Booing Interrupts Royal Opera House Opening Night

Franco Milazzo
By Franco Milazzo Last edited 36 months ago
Booing Interrupts Royal Opera House Opening Night

Guillaume Tell (Gerald Finley) heads up the cast of the Royal Opera House's latest production. Image: Clive Barda
Guillaume Tell (Gerald Finley) heads up the cast of the Royal Opera House's latest production. Image: Clive Barda

In a break from the usually reserved and respectful atmosphere, the opening night of Guillaume Tell at the Royal Opera House was interrupted by loud boos, especially from female audience members.

Directed by Damiano Michieletto, this is the first time that the iconic Gioachino Rossini work has appeared at the ROH since 1992. Although it is an above average production with magnificent set design, another 20 years may pass before it returns given the reception it received last night.

During the third act, the villain Gesler and about 20 of his officers hold a banquet to celebrate a centenary of Austrian rule over the Swiss. At one point, a serving woman is forcibly passed between the men. Wine is poured over her head until her dress is soaked. She is gang-groped at gunpoint by the laughing mob before being lifted onto the dining table. There, her dress is roughly removed and she is briefly shown to be naked before Guilluame Tell covers her in a cloak.

The reaction to this scene was immediate and vocal. As well as the very loud boos, there were audible comments of “needless” and “gratuitous”. The crowd was soon won back by the strong performances which followed but the opening of the fourth act saw more booing as well as some pointed remarks about the static directing.

At the finale, the cast were heartily applauded. It was not until the director and several others appeared at the end – appropriately all dressed in black like pantomime evildoers – that the loudest expressions of disapproval filled the ROH auditorium.

The performance of Guillaume Tell on 5 July at 3pm will be relayed live to more than 1,500 cinemas in more than fifty countries as part of the Royal Opera House Live Season. BBC Radio 3 will broadcast the production live on 14 July. More information on the current run can be found at,uk.

Last Updated 30 June 2015

Bee Wyeth

Maybe it's the astronomical price of the seats but there is a grand tradition of the ROH audience making their feelings known. I remember a performance of Fidelio with a final act including wobbly Miracle Play characters on stilts clutching at the scenery that had the audience booing and howling.


I'd like to support the view that this is totally needless, gratuitous and quite frankly disappointing. Some might argue that in the context of the scene that this highlights disgusting behaviour as what shouldn't happen in real life but in the way this was done I would argue that it perpetuates it. ROH - please make changes.


Lincoln, you're right that we should be debating more important things than where critics are seated - I was only defending Londonist against grammarschoolman's standpoint that we weren't 'important' enough to be taken seriously as ROH reviewers.

So let me go out on a limb and say that I think what's wrong with Guillaume Tell is it's too long and too musically unsatisfying, but that the inclusion of 'that' scene with the woman and the gun is justified as part of an artistic vision for an opera about a brutal war over nationality - I could see this re-interpreted easily in Kosovo or Bosnia, for example.

I also think it's impotent of the first night audience to shout 'gratuitous' as a protest, they might as well - to misquote John Lennon - sit there and rattle their jewellery. Moving Covent Garden from its comfort zone is important for the artistic integrity of the company as well as to discomfit the proportion of its subscription series audience that would prefer it to take £26,000,000 state subsidy year on year and do nothing more challenging than Don Giovanni and Carmen.


I really thought we had progressed beyond real (or manufactured) moral outrage after 'The Romans In Britain' but it seems thirty-five years makes no difference. This is rather a good article, though