I have never participated in a production where there was booing during the curtain call - in fact, I've never even been in the theater to witness booing - until tonight. Tonight was the premiere of Lucrezia Borgia here in Warsaw (I was in the audience as I'm singing the "second premiere" as they call it here) and the show, in my estimate went extremely well. The audience seemed responsive at the end of the first and second acts, and the singers all sang very well. It was my first time seeing the production in it's complete form, and I thought it was very effective and beautiful. All of the singers and the conductor came onto the stage to receive hearty ovations from the public, but when the director entered, there was an eruption of boos coming from all parts of the theater. I was a more than a little shocked to experience this - I mean, it was loud and it was serious - especially after everything seemed to work so well.
This production definitely had a lot of elements added to it that could be considered shocking to some people; it was updated to 1930's fascist Italy, two male characters are played as gay and have a duet which takes place on a bed and involves kissing (even though one of the characters is played by a woman), there is a scene where all the men gather around Lucrezia and simulate urinating on her to punish her for having killed members of their families, and a few other moments that weren't directly in the libretto. But when I watched it tonight as an audience member, I felt that all the dramatic and shocking elements really worked with the libretto, and that it made for a very captivating evening of theater. So I was pretty shocked when the booing started.
After the performance, someone told me that an audience member explained to them that the booing was completely a reaction to the homosexual kissing - that was apparently the only thing that was offensive enough to make people boo. Really? Even when one the people doing the kissing was obviously a woman? Even when the libretto makes it pretty clear that the two guys had something going on? Even in 2009??? But apparently, it was too much for this audience. On the one hand, it's too bad this had to happen because it kind of marred an otherwise very successful premiere, but at the same time, I have to admit that I find it exciting when an audience is passionate enough about the opera to react in a way that is so extreme, even when I don't agree with their opinion.