Tenor's quitting performance amid boos understandable, voice professor says

Thursday, December 14, 2006
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Last weekend, tenor Roberto Alagna walked offstage after being booed during a performance at La Scala in Italy. But a University of North Texas voice professor and author of a book about the psychological conflicts of singers says musicians can sympathize - especially as such shows as "American Idol" make everyone feel entitled to be a critic.

"Singing is a highly personal activity, not least of which because the singer is his own instrument," says Dr. Lynn Eustis, an associate professor of voice at UNT who has performed throughout the world. Her book, "The Singer's Ego: Finding Balance between Music and Life," examines the emotional and personal issues of singing, as well as how to deal with criticism.

Eustis, who has performed at the Brevard Music Center, the National Opera Company and the European Opera Center in Belgium, says that while she can't say Alagna "behaved well" by leaving the stage and refusing to continue, she adds that she can understand why he chose that course of action.

"I'm sure singers all over the world are sympathizing with him today even as they blog about his tantrum," she says.

A spokesman for the opera house has said Alagna broke his contract when he left the stage Sunday after the audience booed him for the opening aria of "Aida." Alagna's understudy, dressed in jeans, hurried onstage to finish the performance.

In Italy, booing and heckling have been traditions for hundreds of years, as part of the ‘sport,'" Eustis says.

"In other countries, including the U.S., booing is not considered acceptable behavior. Unfortunately, the rise of such shows as ‘American Idol' seems to be teaching people that everyone is a knowledgeable critic on the art of singing," she says. "In Alagna's case, I'm sure he was well aware of the long booing tradition in Italian opera houses That said, I cannot blame him for being angry. I can't imagine how it must have felt to hear booing while he was actually singing."

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