Fistfight Breaks out at Chicago Symphony Concert

Saturday, March 10, 2012 - 10:14 PM

It was an unusual backdrop for a fistfight: Maestro Riccardo Muti was nearly through the second movement of Brahms Symphony No. 2 at the normally staid Chicago Symphony Orchestra when two patrons went at it.

Concert-goers at Orchestra Hall were all the more stunned Thursday because the two men were fighting in one of the boxes where the well-to-do normally sit in decorous self-restraint.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Saturday that the ruckus began when a man in his 30s started punching a 67-year-old man in one of the boxes.

"We heard a rather loud thump," said Steve Robinson, general manager of Chicago's classical and folk music station 98.7 WFMT, who was at the performance but didn't see the fracas. "It wasn't so loud that everyone jumped up and ran for the exits."

Police said the fight was the result of an argument over seats. The older man had a cut on his forehead; the other left before officers arrived.

All the while, the concert went on. Though patrons said Music Director Muti gave the two men a sharp, irritated look - one person called it "dagger eyes" - before continuing on with the third movement.

"Mind you, he never stopped conducting," Robinson said. "He very gracefully, without missing a beat - literally - he brought (the second movement) to a very quiet and subdued close, while still looking over his left shoulder."


March 13 UPDATE: On Monday, Riccardo Muti shared his reaction to the event in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. The conductor said he initially thought the noise was the result of a medical emergency, but was otherwise unruffled. "My first reaction, when I heard the noise, was that somebody had fallen down and was not feeling well,” he told Tribune critic John von Rhein.

Muti said he paused and delayed the start of the third movement until he got an eye signal from someone else in the box seats that no one had suffered a medical emergency and also that “the fighters were separated.”

The Italian conductor noted that this was the first time in his 40-year career that he has seen such an incident, adding with a smile, "I hope it was not my interpretation that brought this on.” - Ed.

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Comments [12]

James Madison

Have you never heard of Le Sacre du Printemps? The premiere involved the police as well as most of the audience. This little episode was patti-cake compared to that. Sad that it involved the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, though. Too good of an orchestra for such a scene. Wonder what happens in Vienna or Berlin?

Feb. 23 2016 11:35 PM
Mat Dirjish from New York, NY

Makes one feel at home whether they attend a ball game or an opera. Just remember to take some Karate or Brazillian Tai Quan Do lessons before your next concert. Rock-em-sock-em sonatas!

Mar. 15 2012 12:05 PM

Boxing & Brahms....(how ROUSING)

Mar. 14 2012 10:29 PM
LES from WDC

What, no top ten classical music fight songs?

Mar. 14 2012 10:16 AM
Marie from Wanamassa, NJ

"...patrons said Music Director Riccardo Muti gave the two men a sharp, irritated look..."

Well, that sure fixed THEM!

Those crazy Chicagoans! That never would happen here in New York.

Mar. 14 2012 08:54 AM
Robert from NYC

Damn, where are the Hell's Angels when you need them ? ! !

Mar. 13 2012 09:10 PM
Jeffrey Gross from Brooklyn

The passion in Brahms is hidden, but when it emerges - watch out!

Mar. 13 2012 03:31 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

To paraphrase the old gag - I went to see a fight and a concert broke out! Hopefully, there were no injuries other than one's pride.

Mar. 12 2012 10:48 PM
Michael Meltzer

Trying to visualize what happened, you try to visualize what might have preceded, and there are inappropriated behaviors possible for which what was witnessed might have been expected.

Mar. 12 2012 02:58 PM
Paul Murphy from Hyannis

Les is correct. I would add narcissim

Mar. 12 2012 02:27 PM
Jim from New York

Imagine what they could have done with the 1812 Overture as background music. Perhaps the whole audience would have engaged in fisticuffs.

Mar. 12 2012 11:42 AM
Les Bernstein from Miami, Florida

This is a disgraceful occurence emblematic of today's popular culture long rooted in philistinism and rowdyism. Whoever was responsible should be banned from Orchestra Hall. Let him go to wrestling matches and rock and roll concerts. And I felt the same when reading about the final bars of Mahler's Ninth Symphony played by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Alan Gilbert being interrupted by a ringing cell phone.

Mar. 11 2012 09:41 AM

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