calls out Bravoooooo, these were unquestionably expressions of displeasure. But whether directed at the Lutoslawsky 4th symphony or our rendition of it under Haitink’s baton, nobody could tell. A brief scan of the composer’s biography makes me wonder if our pro Stalin fan (yes we have one) had returned.
I don’t know if it comes as a surprise or not, but the general reaction among orchestra members to audience boos isn’t very disapproving. Perhaps this comes from a sense of smugness about our self worth and the ability for each of us singly to fall back on the belief that the composer, conductor, soloist, or somebody else, is the true object of displeasure. But there is also a sense of relief that at least somebody out there cares enough to go against the grain and express themselves. One of the more disheartening things about this profession can be to see obvious signs of displeasure among audience members during the performance (i.e. yawning, sleeping, the rolling of eyes, head buried in the program or other reading material, or the ubiquitous 20th century music scowl) only to receive the same polite applause at the conclusion. Was that a standing ovation, or were those people merely donning their coats and shrugging? (I once saw a man sleep soundly through a piece only to jump to his feet and applaud.) At least a good hearty Boo shows somebody had an honest opinion.
We’ve had few memorable ones during my time here. The Enescu Symphony (sorry, can’t remember which one) ends conclusively. So when we performed it at the University of (the state in which the city I work in is located) the gentleman who got his boo off (say that fast three times: very funny) a split second before the rest of the audience erupted deserves special commendation. He (booing seems to be a male-dominated activity) obviously sat on the edge of his seat for a long time waiting for his big chance. Probably most famously, a local member of the 4th estate loudly booed the son of a prominent dissident for a lackluster reading of the Grieg piano concerto. That demonstration involved the spontaneous conversion of the program book into confetti.