La Scala's Incoming Boss Takes Aim at Booing Superfans

Friday, March 21, 2014 - 05:00 PM

Members of the audience react to the opening of La Scala's 2013-14 season Members of the audience react to the opening of La Scala's 2013-14 season (Youtube)

Being booed and heckled has long been part of the game for singers at La Scala.

Roberto Alagna, Renee Fleming, even Luciano Pavarotti have all been subject to the antics of the loggionisti, the rowdy traditionalists who sit in the uppermost balcony of the Milan opera house and make their feelings about performances known loud and clear.

But Alexander Pereira, who becomes La Scala’s new director on October 1, wants to silence the “hissing hooligans,” as the merciless loggionisti are known in the Italian media.   

"I have at my disposition the best [singers], but many do not want to perform at La Scala because they are intimidated, if not frightened to death," Pereira told more than 100 members of the Friends of the Loggione association at a closed-doors meeting on Wednesday, the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera reported.

"We can no longer allow this," Pereira was quoted as saying. "Other opera houses are emerging and attacking our supremacy."

The loggionisti have been a longtime fixture at La Scala. In 2006, Alagna stormed off the stage during a performance of Aida, after his opening aria was vociferously booed (his understudy, Antonello Palombi, was hurried on-stage to complete the act with no time to change out of his jeans and shirt). The moment was posted on YouTube.

Fleming was booed in 1998 for adding extra trills to her arias in Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia, though she reportedly toughed it out and finished the night.

Yet things apparently came to a head in December when, during the gala season opener of La Traviata, the loggionisti booed during the curtain call over what they saw as a bastardized remake of a beloved classic. Piotr Beczala, the Polish tenor playing Alfredo, took to Facebook later that night to declare that it would be his last production at La Scala.

While some singers grudgingly accept the loggionisti, Pereira, who arrives from the Salzburg Festival, believes they are hurting La Scala's ability to draw the best talent.

"The audience of La Scala has always been dangerous, but it is now more than ever," he reportedly told the loggionisti. "And the result is that in the rest of the world they say: they're crazy; it's not worth coming here."

Weigh in: What do you think? Are the loggionisti rude or simply a colorful part of operatic tradition?

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Comments [10]

arden anderson-broecking from Fairfield County

That kind of audience behavior is absolutely unacceptable. I've had friends who attended performances at La Scala,and were disgusted. There are other ways to show displeasure, and not buying tickets is one of them, not applauding is another. I can't help wondering how many of these loggionisti
are failed singers?????

Mar. 28 2014 09:24 AM
Ken Howard

I applaud Mr. Pereira's attempt at taming this shameful behavior, no matter the history or how long it has been allowed. While I know that others may disagree, I believe booing to be rude and uncivilized. I believe that if you don't like something, you simply do not applaud, and/or you email/write the management. When a singer or production is very well liked, the applause and cheering is almost deafening in a good way. When a singer or production is not so well liked, I believe the silence (with or without chirping crickets)is just as deafening. The catch is that those who disapproved WANT to be identified and noticed, hence the noise. Yeah - you're being identified all right, as rude, disrespectful, and uncivilized.
I stand firm on this position.

Mar. 27 2014 05:39 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Some of the recent production at the Met deserved booing, of course when the performance was over. Not the singers but whoever designed some of these awful productions, Macbeth, Traviata, the Ring Cycle, Tosca especially the second act which turned my stomach, etc. etc. People pay good money. Peter Gelb is not a god, he deserves to be booed.

Mar. 26 2014 07:16 AM

First, if these 'loggionisti' are either being paid to boo/hiss or if they are organizing themselves to do so in advance of a performance, that seems to be quite wrong. I do not think anyone should applaud or boo/hiss during an aria, or at anytime during singing or performing. BUT after the singing or playing is over - that is, when the time has arrived to show pleasure or displeasure - then applause or booing/hissing is perfectly permissible and must be allowed because that is part of the concert-going experience. While some performers may find being booed to be distasteful or ego diminishing, we all must remember that we are not living in some sort of society where (as in the former East Germany or the USSR) only group-think approval is allowed. I find the incoming La Scala's attitude to be both condescending and elitist. It is as if he is saying, "How dare those peons dare to express disapproval or displeasure at what we slopped out to them. Then, let them eat cake!" Well, we all know how that ended, don't we? To the barricades all!

Mar. 24 2014 11:28 AM
RodolfoL from New York

hooligans is the right word for these self-proclaimed "purists"

Mar. 23 2014 06:44 PM

Everything should be in moderation. True, the Scala loggionisti are too demanding and often exaggerate. On the other hand, being "nice" no matter what, lowers the standard considerably.

Mar. 23 2014 01:24 PM
Nick Vega from Tampa

There is an easy and simple way to express displeasure with a performance - DON'T APPLAUSE!
The performers will get the hint!

Mar. 23 2014 10:24 AM
Alessandro Trovato

Finally the musical civilization could arrive to Milan Scala but we'll have to see who will come through this test successfully: or Alexander Pereira or the barbarians (Muti docet)

Mar. 23 2014 08:24 AM
Cimbasso from Pittsburgh, PA

Last night I went to a salon type concert. Everything went okay until the last set. I strongly felt like throwing assorted veggies to the performers. Couldn't do that - I had no veggies in my pockets. The alternative was to express my dissatisfaction by booing. Couldn't do that either - it is against the rules in the US. There was nothing I could but take it and keep my mouth shut. I think the booing tradition practiced on La Scala when performed reminds artists that they are not gods-godessess nor divas or primo huomos. They should stick to musical rules; i.e.: sing as written. I strongly feel that peoples expression of dissatisfaction should not be curtailed, being "nice" is not included in the price of ticket. Why should we keep our mouth shot if and when we think the "star" is taking liberties with the music. We do have opinions and there is only one way to express them, shout/booooooooo !!!!

Mar. 22 2014 12:13 PM
David from Flushing

I have always been of the opinion that one should never interrupt the music with applause or booing. Others paid to hear the music, not you. However, if it is time to applaud, then it is hard to make a case that booing should be prohibited. Of course, if people are paid to boo or disrupt a performance, the whole takes on a rather nasty tone. The booing young men should be a bit astonishing to Americans given the audience ages here.

Mar. 22 2014 10:35 AM

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