The rafters of the Metropolitan Opera House recently rang with the raucous sound of booing. The occasion was the premiere of Mary Zimmerman’s production of Bellini’s “La Sonnambula,” a 19th-century opera that Ms. Zimmerman, a noted avant-garde theater director, set in present-day New York and turned into a postmodern extravaganza complete with cellphones and leather jackets. Such high-concept stagings are old hat in straight theater, but the Met’s opening-night crowds run to the staid, and much of the audience reacted loudly and angrily when Ms. Zimmerman and her production team took their curtain call. What happened to Ms. Zimmerman, while not unprecedented, is highly unusual. To be sure, booing at the opera house is far from uncommon elsewhere in the world, especially in Italy, but American audiences are reluctant to express their displeasure vocally. I’ve heard a certain amount of booing at the Met, but I can’t recall ever hearing a single boo at a Broadway show, a classical concert, a dance performance or a nightclub gig.

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