So much is said about original instrument recordings these days (which I am starting to like more and more, I must admit) that I've thought about original audiences !
If a Handel opera is performed we as members of the audience should help the originality movement by being able to stand up in the middle of an aria, to walk around, to shout if necessary at each other, even to have fights or exchange kisses in the theatre, and to throw rotten fruit by right at the singers if they don't sing very well. Whether such an 18th century environment could ever produce another Handel remains to be seen. I doubt it. But one thing is sure - the relationship between musicians and audiences has changed in the several centuries since men like Handel were alive. We as audiences/consumers of music, are more forensic today than then. More respectful of musical performance too (at least of Handel performers). But I doubt if composers themselves are more respected today than in Handel's time.
Perhaps the relationship between audiences and music changes each time a new kind of music is introduced. Have centuries of Handel made us respectful, quiet and intelligent listeners to his music and to music generally ? Or are we respectful, quiet and intelligent listeners to Handel for some other, non-musical reason ?
With ref to above, I donít know what opera venues you go to. Probably some hoity toity place in London somewhere. For us normal folk down here in the sticks the kind of behaviour you describe is still normal. We have a big bouncer on the door, 18 stone, beer-gut, unshaven, bleary eyed, a bit thick-looking, no teeth, called Ernie. He keeps out all the toffee-nosed brigade, so the rest of us can get on with a good singsong and other forms of revelling. Protocol, nah we donít havenít like that. Just let it all hang out. Been like this down here since 1720. Sounds right boring what youíve been used to. Does anyone turn up? Canít imagine it. Sorry, donít think itíll catch on. Be like us, get yourselves a bouncer. More fun that way. Keep on wishing. All for now.
On Italy there are "Opera-troupes", opera companies that go from town to town staging classical operas outdoors. The behavior of the audiences to these shows are somewhat the same as Newman descripes. They booh down bad singers and applause straight after each well sung aria, making the singer sing it again, and if he was really good, again and again (how many times wouldn't you have been able to press the "replay button" at a live concert ). While the show goes on they chat and walk around.
I was reading recently of Farinelli's tour of London during the time of Handel. Huge sums were paid by theatre goers here just to hear him sing. Women went crazy for him. There was no end of scandal. Some men adored him too (!). He once refused to meet Handel in Italy although he had brought a hugely lucrative contract from England to appear for a season in London. I think a group of enormously rich people finally clubbed together to persuade him to come to London at some astronomical rate of pay. Farinelli's journey through France to the English Channel was even reported in English newspapers. The Beatles hardly matched such mania.
Musical excellence is not enough, of course. Artists like Farinelli, Beethoven, Liszt etc had musical excellence plus their own unique characters. (Topaz, your description sounds a lot of fun).
Saturnus, this description of touring opera troupes in Italy sounds fun. I agree that public performances should not be stodgy affairs.
It would be nice to have a disco where all the music consists of dances or dance-like movements from the classical repertoire - complete with 'DJ' and ghetto blasters. Ha ! It would be great fun. I (the world's worst dancer) can really imagine myself dancing to a Boccherini minuet or a Bach gigue. It would be great fun.
Music is just SUCH a great thing !