I love going to the theatre or a concert in France because the French are so splendid at showing their appreciation for artists and performances.
I remember the first performance I attended in Paris 4 years ago at the Opera Garnier. Granted it was the Paris Opera Ballet performing a tribute to Jerome Robbins (Westside Story, King and I, Pajama Game, Fiddler on the Roof…), and destined to be incredible; still I was amazed when the final piece ended and the dancers came out to take their bows. The audience roared with praise in the form of applause. Not just your regular run-of-the-mill applause, but loud and exceptionally long-lasting applause. As the performers came out for one bow after another, the clapping changed from spontaneous random clapping, to the entire audience clapping rhythmically in sync, not letting up until the dancers gave in and performed another short piece.
Since then, this has been my experience at every piece of theatre I have attended in France, from top-notch professionals to student concerts, from Paris to small villages, from huge audiences to audiences of less than 25. It is not uncommon to clap through 4-5 curtain calls. I’ve clapped for over 15 minutes!
I thought of this very French way of showing appreciation last night when Superman and I went to hear Handel’s Messiah performed by the Paris Choral Society at the American Cathedral. It was a wonderful and very applause worthy performance. After nearly 3 hours, I was ready to give the choir and especially the soloists a good long round of applause.
But something weird happened…that is, it didn’t happen, not in the way I have grown used to. The audience just clapped normally and that was that.
And then it dawned on me, the Paris Choral Society is more than fifty-percent Anglo, and the audience was more Anglo than French. And, us Anglos, well we just don’t know how to do it the way the French do. And that made me a little bit sad.
As a mother of two beautiful girls trying to make it in the musical theatre world, I know how much blood, sweat and tears goes into each and every performance, and I appreciate when an audience appreciates that.
French audiences seem to get it. They recognize and value artists…and that is one more thing that I love about France.