September 19, 2008 at 7:02 PMDoes a standing ovation mean anything any more?
Violinist.com member Anne Horvath suggested this would make for an interesting vote and discussion, and I agree.
Many would argue that the practice means nothing any more, that anyone with a pulse that performs passably in front of an audience will likely receive a standing ovation in this day and age.
Indeed, the Internet offers us self-help-type advice on how to get a standing ovation, from motivational-speaker types. You know, the people who try to tell you how much money you can make with their latest pyramid scheme...
At a classical concert, sometimes I wonder if people are simply standing up to leave or stretch their limbs when they give a standing ovation. If someone is yawning, while giving a standing ovation, does it count?
But if the performance is rather mediocre, and you don't feel like rising to your feet, do you feel like a Scrooge when everyone around you is standing and you remain seated?
And yet for all the bogus standing ovations I've seen during a lifetime of orchestra playing, I'm not ready to completely discount the practice or call for its cessation. I've seen brilliant performances that certainly merited a standing ovation, when the collective enthusiasm simply overflowed, and that wave brought people to their feet. THAT means something.
Not only that, but a standing ovation can mean different things in different contexts. How about the student recital, where someone gives a clearly stand-out performance? Is it okay for the parents to rise to their feet? Or when a beloved artist returns to the stage after a hardship? Those kinds of standing ovations seem to mean something as well.
Does a standing ovation always need to be reserved for superhuman feats?
What are your thoughts on the matter?
I think the standing ovation is still valid, but only if everyone does it.
Britain, well, I still reckon we are quite picky about standing ovations though they are starting to spread to the less worthy recipients, so yes they are still worth something.
But unfortunately I do feel that in the USA standing ovations have been diminished in effect because they seem to happen at every symphony concert. I remember going to one very average orchestral concert and refusing to stand up at the end to clap (I'll clap sitting down, thanks) and all the people going crazy on their feet around me gave me dirty looks.
If it happens every time, then it isn't special any more is it? I'll be the first to stand if a performance is truely memorable or special, but it does have to be extra good, way beyond the norm, for a standing ovation.
re: "Or when a beloved artist returns to the stage after a hardship?"
In this case I believe the standing ovation should come when the performer first walks out on the stage, before performing. This clearly signals a very warm welcome regardless of the performance.
On the other hand, if EVERY concert has an Obligatory Standing O, then how can it mean anything anymore? Is every single concert performed so super-special that the audience needs to jump to their feet? I have a pet theory that the American Obligatory Standing O is directly related to this new American style of Self-Esteem Building: "I Am Special".
All performances have *merit*, but not all performances are *special*.
I never stand anymore, probably just to be grouchy. And I get some really nasty looks from the surrounding patrons. But those nasty looks are probably just revenge for the two hours worth of angry glares I gave them, for talking, whispering, rattling programs, possession of irritating cell phones, crackly cellophane cough drop wrappers, leg jitters, opening Velcro purses, air conducting, and coughing without covering the mouth. So there! (Insert smiley face here).
Not being a regular concertgoer, I seem to recall about a 33% SO rate at those I do attend. Usually deserved, IMO. But then, I'm easily moved by good music.
I read in a newspaper etiquette column years ago that the polite thing to do if everyone else is standing and applauding but you don't feel the performance warranted a standing ovation, is to stand but not applaud (as opposed to applaud but not stand). I've done that a few times and it hasn't gotten me dirty looks and I've felt less self-conscious and rude than I would have if I'd remained seated.
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