Opera Solidifies Reputation As the NASCAR of the Arts World

There are just as many who don't understand belting divas as people who can't watch cars continuously turning left. So why do people still flock to these two events? The crashes and booing, of course.

Just like everyone who tunes in to the Sprint Cup to see the cars end in a big fiery conflagration, everyone who puts on strands of jewels or a bowtie goes to the opera to have their delicate sensibilities offended and let out with a deep bellowing boo. Just that happened last night at the Metropolitan Opera's gala opening of classic Tosca. While everyone cheered for the performers, when director Luc Bondy—who monkeyed with the aesthetic and the traditions of the piece—stepped out on stage, the jeering began.

[Bondy's] appearance on stage at the end turned what had been a standing ovation for the cast into a raucous protest, prompting the management to bring down the curtain.

While the AP made it out to sound like a near revolt, the NY Times says the boos were about equal to the cheers.

Negative reaction was no surprise, given that Mr. Bondy's stark production replaced the lavish veteran "Tosca" of Franco Zeffirelli, a favorite of many Met fans. At a dinner afterward, Mr. Bondy seemed unperturbed by the reaction. "If people would be happy after ‘Tosca,' then I would be upset," he said.

Though the opera audience is supposed to be the highest of the highbrow and the audience is usually littered with society dowagers and other keepers of the cultural flame, it has a long tradition of verbally roasting its stars and directors.

And for many that is the appeal. The sets, costumes, and performers are held to such a high standard by a small cabal of dedicated enthusiasts, that even the slightest misstep or seeming innovation is shouted off the stage like a pitchy belter at an American Idol audition. When everyone knows the plot of the melodramatic tale unfolding on stage, they need the looming specter of disaster to keep them interested. The only thing that separates these highbrow patrons from their lowbrow brethren waiting to inhale the scent of rubber burning on asphalt is the superiority they feel about their artistic pursuits.