Two Hands Equal One Controversy

by Suzanne Calvin

They’re at it again, the local critics, that is. Willard Spiegelman of D magazine (not to mention SMU, “The New York Times,” etc.) is the latest to raise the issue of the audience “O”…the sometimes ill-timed, other times automatic standing ovations on the part of Dallas/Fort Worth audiences. One of the points made is that this behavior somehow validates the price paid for the ticket (which seems a bit screwy to me) or it’s a reflection of American society’s penchant for grade inflation (“Everybody gets an A!”).

So, what do YOU think?

I get as irked as the next classical music critic when someone starts the applause before the final notes have faded -- but on the other hand -- the incredible standing, stomping, thumping, roaring ovation at the end of the world premiere performance of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s “Moby-Dick” last April (with ripped up paper fluttering from the upper tiers) remains a moment nearly as indelible as the opera itself.

So, is over-enthusiasm a real problem in the local arts scene…or a perceived problem?

Feel free to discuss here.  (Image courtesy of

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media & PR

4 Responses to Two Hands Equal One Controversy

Suzanne says: September 27, 2010 at 10:34 am

Actually, Bill, what you’ve noticed and named the “Dallas Walking Ovation” I’ve always referred to as the “Streaking Ovation.” Patrons moving at the speed of light up the aisle while casting occasional glances over their shoulders to indicate they are either still connecting with the performance or “afraid something’s gaining on them.”

Bill says: September 27, 2010 at 1:53 am

After nearly 30 yrs as a subscriber to both the Dallas Opera and Dallas Symphony, I have often been amused by what I call the “Dallas Walking Ovation”, wherein a considerable portion of audience begins walking out as they applaud. It’s a bit irritating!

Many years ago, I recall Nicolo Rescigno shushing the audience when some premature applause was heard near the end of the Humming chorus of Butterfly.

Moby Dick: I was at a subsequent performance and was thrilled by the obviously heart-felt response — full throated cheers and lots of noise!

Paul Blackstock says: September 24, 2010 at 12:38 pm

As I revisit my post, I realize I may come across to those reading it as one of the “newspaper critic wannabes” I was speaking sarcastically about. Sorry.

Paul Blackstock says: September 23, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Well, since I’ve already posted a “negative” comment in another area for these posts, I may as well stay true to my perhaps “perceived” personna and continue with the negative.

I personally feel there is a local general tendency to inflate the quality of some productions by the Dallas Opera with the almost automatic standing ovation.

This was evidenced, in my opinion, with the standing ovation for this past season’s “Madame Butterfly.” While watching “Butterfly,” and seeing no set . . . or remnants of what appeared to be set pieces from “Moby,” one could feel short-changed. It particularly bothered me when the lack of set was explained away as a “new approach to staging” for Butterfly. Hogwash! Nobody’s stretch of the imagination could justify Butterfly and her entourage arriving at the Consulat’s office to meet her new husband, and then singing sweet nothings to each other in the steral atmosphere of the office.

And then . . . there are always those individuals that begin the applause before the end of the piece. Those are just the ones that are the “newspaper critic wannabes” and wish to impress those around them with their own self-imposed importance.