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May 9, 2011

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Audience hit wrong note with singer

A YOUNG singer halted his solo concert at the Shanghai Spring International Music Festival on Friday because audience members were chatting, taking pictures and using cell phones.

This is not first time musicians have stopped performance in protest at Shanghai audiences' bad manners.

Officials at Shanghai Grand Theater said yesterday that they will conduct an investigation and devise more effective methods to "educate" audiences.

Shen Yang, a 27-year-old Chinese singer who won the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World award in 2007 and is now a singer at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, flew to Shanghai for the solo concert.

His set included many Chinese songs familiar to local audiences.

However, Shen's performance was interrupted repeatedly by audience members chatting, taking photographs and cell phones ringing.

Eventually, Shen had enough and halted his performance during the second half and reminded audiences not to take photographs.

Wu Peng, a public relations official for the theater, said it may take a long time to cultivate Chinese audience etiquette.

"I saw the first half of Shen's concert and it's true that people were talking to each other," he said.

"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," he said.

"Any annoyance can ruin the musician's mood and impact on the show. Chinese audiences should learn to respect musicians and art."

He said theater staff remind audiences not to take pictures or phone calls and keep quiet during the performance.

Devices to block cell phone signals are also installed.

"But we can't ask people leave if they ignore the rules," said Wu.

A local entertainment reporter at the concert said companies had booked blocks of tickets for the concert. Many people were sitting among colleagues and so were more eager to chat than usual audiences.

In 2006, Anne-Sophie Mutter, a well-known German violinist, halted a solo recital in Shanghai because audience members were taking snapshots of her.

Similar incidents have taken place during performances by famous Chinese pianist Fu Song and overseas musicians playing in the city. Performers complained of the audience talking, taking pictures, making calls and of babies crying.


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