About five minutes into the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Thursday night, it became clear that this was going to be a memorable concert, though not in the way that anyone would like.
A cellphone began ringing, loudly and persistently (the possessor had clearly set the ring on maximum volume). Guest conductor Jakub Hrusa paused the performance and waited calmly until the infernal device went silent. Then the orchestra resumed where it had left off.
Cellphone annoyances are all too common at musical events, of course, but rarely do the users achieve their ultimate moment of glory by stopping a performance.
There doesn’t seem to be any legal way to deal with this. Pre-concert pleas to turn off electronic devices — the pleas are just about universal at American venues though European halls have a problem as well — are simply ignored by a certain segment of the audience.
I’ve read somewhere that it’s technologically feasible to electronically block all incoming and outgoing cellphone transmissions from a hall, but that it’s illegal. It shouldn’t be. Why should a couple of thousand people be held hostage to the carelessness or malice of a small group?
By the way, except for the interruption Thursday’s concert in the Meyerson Center went very well. Hrusa, a young Czech, led strong performances of music by his countrymen Smetana (The Moldau) and Janacek (Taras Bulba) and flutist James Galway joined in for his usual impressive display of technique and personality in Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2.
The program will be repeated tonight through Sunday afternoon, and — if the audience is lucky — the Mendelssohn will be played without pause.