Take a joke, have a napOp-ed
So, the other night Al Roker fell asleep at the opera:
A lot of people got irked by that, both on Instagram and on Twitter. Comments ranged from the blunt…
“Do us all a favor and stay home. You’re taking up space and a seat that someone would have desperately paid full price for. You’re embarrassing.”
…to the righteous:
“You do have a busy life and you have very different hours from us in the opera world. I respect that. It’s that you appear to be being flippant about it and as a public figure in the entertainment industry, like us, there are responsibilities we have to show both the respect and the funny. If you had made some comment to counter your snooze to encourage people to attend the opera, I don’t think you’d be having such a backlash. Thank you for coming to the opera but, please help us. We need people like you to encourage (in all aspects of social media and your position on Television) people to come to the theater.”
Firstly, it seems as though no one would have known that Roker fell asleep during Der Rosenkavalier if he hadn’t posted about it. If he were snoring loudly, that would be annoying; maybe he was, but the only story we’ve got is the one started by Roker himself.
I get why people have their back up about this; it feels disrespectful to joke about sleeping through our beloved art form, and like one commenter brought up, there’s a bit of fear that his flippancy will bleed into the minds of potential opera-goers everywhere, costing opera some more business.
In reality, the people who will make their decision to attend the opera based on what Al Roker thought of it are very few. People that form opinions on anything they’ve not experienced are silly. Opera fans should let those people be silly.
We may feel a bit miffed, but for the people who did find Roker’s joke blatantly funny, we are not going to change their minds by shouting “disrespect!” and tsk-tsking them for laughing. If the feared stereotype is that opera is uptight and snoozeworthy, we are not proving them otherwise by telling Roker that he’s “embarrassing”.
It’s not Roker’s job to vouch for opera. Even if he had gone on The Today Show and gushed about how great Rosenkavalier was, the amount of people who would take his advice and go see it are probably as numerous as the ones who presumably now won’t, based on Roker’s nap.
We believe in etiquette at the opera and at concerts, but Roker didn’t “misbehave”. He made a joke - one that I didn’t really find that funny either - but let us not shriek like banshees and send the message that opera is tender and the people are uptight.
*P.S. An actually shameful example of napping at the opera came when I once sat beside an American opera critic at the Royal Opera House, who slept through about 70% of the show, and then proceeded to publish a review the next morning in a prominent newspaper. Now that’s maddening.*