Please think of us next time you’re at the opera

"If you think you may fall asleep during an opera, don't sit in the front row".
Photo: Vince Caligiuri

Recently you printed a heckle complaining about audience behaviour at classical concerts. Well, let’s look at this from the perspective of a pit muso at the Opera House.

We have to contend with the behaviour of audience members, too, and especially with those who sit in the front row. Some advice:

If you are a female (of any age) wearing a short skirt be mindful of those in the pit who do not want to see your knickers each time they look up to see the conductor. We need a high level of concentration, and it is difficult to play a wind instrument while giggling.

If you think you may fall asleep during an opera, don’t sit in the front row. It’s very off-putting and depressing for all the pit musos (and stage performers) who can clearly see the people who nod off in the seats directly behind the conductor – right in our line of vision.

Don’t put your feet up on the pit edge. The instructions are not to do that, but people wait until the lights go down, then stick their feet up as though they’re at home, so we see all the crap on the bottom of the feet. Not a pretty sight and quite offensive to us.

If you are slightly hard of hearing and of a talkative disposition, don’t sit in the front row and try to hold a conversation with your friend who also is hard of hearing. You both end up confused, and very noisy, because you are trying to talk over the 65-plus musicians and umpteen opera singers in full voice.

Keep your camera in your bag. Use it with the flash mid-show and those same 65-plus musos’ eyeballs immediately see white spots covering the million black spots they are trying to read to play the music.

If you are an aspiring conductor sitting in the front row, intending to assist the occupant of the podium should you feel that is required, DON’T! Don’t set yourself up in opposition and discreetly wave your hands in the tempo you perceive is appropriate. It’s not discreet, we can see it, and it isn’t helping.

It’s tough down in the pit at the best of times – you try playing complicated pieces of music in the equivalent of a dimly-lit cellar, at times being reduced to watching the conductor on a monitor.

Next time you come to an opera, please think of us.

Christine Pringle (The Sydney Morning Herald) / March 26, 2013

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