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Giving the note The applause (fragment) Design: Jennifer Ancizar

The applause (fragment)

By Serafín Ramírez

To Mr. Rafael Montoro.

Since applause is the most vivid and ostensible manifestation of the public's pleasure and satisfaction, there is nothing so fair as for the artist who lives from the public, with the public and for the public, to try to achieve it by all lawful means that do not affect his personal dignity in the least.

Unfortunately, this manifestation as old as the world, (...) which should be free and spontaneous, consistent and legitimate, is suffocated at every moment by a thousand contrary feelings, by a thousand bastard passions and rarely, but very rarely, consecrated to true merit.

Everything in life is applauded, the good and the bad; this is unquestionable. Everything is applauded as long as the spirit is ready for it; otherwise, the most delightful outbursts of genius, the purest and most ideal perfections of art are overlooked, although they have had the universal sanction and conquered in bulk all kinds of medals, decorations, titles and diplomas.

The applause, then, which should have such great significance, since it is not always timely and accurate, but very often obeys a fresh and serene audacity, a crass and supine ignorance, it is clear that it means very little. And let the reader remember in passing the happy witticism of that orator who, amidst the applause of the crowd, asked a friend who was close to him: "Have I said something nonsensical? Because this applause cannot be born from any other principle".


The opening night of the Barber of Seville In Rome, everything was whistled: opera, author, singers, orchestra, choirs, decorations, costumes... The public roared like a furious hurricane until, tired, it ended up throwing it away cheaply and making fun of itself. However, when Giorgi Righetti, who played Rosina and was of singular beauty, appeared on the stage, that same audience, so angry, greeted her, kindly, with a burst of applause. Rossini, who conducted the orchestra, throws the battuta and exclaims: "O natura!" La Righetti catches in the air the joke and answers him with a stinging reply: "You should thank her, otherwise you would not get up tonight from your fall".

Well, this is the same story, not of the public of Rome, but of all the public since the world has been a world; because that supreme intelligence, that unwavering severity, that impartial and just spirit, that sweet gallantry, that kindness and composure of others, which is so much vaunted and thrown in our faces, are nothing more than syrup. The public here, there and everywhere, whistles today what perhaps they will applaud tomorrow, and vice versa, and all without realizing what they are doing, or why they are doing it, because it is the work of the moment: to the proofs, then.

The OlympiadPergolese's immortal work, was whistled in Rome the night of its premiere, and not satisfied with such injustice, the public insulted the author who was at the harpsichord. The same fate befell more or less: Don Giovanniby Mozart in Prague; Fidelioby Beethoven in Vienna; OberonWeber, in London; La Favoritaby Donizetti, in Paris; Standardby Bellini, in Milan; La Traviataby Verdi, in Venice; The Troubadourof the same, in Rome; The crociatoby Meyerbeer in Paris; The niobeby Pacini in Naples; The Martyrs, Lucrezia Borgia, Fille du regiment and a thousand and one thousand more that we could mention with a little calm.

And yet, the Bianca and GernandoBellini's second opera, and perhaps the least important of his operas, was a resounding success in San Carlos. But we have not yet concluded. Tacchinardi, who sang like an angel, had a most unfortunate figure for his evil. The night of his debut in Rome he was greeted by that mocking and intolerant public, with the most frightful rejection; he, without losing his usual serenity, imposed silence on the orchestra and addressing the audience said coolly: "Venni á far mi udire, é non á farmi vedere".[1]. The public, who, however much some may have wanted to say that they formed empires, who introduced into the world the distinction of hierarchies, who, when they command, must be obeyed, who call wise those who know certain subjects and ignorant those who ignore them, even though they may know others that are perhaps more useful, who give or take away credit from writings and writers, who introduce them into the temple of Fame or condemn them to the dungeon of ignominy; the public, finally, which in the midst of this rich and varied collection of factitious emotions, of favorable or adverse judgments, of joyful, proud and intemperate outbursts, is extremely docile and manageable, remained like another don Bartolo, cold and immobile eats a statuaAt the end of the opera, instead of retiring offended, on the contrary, he accompanies him home, giving him a real ovation on the way.

A whistle lifted Duprez in Paris, about to fall. A whistle killed Nourrit in Naples, when he was at the zenith of his brilliant career. A whistle earned Lablache in Milan a great applause: "Don't be sorry, gentlemen," shouted the artist like a madman addressing the audience, who clapped their hands frantically, "don't be sorry," he repeated, "that one who whistled at me is my cook, who, when I fired him this morning, offered me to take this revenge".

And nevertheless, it can be assured, on the understanding that no outburst is committed, that the public, in spite of so many weaknesses and oddities, and as many others as can be pointed out to it, is in matters of fine arts and very principally in music, if not the supreme judge, which would be too risky to say, at least a powerful and arbitrary judge whose decisions make laws. And if he errs as Scudo did in judging Verdi and as the French masters erred in their many assessments of Beethoven's merit, and the composer Traetta in his own, speaking of the Parisian public, it is surely not for lack of good taste or of a certain intuitive intelligence, but, as he cannot stop at analysis, nor refine point by point particularities that are usually alien to him, he proceeds by the impressions of the moment, which is as if we were to say foolishly and madly.

It can also be assured that criticism (...), as far as its influence on the public is concerned, is pure luxury, or rather, a dead letter, because the public does not make amends with it, on the contrary, when it suits it, it accepts it, and when it does not, it rejects it, in many cases with great justice. And beware that we are referring to the healthy, gentle and convincing criticism that teaches with sweetness and soft efficiency.


That is why the famous singer X, a man of good humor who had grown old on the stage, used to say that the artist only completed his education after having made a serious study of applause, a study that put him under cover from a thousand injustices and displeasures and in a position not only to remove them, but also to nurture, prolong and cut them at will!

And as proof we will say that, just as the Romans had to reward merit their golden crowns, civic, convivalisrostrata, rostrata, etc., and also their applause. bombi, imbrices and testaesIn the same way we, who do not want to be less than the Romans or anyone else, have: the great applause that is only given to the artist who, taking the exaggeration to infinity, raises the public en masse, and is so noisy, so general and imposing that it certainly accuses all its importance and spontaneity.


After the great applause of which we have spoken, comes the small applause, the most common of all, which takes place when the artist of a medium talent has not succeeded in winning the wills of all. This applause is poor, but naive.

The street applause, which is prepared beforehand in cafes, squares and streets and goes like the donkey in the fable, showing the tip of the ear. This is the applause that they call of the claque, very well known in Nero's times (...)

The chacota applause, which plays among us the same role of that jester who marched among the triumphal procession of the Romans insulting the fallen...

Remunerative applause, which is given to any artist in payment for his or her favors.

The applause of consideration, which is received by artists already worn out, as a reward for their former merits.

The gallant applause, which is paid to the amateur, whatever his talent.

The serious and circumspect applause, which is only signified by rhythmic head movements, expressive glances, smiles of satisfaction and a thousand gestures and gestures expressly invented for certain privileged places.

The secret applause (a kind of nasa into which we all fall), which men give themselves, satisfied with their good or bad deeds. For it is well to know that we are as prone to condemn the faults of others as to excuse our own, that is to say, we see the speck in our brother's eye, but do not see the plank in our own. (...) This applause is so dangerous that, it has been said, Sophocles died suddenly on hearing from his friends of the triumph of one of his famous tragedies; and the wise Chilon died of joy on witnessing the coronation of his son.

And finally, the self-interested or selfish applause, which meekly seeks the whopping hundred for one...

Now, applause does not always have the same meaning or importance, nor is it appreciated and expressed in the same way; each one estimates it in his own way and takes it and translates it as God gives him to understand, so much so that it is often seen that a gesture, a word, a look, a smile is equivalent to applause, while another frantic and resounding applause is... water off a duck's back.

The ancients, for example, applauded and rewarded the winner of the song - look at you reader! - And in the first theaters of Greece the actors went on stage with their faces covered by a mask that laughed on one side and cried on the other, giving the audience the one that best suited the situation they were representing. Well, if the actor was applauded, as the applause meant little, the actor remained covered, the public had no reason to know the lucky mortal; but if, on the contrary, he was whistled, in that case he had to uncover himself to thank those who so cruelly had just beaten him.

Nero, the music-loving emperor par excellence, was so fond of applause that he went all over Greece in pursuit of it and returned to Rome laden with more than eighteen hundred crowns and had young men brought from Alexandria to teach the Roman people how to applaud, and when he appeared on the scene, Seneca and Burrhus were the leaders of the claque.... The proud Cromwell, on the contrary, disdained it, to such an extent that when passing one day by Tyburne, the place destined for the execution of those condemned to death, a flatterer of those who are always close to the one in power, said to him, pointing out to him the immense crowd that frantically clamored to him: "See, sir, how the people are coming to witness your triumph." To which he replied dryly: "They would come to see me hanged in the same way".


Haydn wrote on the cover of one of his great sonatas, after hearing it performed by the famous German shepherd pianist Maria Bigot, these delightful words: "On February 20, 1805 Joseph Haydn was happy". Could there be a more beautiful and heartfelt applause?


But enough of applause and let us say goodbye to our readers, whose patience we have put to a very hard test, with that thought of Augustus that served as an ending to the ancient Latin comedies and that Beethoven, that colossus of art, repeated to his friends in the supreme moment: "Plaudite amici, comedia finita est."[2].


[1] I have come to be heard, not to be seen..

[2] Clap your hands friends, the comedy is over.


*Initially published in The countryissues corresponding to May 19 and 20, 1886. Taken from Ramírez, Serafín: Artistic Havana. Historical notes. Annotated edition by Zoila Lapique Becali. © Ediciones Museo de la Música, 2016. ISBN 978-959-7184-32-4 (First edition, Imp. del E. M. de la Capitanía General, 1891).

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