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Is the Viola Section a Little Uninspired?

A hot topic in American sports is the boorish behavior of fans. In many stadiums and arenas, they are expressing their displeasure with hostile outbursts. Some bellow out insults so loudly that even radio and television audiences can hear every word. Others instigate insulting and even profane chants, which upset parents who are seated nearby with their children. Teams are addressing the growing unruliness with pleas for civility, codes of conduct and, where necessary, removal of churlish fans by security patrols and the police. In extreme cases, clubs are even yanking ticket privileges from disruptive and profane patrons.

As human discourse appears to turn coarser by the day, none of this is especially surprising. But this may be: It seems that singers and actors are getting an earful as well, albeit somewhat tamer. And we're not talking about catcalls at a raunchy burlesque show.

The Chicago Tribune reports that opera singers and symphony musicians are hearing full-throated boos from those in the audience who think their performances, well, stink! This would not be alarming in Europe, where only fine performances are acceptable. But it comes as a shock in normally polite American concert halls.

And the newspaper's music critic, John von Rhein approves. He writes that he's tired of what he calls push-button standing ovations from audiences that don't know a brilliant solo from a bathtub oratorio. A well-placed boo by a discriminating listener can be just the thing to perk up our complacent musical life, von Rhein believes. It can galvanize a performer to make an instant course correction.

Of course, a lout who's had a bad day or one too many glasses of wine at intermission - and takes it out on some poor tenor - can also spoil a pleasant evening for everyone else in the house.

Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.