Shen Yang, winner of the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World award who is now currently based at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, walked out of his solo concert last Friday at the Shanghai Grand Theatre because audience members would not stop chatting and taking pictures with their cell phones.
A report by Shanghai Daily notes that several companies had block-booked rows of seats for their employees, and so audience members sitting with their colleagues were “more eager to chat than usual audiences.”
Said Wu Peng, spokesperson for the theatre,
“I saw the first half of Shen’s concert and it’s true that people were talking to each other… Solo performances require a better environment than group performances, as there is only one musician on the stage and they must focus on the performance… Any annoyance can ruin the musician’s mood and impact on the show. Chinese audiences should learn to respect musicians and art… But we can’t ask people leave if they ignore the rules.”
Wu also said that devices to block cell phone signals have been installed in the theatre but apparently that too didn’t stop people from using their phones.
Similar cellphone-induced walkouts by frustrated musicians have taken place over the years. In 2006, Germany violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter famously halted her solo recital halfway because the audience appeared to be more interested in their phones than her music.