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date: 20 September 2020


  • John Rosselli


An organized body of operagoers who hire themselves out to provoke or prolong applause (or to boo, hiss, catcall or whistle at the rivals of the artist they support). It is distinct from (but may shade into) factions of admirers who applaud (or boo) out of conviction or friendship with management or artists. Faction thrives when opera rouses strong passions in a knowledgeable audience; a listless or ill-informed public provides suitable conditions for a claque. Hence the true claque flourished at the Paris Opéra at least from the 1830s, and at the New York Metropolitan for most of this century; two managers of these houses admitted that they had on occasion used it. The claque also thrived in modern Rome with its audience dominated by bureaucrats. The organizing principle was the payment by management or artists of a claque leader, both in money and in tickets which he gave out or sold at minimal prices to a semi-permanent group of underlings; these he marshalled in the theatre to provide degrees of applause in accordance with a tariff. On special occasions the underlings might be paid. The claque leader Auguste Levasseur (...

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New York, Public Library at Lincoln Center, Music Division