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Dear parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles,

If you think bringing a child younger than, say, eight years old to see Swan Lake is a good idea, please note the following:

The story is a tragedy.  It involves a creepy evil sorcerer, a cruel temptress, devastating heartbreak, and, in most productions, at least one suicide.

It is about 2 hours and 45 minutes long.  That typically includes two 20-minute intermissions during which chattering, eating, seat-kicking, and whining are welcome, but when the lights go down and the orchestra is playing, it is time to sit still and be in listen-only mode.

In many opera houses and theaters, probably including the venue where your Swan Lake is presented, eating and drinking are not allowed.  This means no slurping from sippy-cups or straws from the bottom of cups with ice, and no crunching on something from a crinkly bag.  It is not only prohibited by the venue (didn’t you see those signs by the concessions stand and at the auditorium entrance, and the message printed right there on your ticket?), it is disrespectful to the artists (hint: the violin soloist is one of the performers!) and your fellow audience members.  Those intermissions?  That is the appropriate time for your child to eat.  If they cannot possibly abstain from eating during the show, please at least have the courtesy to provide them with something they can consume quietly (how about a soft cookie or piece of bread from a package that does not crinkle?).

Your fellow audience members paid quite a bit of money to hear the live orchestra, not your child’s ongoing narrative, singing along, and definitely not their consumption of a bag of chips/popcorn/cheese curls/whatever was being consumed in row D seat 121 or thereabouts in the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House during last Sunday’s matinee of Swan Lake.

Thank you for you consideration.

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5 Comments

  1. Oh nooooooo. That sucks. People are ridiculous.

    • Yeah. I guess I need to adjust my expectations going forward since this seems to be the way audiences are these days.

  2. I would have told an usher during intermission about the munching kids and their parents. The ballet company doesn’t want to turn off season ticket buyers and ballet fans in general (especially fans who come multiple times to watch “Swan Lake”), so they would respond promptly to your complaint. As a parent who took her kids to the opera, theater, and ballet, I am disappointed in those parents who can’t teach their children how to behave at a performance. There seems to be this bizarre belief these days that people and institutions will make exceptions for one’s children, as if a squealing toddler or the sound of crumpling bags of goldfish crackers is no big deal. (Or, “Why are you all glaring at my precious baby?”)

    Maybe this explains too why I see more people talking during the musical introduction to a piece or even right in the middle of the performance. No one schooled them as children in how to be respectful of the artists and the audience.

    • I did mention to an usher and suggest that at future performances they remind the audience of the no food and drink in the auditorium in conjunction with the announcement requesting us to turn off mobile devices. When I left for intermission the offending family had already dashed out (probably to restock crinkly snacks) and there was no evidence of the eating left behind, I didn’t think I had much of a case to justify an usher intervention. Instead I chose to inwardly seethe, which I realize only makes the experience worse for me.

    • Performing arts organizations no doubt have a real struggle with attracting new young audience members without offending those who are serious about paying attention. PNB offers some things specifically aimed at children and families, but that does’t seem to divert bringing very young children to Swan Lake, maybe because it is such a well-known title and the fairy tale element.


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