Paula Rosenberg Freelance Writer: Online Portfolio

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Reader’s Choice Award Winning Article on Viewshound: A Night at the Opera

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Here’s an article I published on my frustrations with social graces at the opera.  It won the Reader’s Choice Award for the day on Viewshound.

Viewshound Opera Essay  (Please note Viewshound’s website was closed in January of 2012, the link no longer works, but you can read the article as it appeared below)

Tragedy at the opera

Rude patrons seem to be everywhere, but I’m most disturbed when I see social mores go out the window at the opera.

ViewsHound Readers’ Prize Winner
By Paula Rosenberg – Friday 25 Nov 2011


Image: SeanPavonePhoto /

I was well settled into my seat at the Metropolitan Opera when the orchestra began the overture for Aida. I would like to say that listening to the music transported me from the stress of my Midtown job, but instead of being able to enjoy Verdi, I had to listen to a patron argue with an usher because she wouldn’t allow him to search for his assigned seat until the next act. She instead offered him the vacant spot next to me and said he could stay there until the first intermission. The tardy opera attendee sat beside me and preceded to text whomever he was meeting throughout the entire first act. That coupled with cell phones periodically going off and constant chattering throughout the audience tainted the experience of hearing Celeste Aida.

I have come to accept that etiquette while viewing entertainment is nearly defunct. I can’t remember the last time I went to see a movie, whether it be an art house flick at The Paris or a blockbuster at the Union Square Regal Cinema that wasn’t disrupted by someone’s conversation that apparently couldn’t wait until after the film. I can deal with the fact that I seem to be one of ten New Yorkers that would feel underdressed if I went to see a Broadway show in jeans or worse- a velour sweat suit. I’ve even become immune to the sounds of people smacking their bubble gum while viewing the works of Monet and Van Gogh at MoMA. But I refuse to acquiesce to the disregard of social graces at The Met.

The Met is St. Peter’s Basilica to an opera buff. It is a holy shrine that should be visited with respect and reverence. In many ways it is the best place in the city to see a truly diverse mix of music lovers intermingling. Long time Grand Tier season ticket holders are more than happy to let eager Julliard students with rush tickets in on the best kept secret “Go to the bathrooms on the Parterre level. They have the shortest lines.”

But, sadly just as love of the arts knows no economic barrier, neither does rudeness- as many phones go off in the Orchestra section as do in the Family Circle level at a given performance. The glow of someone’s phone while they’re texting is distracting. The only illumination I’m interested in seeing off stage is the subtitle screen in front of my seat. These distractions caused by audience members are more upsetting to me than watching Don Jose stab Carmen during that opera’s final.

Whether someone is spending two hundred and seventy dollars to sit in a private box or twenty dollars for a rafter seat, I can’t understand why someone would pay for a ticket and putter with his or her blackberry instead of enjoying the show. More importantly it is annoying that these audience member faux pas spoil the experience for patrons like me who also spent money on an evening out. It makes me want to break out into my own lamentful aria in a similar vein to Vesti La Giubba from Pagliccai.

My grievance does not come from ageism or elitism. I am twenty-nine and was raised in a working class Midwestern home. The shade of my blood isn’t any hue of blue. I just feel that some places are sacred and disrupting someone’s Met experience is a sacrilege.

Article category: Other
Article tags: rude patrons, The Met, opera, texting, nyc, cell phones
Disclaimer: the views of the author are not those of ViewsHound or Publisha Limited.
Copyright © Paula Rosenberg, all rights reserved. License this in the Content Store.

Written by paularosenberg

November 26, 2011 at 10:00 pm

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