Applause, greetings, bis… These rites which are lacking in the performing arts

It’s strange and a little sad to play in front of empty seats. But closing my eyes, I imagine you … »During the Bach concert (a marvel!) Which he gave live from Wigmore Hall in London, pianist Andras Schiff did not ignore the very special conditions of this musical evening. Addressing the absent audience but connected to the venue’s website (1), he not only presented the pieces on the program with great flavor, but also offered an “encore” at the end of the recital. As if the applause of the virtual assistance had demanded it.

These bis – nicely named “still” in Anglo-Saxon countries – are part of the rituals of the concert: they seal, they crown the bond established between artists and spectators, as delicious sweets confirm the mastery of the pastry chef at the end of ‘a gourmet meal. This summer, at the La Roque-d’Anthéron festival, the pianist Bertrand Chamayou admitted to himself “ so happy to be back on stage »After the first confinement, that he practically gave a second concert of« bis », thus generously completing his official program.

“Rain of Flowers” for Franz Liszt

In his writings, Hector Berlioz relates how, at the end of a full execution “ of verve, brio and ardor “, Camille Saint-Saëns was quick to add” a Gavotte by Bach, of a spicy grace which the public was charmed “. And we will have no trouble going back through history to find many examples of these enthusiastic reminders that encourage musicians and listeners to prolong their mutual pleasure.

The very structure of the opera with its arias, ensembles, patriotic chorus and grand finale, calls for the participation of the public, notes Timothée Picard, playwright of the Aix-en-Provence festival. See also how Franz Liszt’s tours electrified music lovers in a shared ritual of celebration of virtuosity. “Andersen relates in his wonderful travelogues that the same Liszt found himself” surrounded by a rain of flowers “, In response to the heady scent of” bunches of notes that he threw into the heart Of his admirers.

When listening has settled down

From entering the room, checking the ticket, installing more or less comfortable in its place, waiting before the lights go out – a tradition that only dates from the beginning of the 20th century.e century and does not prevail everywhere – the last nervous coughs before the start of the performance, until the intermission and the sociability that accompanies it, what successive stages! They find their acme at the moment of the final hello of the artists, the applause and our famous “bis”.

However, thehe Wagnerian opera with its uninterrupted musical flow and the religious listening of its captivated thurifarians calmed the public demonstrations, continues Timothée Picard. The values ​​of interiority, of contemplation, of elevation, have tended to supplant the demonstrative, considered superficial.

Convention and sincerity

However, the “organic” sharing between artists and spectators remains irreducible, irreplaceable, as shown by contrast by streaming or deferred broadcasting of recordings, however careful they may be. Despite the risks: nothing more annoying indeed than a restless or noisy neighbor; but nothing more extraordinary than the unanimous vibration of a room. ” Of course, these ultra-codified rites can lose their meaning and their sincerity to become social conventions., recognizes Timothée Picard. But above all, they are loaded with life and spontaneity always manages to make its way. Remember Emma Bovary pushing open the doors of her box at the Opéra de Rouen, so proud to distinguish herself from the crowd crowded in the henhouse. But let us remember at the same time how much the heroine of Flaubert embraces in the same surge of sensuality, the admiration of young Leon and the poignant accents of Donizetti’s music.

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There is no doubt that, as soon as we find our way back to the theaters, all these rituals buried during the confinements of the live performance will be instantly reborn. We will taste its charms intact while remembering, perhaps, the singular advantages of the virtual: no more good or bad places, no more favored urban centers as opposed to cultural deserts. It would be a shame not to be inspired by it in the future.


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