Opinions have poured in over Anne-Sophie Mutter's handling of a cell phone filming incident during her performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on Sept. 28. Those opinions have ranged from ardent sympathy for the artist's right not to be filmed to exasperation over a failure to acknowledge the 21st-century norms of young audience members and to communicate accordingly.
Now Mutter herself has weighed in, in a New York Times article about several recent incidents that prompted live performers to alter their own performances to address an audience member's cell phone filming.
Here's a summation of what happened during the incident in question: Mutter stopped playing in the middle of the second movement of Beethoven's Violin Concerto to confront an audience member in the front row who had been filming on her cell phone. One report described a confrontation in which the audience member appeared to plead her case, before being ushered out of the all by the orchestra's president. Other accounts have defended the audience member as a young woman who tearfully apologized, did not argue and left without protest.
In the New York Times article, Mutter described the incident as something that grew over the course of the performance. It began in the first movement of the Beethoven, when Mutter first noticed the woman filming her. Mutter was able to get her to stop by giving her a stern look. But that wasn't the end of it. Here is what Mutter said: "The first movement is over, and I’m trying to concentrate and stay calm. Then she takes out a second phone, and a power bank. I continued the second movement, but it’s already boiling in me. I’m totally out of the flow."
"I feel violated in my rights, of my artistic property," she told the Times. "As an artist you take such care when doing a recording — that you have your own sound engineer, that the mics are hung in the right spots. The sound is a part of you, you want your voice replicated in a way that really represents what you have worked on for an entire life. The beauty of such an event, a pop concert as well as a classical concert is really being there, taking it in, having your own personal, really private memory of it."
In a Cincinnati Enquirer article, CSO President Jonathan Martin, who was sitting several rows back from the woman, said that the woman simply wouldn't put her phone away, though once she was asked to leave she expressed respect for Mutter and deleted the recording.
"It was confusing, her logic," Martin told the Inquirer. "The conversation was not productive. I had to ask her to leave. It was very awkward. I never want to be in that position. It's a balancing act. We want audience members to feel comfortable. But there is a social contract. You're there with 2,000 other people. Performers expect to come to the stage without interruption."
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