An open letter

This article was originally published on Schmopera.com in 2017. It is being reposted here with the author’s permission.


Dear “listeners”,

Though you indeed are whispering, everyone around you can still hear the conversation you insist on having during the show. You see, everyone else is quiet, and the only sounds we’re expecting to hear are from the stage. That means that your whispering is not only audible, but quite difficult to ignore.

We are not convinced that your conversation is important and time-sensitive, because nothing you said to each other caused any of you to stand up and deal with a medical emergency or a house fire or an imminent parking ticket.

We can only conclude that you all felt entitled to your chatter, even in the presence of other paying audience members, and the performers (who can also definitely hear you).

Important as your very audible conversation is, more important seems to be your need to monitor your phone. You see, in a dark room, sources of light are more noticeable. The screen on your phone is indeed quite bright, a concept you seem to vaguely understand, judging from your habit of cupping your hands around your phone as you check on what are obviously very important Facebook notifications.

“Maybe you were hangry, or maybe you fell asleep.”

Some of you seem to think your purses are black holes, sucking in any surrounding light and making it a non-disruptive way of being on your phone. Your purses are no such thing; rather, when you “stealthily” check your phone from within your bag, your neighbours are treated to a clear picture of its interior contents, freshly illuminated. On the plus side, the blue-striped lining of your purse is quite cute.

Perhaps more irksome than the distracting iPhone fireflies coming from house left is the apparent lack of an attention span, at least compared to what one would expect of grown adults who chose to attend a live show. We are dismayed by your selfishness and childlike boredom. It’s a sad fact in itself, and it’s quite appalling that, despite the obvious addiction you have to your phones, you still decided to come and spend an evening at the opera.

We encourage opera-going for all, but if two hours of paying attention to something other than your phone is too much to ask, maybe you’re not yet ready to watch a show that is not about you.

Maybe you were dragged to the opera against your will. Maybe you were guilted into seeing the show, because you knew someone in it. Maybe you were hangry, or maybe you fell asleep. Or maybe Occam’s Razor applies to you and your simply a disruptive crew of rude, phone-addicted people who can’t read the room.

In any case, you must work on your manners. You are not at a zoo. You are not the only people here. You are already watching a show, and the one on your phone will wait until intermission.

And please don’t stop coming to the opera, because it is a cure for your abysmal attention spans.

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