Why don’t people boo more at the opera?

Why don’t people boo more at the opera? Tyler Cowen thinks he knows: “When these high-status people are slighted, as they might be by a bad performance, their privately optimal response is to ignore the slight. Reacting to the slight suggests that they have let it bother them …” I’d think it has everything to do with herd mentality and accepted tradition, which could just as easily have gotten started randomly (and which a couple of spontaneous instances of booing could turn around).

2 thoughts on “Why don’t people boo more at the opera?

  1. Because booing is low class? If I don’t like something, I just don’t pay for it again and let my friends know about it. Booing at the actual performances accomplishes neither of these things.

  2. Teachout says: Booing, on the other hand, sends a different message, one that isn’t necessarily all bad. Francesca Zambello’s deliberately provocative Met production of “Lucia di Lammermoor” was booed when it opened in 1992. “It isn’t fun to be booed,” Ms. Zambello later told me, “but sometimes it’s also a badge of success.” Why? Because the people who booed Ms. Zambello’s “Lucia” and Ms. Zimmerman’s “Sonnambula,” unlike the ones who spring to their feet at the end of a third-rate musical, were making it clear that they’d paid attention to what they saw and heard. No, they didn’t care for it, but at least they were involved with it, and such involvement can be the first step toward a deeper, more thoughtful response. “As soon as I detest something,” the music critic Hans Keller once said, “I ask myself why I like it.” Keller’s words may seem paradoxical, but in fact they’re wise. While anger may turn out to be love in disguise, indifference is rarely anything more than indifference.

    It’s true, though, that criticism in galleries is not heard by the author, which booing is.

    I think it’s true that if booing is a potential response, it makes clapping more significant, though.

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