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When did the standing ovation become meaningless?


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23 replies to this topic

#1 of 24 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted October 26 2008 - 02:10 PM

I've been to a few live performances recently, and look forward to my season tickets in the city's Broadway Theater League. But I'm seeing that the standing ovation is pro forma for the audience. My understanding was that the standing O was for extraordinary performances, not just the normal starring performance.

Is this old news? Is there some new laudatory reserved for the truly exceptional performance?

#2 of 24 OFFLINE   LarryH

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Posted October 26 2008 - 02:25 PM

I think you're right, there has been some deflation in the value of the SO. At least it is still the case that a routine performance by the orchestra as a whole rarely gets an SO for my local orchestra. Pretty much every soloist gets one - but maybe we're just lucky enough to great soloists Posted Image

#3 of 24 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted October 26 2008 - 03:49 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveF
Is this old news?
In fact, yes. The Times published an article almost five years ago entitled "The Tyranny of the Standing Ovation".

My personal theory is that it's more common with audiences whose members infrequently attend live performances. When such things become "special" events, everything about them has to be special, including the applause. I think that's why I routinely see standing ovations at Broadway shows, but not off-Broadway, where the audiences are smaller and more likely to be composed of subscribers and other regular theater-goers.
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#4 of 24 OFFLINE   Jay H

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Posted October 27 2008 - 12:10 AM

But don't you feel odd to be in an audience where there are only a few people standing up giving the ovation. It's kind of like traffic from rubbernecking on accidents on the highway, it only takes one person to stop and slow down to look to back up everybody on a densely packed highway...

I would feel kind of odd not to be standing if there is a small group of the audience standing... but it is kind of a % thing, if there is one person standing about 4000 aisles in front of me, it's different than if the row in front of me is standing or if the people next to you is standing so it's also a proximity thing. A chain reaction could occur when a small group of folks stand and it just waves out from there...

But you're probably right, there certainly is a degrading of the SO, kind of like the word "hero" these days, everybody is a hero!

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#5 of 24 OFFLINE   Bob McLaughlin

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Posted October 27 2008 - 01:07 AM

The same could be said for the terms "famous" and "celebrity", the standards have been degraded.

I remember going to see a high school play many years ago that was given a standing ovation, and I overheard someone saying "I thought a standing O was supposed to be for something really special". But for the parents of those kids I guess it was something special.
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#6 of 24 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted October 27 2008 - 01:11 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay H
But don't you feel odd to be in an audience where there are only a few people standing up giving the ovation.
Personally, no. I don't even feel odd to be sitting in an audience where most people are standing (though in fact I'm sometimes forced to stand if I want to see the curtain call at all). If I'm close enough to the stage for the performers really to see me, then I express my appreciation through the enthusiasm of my applause, by the expression on my face, and vocally. More important, I express it by sitting still and paying attention during the performance -- a form of appreciation that is fast dying out at live performances.
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#7 of 24 OFFLINE   drobbins

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Posted October 27 2008 - 02:06 AM

It is also kind of like an "encore" at a rock concert. Posted Image They know that they will do one, so they save their best song for it.

#8 of 24 OFFLINE   RobertR

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Posted October 27 2008 - 03:28 AM

Another term that's been degraded is "star". That isn't enough now. It has to be "superstar".

#9 of 24 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted October 27 2008 - 04:38 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay H
But don't you feel odd to be in an audience where there are only a few people standing up giving the ovation.
I don't feel odd, but it's still necessary to participate. The ovation occurs at the curtain call, and as everyone rises to applaud, I can no longer see the performers take their bow, so I too am forced to rise to enjoy it (or sit and applaud the backs of the row in front of me.

Michael, thanks for the link. It's been a while since I've been to live shows, and hadn't seen the ovation inflation.

#10 of 24 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted October 27 2008 - 10:11 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Reuben
More important, I express it by sitting still and paying attention during the performance -- a form of appreciation that is fast dying out at live performances.
Yes, I couldn't agree more. Many, many years ago I was at a performance of Falstaff (I think) with Victor Buono at the Old Globe in San Diego. I was sitting halfway back and I kept thinking something was wrong. It turned out some guy in the first or second row was talking and distracting the actors.

Buono stopped the play, stepped forward to the idiot and said "Shut Up!" in a very angry voice. The guy said something and Buono replied "I don't care, shut up or get out!" Than the play resumed.

I've never encountered something so blatant since, but have encountered many movie goers who think the movie theater is their living room.

We now return you to the normal thread subject. Sorry 'bout that.
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#11 of 24 OFFLINE   Rex Bachmann

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Posted October 27 2008 - 03:10 PM

DaveF wrote (post #1):

Quote:
When did the standing ovation become meaningless?

. . . . I'm seeing that the standing ovation is pro forma for the audience. My understanding was that the standing O was for extraordinary performances, not just the normal starring performance.

Is this old news? Is there some new laudatory reserved for the truly exceptional performance?


Bob McLaughlin wrote (post #5):

Quote:
The same could be said for the terms "famous" and "celebrity", the standards have been degraded.


By the same token, when did the "B" become the new "C"?

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#12 of 24 OFFLINE   Henry Gale

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Posted October 27 2008 - 03:31 PM

I welcome any standing ovation because I just want to stand up and stretch.
My butt gets so sore if I have to sit for a long time.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob McLaughlin
The same could be said for the terms "famous" and "celebrity", the standards have been degraded.


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#13 of 24 OFFLINE   Lucia Duran

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Posted October 28 2008 - 12:13 AM

Not only have standing ovations become meaningless, but I was greatly disappointed when I went to my first opera performance (La traviata) and I bought a beautiful dress and had my hair done just for the occasion, only to arrive and see 99% of the people in jeans and tshirts. There were maybe a handful of people wearing dresses and suits.

A friend of mine even said that people don't dress up for Broadway plays anymore. Such a heartbreak for me.
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#14 of 24 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted October 28 2008 - 01:17 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucia Duran
A friend of mine even said that people don't dress up for Broadway plays anymore.
Your friend is correct, but that's how it's been for many years. Bear in mind that, when Broadway was revived in the 90s, it took on many elements of a theme park. One doesn't dress up for a theme park.

(The above is not a criticism, BTW, merely an observation. Though I occasionally indulge in nostalgia for the old, seedy Times Square captured in films like Taxi Driver, the one we have today has distinct advantages, and it's been essential in NYC's revival.)
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#15 of 24 OFFLINE   RobertR

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Posted October 28 2008 - 03:49 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucia Duran
Not only have standing ovations become meaningless, but I was greatly disappointed when I went to my first opera performance (La traviata) and I bought a beautiful dress and had my hair done just for the occasion, only to arrive and see 99% of the people in jeans and tshirts. There were maybe a handful of people wearing dresses and suits.

A friend of mine even said that people don't dress up for Broadway plays anymore. Such a heartbreak for me.
It seems that dressing up is becoming more rare, period. Not at classical concerts, not in church, not dining out. Several years ago I went to a meeting where I work and I was the only man there wearing a tie. I stopped bothering after that. It seems strange to watch movies from the 40s and 50s, where the typical man on the street is wearing a suit and tie (and a hat!), and the typical woman is wearing a dress (another rarity).

#16 of 24 OFFLINE   Lucia Duran

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Posted October 28 2008 - 05:28 AM

I don't wear makeup, I don't do my hair every day and I certainly couldn't entertain the idea of wearing a dress every day, but I do admire the attention to detail that women and men use to have back in the day. It's all very glamorous, old hollywood. Now a days it is very theme parkish isn't it?

We have become a very casual society. I just think for occasions such as the opera, the theater or a nice dinner out, it's fun to dress up and make an event of it.

My family still dresses in their Sunday best when going to church.
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#17 of 24 OFFLINE   drobbins

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Posted October 28 2008 - 06:00 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucia Duran
I don't wear makeup, I don't do my hair every day and I certainly couldn't entertain the idea of wearing a dress every day

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#18 of 24 OFFLINE   RafaelB

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Posted October 29 2008 - 03:22 AM

I was recently at a performance of "The Road To Mecca" here in DC and was talking about this with my companion. We both the the play was good and well-performed but it didn't deserve the full standing O that the majority of the audience (over 80% from what we could see) gave it.

#19 of 24 OFFLINE   Matt^Brown

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Posted October 29 2008 - 04:49 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by drobbins
It is also kind of like an "encore" at a rock concert. Posted Image They know that they will do one, so they save their best song for it.

I hate the concert "Encore". It is so fake that I dread the part of the concert where it happens. Sometimes two or three times before the concert actually ends.
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#20 of 24 OFFLINE   drobbins

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Posted October 29 2008 - 05:12 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt^Brown
I hate the concert "Encore". It is so fake that I dread the part of the concert where it happens. Sometimes two or three times before the concert actually ends.
If you have seen the Blue Man Group DVD on how to be a rock star, the "Fake Ending" is in the handbook.
Quote:
I was recently at a performance of "The Road To Mecca" here in DC and was talking about this with my companion. We both the the play was good and well-performed but it didn't deserve the full standing O that the majority of the audience (over 80% from what we could see) gave it.
What I hate is if I don't stand and join the ovation, everyone thinks that I didn't like the show. They take staying seated as a statement of dissatisfaction.


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