Opera stars, mind your manners!

One of the things that can make opera winning is a children’s chorus. Puccini included children in several of his operas. Glimmerglass Festival produced La bohème this summer, and the voices of the children’s chorus added so much beauty and lightness to the Christmas Eve scene in the Latin Quarter.

David Walton as Parpignol in The Glimmerglass Festival production of Puccini's "La bohème." Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival

David Walton as Parpignol in The Glimmerglass Festival production of Puccini’s “La bohème.” Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival

The scene and the show were just magical. You can read my review here.

So when a colleague told me last week that an unnamed opera star was allegedly tearing up rehearsals for an unnamed upcoming show, hollering and dropping the “f” bomb around children, I became angry. My colleague was aghast at this star’s unprofessional, outlandish behavior.

I had encouraged my young friend to have her child be considered for the show. The child could not have been more excited to have been selected. That was before said opera star behaved badly.

Who is the performer being paid because they are a professional? Right. The opera star.

A word to opera stars. You are not curing cancer. You are not creating world peace. You have not been dropped into a war zone with your platoon to defend someone’s freedom.

You sing. You act. While I am personally very appreciative of what I have seen onstage, when you take yourself so seriously that you almost ruin a theatrical experience for impressionable young children, you are way out of bounds. You are behaving more childishly than the children you are frightening.

You should mind your manners. Because an opera’s success rests with many people and sometimes with children, too. Not just you. It’s not always about you.


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5 Responses to Opera stars, mind your manners!

  1. Christine Goerke

    Allegedly … shall I procure a lawyer?

    Yes. Your blog. Your commentary.

    My job, my situation – and, if this was directed at me, Gale (you seem to be very hesitant to say those words) – one in which you were not present.

    Once again. I encourage your friend to come forward with their child and take the issue to management if there is or was an issue. Why his has become your responsibility, when you were not involved, I do not know.

    I’m sure you’re enjoying the “viral” nature of your post. (I’m not sure that’s the case, but regardless..).

    I wish you very well, and hope that I too some day can experience the righteousness that you clearly must. I will aspire to rise to your lofty level and can only hope that my manners follow.



    • Gale

      You know, you might have just said you lost your head while getting into the role, and everyone would have understood where you were coming from. A little opera humor. Cheers.

  2. Gale

    Dear Ms. Goerke,

    Thanks for chiming in on this issue, which is not directed solely at you. However, if you felt the weight of these words, then so be it.

    Let me start by saying I am a communications officer by training and profession, and I always caution those I coach to remember we live in a digital age. Gone are the days when missteps may have been seen or heard by precious few. The bigger the misstep, the more likely it is to go viral. Just ask this professor from Cornell, whose classroom temper tantrum was recorded and posted on YouTube.


    Second, if we are keeping it “real,” when dropping the “f” bomb in the context you allegedly did, emotions were not running high. Rehearsal had not yet begun. I also don’t consider the “f” bomb adult language. It is profane language. My prerogative. Also my blog.

    If you wish to let your children see and hear profanity as a matter of course, that is your choice. But as a theatrical professional, you don’t have the right to make that choice when working with children who are not yours but have committed to the experience of appearing in a professional opera production, as have their parents, some of whom carefully curate content for their children, so they don’t become worldly and jaded too soon, or in this case, at the tender age of nine.

    When I review productions and children are involved, and I have been doing this for six years and have seen MANY precious children on stage, I like to think the adults around them are behaving civilly and in a different way than if the cast is all consenting adults, by elevating their language and conduct. Otherwise reviewing would be intolerable, and I’d have to stop doing it. And I’m sure many performers do elevate their games around children, if my sources are reliable. That being said, if this post prevents one opera star from behaving badly around children in the future, then it was worth writing it, in my estimation.

    Good manners. Civility. Still important. No matter how uncivil the general level of discourse has become in public life.

    Gale Martin, Founder

  3. Thank you for this post.

    I will tell you that as a mother, I can absolutely understand this sentiment.

    As a singer? I need to say that for the most part, we are in rehearsals without children. It’s largely an adult thing that we do. While I agree that we should watch what we say and do when children are present, and should always be careful and polite? We are there to work. Sometimes emotions run high (and they must with what we do), and language can get salty.

    Opera’s success rests with everyone. The costume designers, the directors, the lighting designers, the stage hands, the props people, the administrators, the PR people, the singers, the ushers- *everyone*.

    Opera singers aren’t curing cancer. That’s true.

    Singing and Acting? Not so special as curing cancer… I suppose that’s true too.

    Bringing peace to a war zone? Also more impressive than what we do.

    Many things are.

    Perhaps you should just come out and write to the person that you are upset with, instead of making a huge generalization about the business and the people who do this for a living?

    I’m sure he or she would love to hear from you.


    Christine Goerke

    • …On the odd chance you’d like to speak to me about this personally, you can message me on Twitter @Heldenmommy – I’d be happy to chat.

      Christine Goerke