April 17, 2010

Today the Metropolitan Opera’s broadcast of Verdi’s La Traviata reminded me of an old story about Jellico, Tennessee’s own Grace Moore. (Did you know that Elvis named his Graceland after her?) She was singing a recital in which audience members kept annoying her by coughing. After a while, she announced from the stage that she had recently sung for a sanatorium full of tuberculosis sufferers. They, she said, had been entirely silent during her singing.

A week ago tonight, the more attentive audience members at a concert I attended were sorely tried by the coughing of folks who were evidently very near to death. (The same thing happened at the Met this afternoon while poor Violetta was trying to die over the din.) It reminded me that, in the programs of my very favorite concert hall, Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana, they have printed a notice to this effect:

Una prova efectuada en aquesta sala de concerts demostra que una simple tos, mesurada instrumentalment, equival a la intensitat d’una nota «mezzo-forte», emesa per una trompa. Aquest mateix so, pal·liat mitjançant un mocador, és equiparat a un lleuger «pianissimo».

A test performed in this concert hall shows that a simple cough, measured by instruments, is equivalent to the intensity of a note played mezzo-forte by a horn. This same sound, modified by a handkerchief, is equivalent to a slight pianissimo.

Why can’t all halls do something like that? Do any of you know of other venues that tackle the problem in such a direct and helpful manner?

*My translation

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