Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Jul 29, 2013 in Articles, new articles | 0 comments

Bored? How about a Riot?: Top Five Crazy Riots in Classical Music

Bored? How about a Riot?: Top Five Crazy Riots in Classical Music

Posted by Melissa Wimbish (via

I wonder if classical music fans are more civilized when they riot. Like, do they meet before the riot and have a pre-riot lecture over cocktails and pepperjack? I’m going to go ahead and say yes…yes, I believe they do:

by Brian Wise

1. 1913: Flying Canes and Crushed Fedoras for Stravinsky

The Ballets Russes premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in Paris literally touched off a riot. It wasn’t just the score’s discordant harmonies and thudding drums that upset the audience but also the choreography by Vaslav Nijinski. As the ballet progressed, so did the audience’s discomfort. Those in favor began to argue with those in opposition. Arguments turned to brawls and the police arrived at intermission to quiet the angry crowd. Yet as the second half commenced, police were unable to keep the audience under control and the rioting resumed. (Stravinsky was there! What did he do? What did the conductor say? Find out by reading the full article here.)

2. 1930: Nazi Sympathizers Disrupt Weill Opera

Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht aimed their satirical barbs at Germany’s depraved and politically tumultuous capital city of Berlin in The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. The opera premiered in Leipzig in 1930 to one the most scandalous receptions of the era as organized bands of right-wing agitators were stationed in the audience. They had already demonstrated in front of the opera house on the afternoon before the premiere and here they created even greater commotion. Lotte Lenya later recalled: “The performance [was] well under way before I was startled out of my absorption by the electric tension around us, something strange and ugly… by the time the last scene was reached the riot had spread to the stage.”

3. 1973: Steve Reich Sets Off Carnegie Hall Commotion

Carnegie Hall has been the scene of occasional disturbances. In 1973, a Boston Symphony concert featuring standard fare by Mozart and Liszt also included Steve Reich‘s minimalist classic Four Organs. The repetitive nature of the music provoked an outcry from some audience members, including an elderly woman who strode to the front of the hall, removed her shoe and bludgeoned the lip of the stage with it, demanding that the ruckus stop. (Read more about the extent of the hating here.)

4. 1861: Whistling and Catcalls Greet Wagner

In 1861, Richard Wagner broke with tradition by insisting on placing the prescribed ballet in the first act of Tannhauser rather than the second for its Paris premiere. He offended both management and the members of the prestigious Jockey Club, who went to the ballet to see their favorite ballerinas perform. They staged an elaborately organized protest… (Read more details here!)

5. 1917: Satie’s Noisy Instruments Provoke Equally Noisy Backlash

Parade, the first collaboration between Erik Satie and Pablo Picasso, should have been an easy crowd-pleaser. But the score contained several “noise-making” instruments (typewriter, foghorn) as well as popular styles like Ragtime – enough to upset some of the patrons who got agitated and began screaming and yelling. Historians note that the whole thing was orchestrated by Jean Cocteau. (Why would he do such a thing? Publicity scandal? Read more here.)

Tell us about the crazy behavior you have witnessed (or been a part of) in the concert hall in the comments section below!

(Cover photo credit: Demonstrators protest the Italian government outside La Scala; Giuseppe Aresu/AFP/Getty Images)

468 ad

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>