The Metropolitan Opera has announced they are on a manhunt for the outspoken critic who stated, "You have no technique" at the end of Brenda Rae's performance of the aria, 'Großmächtige Prinzessin' during the opera 'Ariadne auf Naxos' on March 17, 2022.
There is no written policy at the Metropolitan Opera that audience members can not express a statement of praise, disapproval, or even indifference at any time during the performance or afterwards. We will note that this outspoken critic waited until Brenda Rae had at least finished her rendition of the aria, 'Großmächtige Prinzessin' before expressing their disapproval. This type of criticism is not new in opera- the most famous and beloved opera houses in the world, including Teatro alla Scala, has critics shouting their disapproval all the time, even while an artist is singing and historically threw tomatoes at them. Audiences expect a certain mastery of technique, artistry, and preparation of the language and roles before they step onto the greatest world stages of opera. It is the normal for Italian audiences to demand a higher caliber of technique and for artists to expect being criticized if they do not make meet expectations. So this is most certainly not new, and even for American audiences, this has happened from time to time, especially when a singer has very poor technique.
We will not address the matter of whether the artist in question, Brenda Rae, did or did not display proper technique in her performance on March 17th, but we will bring into question whether audiences are allowed to have a voice and whether we have the right to free speech and an opinion. After all, audience members are the ones paying for the tickets to come see the performance, and Americans in this country are the ones paying taxes that go to this great institution. So we beg to ask the question, 'Should audience members be banned for speaking out when there is a terrible performance, or are they expected to remain silent, even at the detriment of the art form of opera itself? If audience members in the US were as studied and learned in the traditional techniques and elements of opera as Italian audiences are, perhaps there would be much more heckling and outspoken critics here in the US as well.
To force audiences to remain silent and to not critique artists or performances sets a dangerous precedent as to what restrictions will come next. What's next- will audience members who voice their disapproval on social media, a blog, a major newspaper or media outlet, or who openly talk about their criticism at the public square be banned from attending future performances? The Metropolitan Opera announced they are on a manhunt for the critic and he will be banned for life and never be allowed to attend any performance at the Metropolitan Opera ever again. This is a bit harsh, and certainly not the norm for what any opera house has done previously, as they allow critics to voice their opinion. If the Metropolitan Opera is adopting this new policy, they should have stated it openly and boldly on its website and written policies before audience members could buy their tickets, or be notified of their new policy and offered refunds if they do not agree with it. This is legally how matters should be addressed, but does the Metropolitan Opera think they are too big to fail? Are they trying to prop up failed singers in hopes that no one is studied enough to notice the difference? Is it perhaps less about proper technique and more about financial gain? Perhaps, if more critics were to voice their disapproval for bad technique and performances, they would have to uphold standards and many of their singers who were propped up solely for financial reasons (donations made in their name) or for the sake of their allied institutions receiving visibility, status, and fame- they would all be forced to study proper technique or not receive any more roles. Then, opera would be more about opera itself and less about money, corruption, image, politics, and other facets that plague the world of opera today.
The question remains, 'Should audience members be banned for speaking out when there is a terrible performance, or are they expected to remain silent, even at the detriment of the art form of opera itself?