VIOLENCE HAS again broken out in the opera house. The very same gentleman of Miss Manners' acquaintance who was felled last season at the Kennedy Center by an elderly party wielding a rolled newspaper, has suffered another blow in the hazardous pursuit of music. This time it was a fist from a clear two rows behind him that got him in the back, at a performance of the Metropolitan Opera in Lincoln Center in New York.
In both cases, the victim was attacked after the performance was concluded, during the curtain calls. The terrorist in each case claimed to have been provoked by the fact that the target was in a standing position. The gentleman does not deny this, but states in his defense that the occasion for which he was standing was a theatrical convention known as the "standing ovation."
Here is his version of the incident:
"I have an eighe opera subscription, and this was at 'Billy BUdd. When the curtain went down, the lady next to me got up and went out. I had to stand to let her get by. Down in front, people were already standing, and I thought, 'We have a standing ovation going here, so I might as well stand.' I was the first in my row to do so - you know how these things start in the front of the orchestra and move back - but I would have been standing anyway, within 40 or 50 seconds. I suspect that in 60 seconds, that man two rows behind me was standing, too. But the first I knew of him was a fist that came at me, from two rows back, between people's heads. It caught me in the middle of the back - I think I have a case of assault and battery - and there was shouting with it, that I couldn't understand. I turned around and saw a relatively young-looking chap in a grayish-green tweed suit. He started pointing to a middle-aged lady next to him with opera glass, indicating that I was blocking her view. I sat down. Maybe I should have hit him, but it was two rows back, and my arms aren't as long as his. These were subscriptions seats, and no doubt I'm going to see him again for the next opera."
Miss Manners is quite shocked at this entire business. Viiolence in response to music is one thing - it has been pointed out to Miss Manners that the lady who lost control at a Stravinsky premiere and expressed her dissatisfaction by means of her umbrella was merely reacting to the music - but the descent of the curtain removes that excuse. After a performance is concluded, members of the audience who wish to express their appreciation or look of it by means of oral expression, in English or Italian, or body posture may do so, but the physical manifestation may include walking out, standing and clapping or sitting tight. A standing ovation is a legitimate reaction; a flying fist is not.
As for the gentleman's problem of retaliation, Miss Manners does not condone [WORD ILLEGIBLE] even as a defense. Nevertheless, she sympathizes with the gentleman's need to express him indignation. The 10-or 15-minutes cries of pain from the torture in "Tosca" might convey the point. And "Billy Budd," for that matter, contains quite an effective xpression of agony, from a flogged seaman, that should register the emotion on an opera-goer.
Miss Manners Responds
Q: My fiance and I are selecting our wedding invitations, and we don't know how to address them. The bride's parents are paying for the catering. The groom's parents offered to pay for the rehearsal dinner. The bride's parents offered to invite the guests to their house after the mass, while the groom's parents offered to invite the people over to their house for the opening of the presents. My fiance and I are paying for the hall, cake, marriage licencse, flowers, music and drinks. Who gets the honor of inviting the guests on the invitation?
A: You are making the common, and often justified, assumption that honors are always for sale. In this case, they are not. The bride's parents issue the invitations. However, the tradespeople issue their bills to those who have indicated a willingness to pay them.
Q: Several years ago, we had a lovely stay at a hotel on the English Channel somewhere in Kent County, England. The ashtray was lovely with a gold coat-of-arms and as a romantic, I wanted to have it forever. My husband inquired at the desk about purchasing one and we were promptly presented a free, lovely boxed ashtray. A similar vacation was spent in Acapulco, and I wanted several little handmade clay ashtrays. The hotel manager wrapped and boxed several for 50 cents. These little silly goodies are tucked away somewhere in a drawer now, but whenever they appear, I have a very special sweep of memories - so, if a momento of a special place is important, these is a proper way to obtain it.
A: In a world where so many people will attempt to justify or conceal the use of petty dishonesty, Miss Manners is delighted to find someone who is using honest means to achieve the effect of pilfering.