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Subject: Re: Booing at the Met
From: Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 28 Oct 2017 15:41:33 -0400
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Sometimes that can work. But you'd be surprised how many times that would actually 
feel very awkward and artificial, and long. Also, I know a lot of directors who don't like 
blackouts, and who would prefer either a slow fadout or having the curtain slowly cover 
the scene. It's a valid artistic choice, like many others. 

Also, some operas have final music that is truly meant to be heard, but many (especially 
19th century bel canto through much of Verdi, etc) that are more just a repetition of a 
final cadence, etc - it's not "important" music, it's just meant to put a definite cap on it. 
Unless a director can really fill that music with compelling stage action, it's better to have 
the curtain coming in as part of that cadential repetition. 

Butterfly famously ends on a "wrong" chord - it's really the only classical tonal piece I can 
think of that doesn't actually end on the tonic (though it's implied in the bass, so we tend 
to hear the resolution in our heads, I think). I think that last chord really should 
correspond to a final dramatic moment in the staging - perhaps Pinkerton hugging his 
son, or his discovery of the dead/dying Butterfly, or perhaps a brave director would find a 
way to delay her suicidal stab until that chord. I don't know. But it's clear to me that 
Puccini had something to say with that last chord. 

But the cadential "fills" that we hear at the end of, say, Traviata, or Rigoletto, or many a 
bel canto score - that's curtain-lowering music. What else is there really to dramatize in 
that moment? More time watching Rigoletto or Alfredo cry over the body? La commedia e 
finita. Bring in the curtain, please. 

(And with that reference to Pagliacci - in my head, I've always felt that the fast cascading 
music at the end, after the reiteration of "ridi, Pagliaccio" in the orchestra, could be Canio 
running off pursued by the crowd, leaving the 2 dead bodies for us to see on the final 
chords. As the curtain comes in.)

Some composers dictate where they want to curtain to come in, or to rise, and how 
slowly or quickly. Berg gives specific instructions for the beginning and ending of each 
scene of Wozzeck, for instance. Though many productions nowadays don't always use the 
curtain between scenes the way he originally designed it. 

But - he does ask for the curtain to start descending 4 bars before the the end of the 
opera. ;-)

On the other hand, with the wonderfully stark ending of Billy Budd - the only opera I can 
think of that ends a cappella - Britten asks for a "slow curtain" after Vere has finished 
singing. No blackout - just the effect of the curtain going down on him and his thoughts in 
silence. So I tend to think that he was actually asking for the audience to have that bit of 
silence with Vere before acknowledging the performance. 

What is true, though, is that curtains, lights, and "buttons" on staging (a final movement 
or pose meant to bring the action to a close) to influence how the audience reacts. And 
I've worked with a surprising number of directors inexperienced with directing musicals or 
operas who really don't understand how that works. Inasmuch as we strive to find ways 
for audiences not to applaud early, there's also nothing quite as uncomfortable as a 
moment that cries out for applause but doesn't get any, because the audience doesn't get 
that subliminal cue. It's not just about the music, it's about how lights and staging can 
shape the arc of an act, or song, or aria. 

But it's definitely not "one size fits all" - many opera endings would feel very awkward if 
we had to wait for the music to end to then get a blackout and then a closing curtain.  
You'd actually risk confusing the audience to an extent, especially with those operas that 
have clear "cadential filler" music that invites applause as much as a curtain might. 


On Sat, 28 Oct 2017 15:08:12 +0300, Henry <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>When the
>singing/music stops, there should be a blackout first, then the curtain
>moves.

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