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Washington audiences are generous with their applause between arias — and artists appreciate that, except if it disrupts the mood. “If what follows is very quiet, it can undermine the atmosphere,” says Miss Mintzer. “Like in ‘Carmen’ when Don Jose ends the flower aria with that high B flat, there’s always applause and nobody ever hears Carmen’s quiet response.”

Ms. Krisel says, “Artists do like applause after their arias — even if it makes it harder for the conductor to pick up where he left off.” What can ruin the mood is “when the final note is very soft, and, say, the character has just died, and the applause starts too quickly to savor the tragedy of what has just happened.”

When it comes to disapproval, American audiences are too polite to resort to boos and catcalls to express dissatisfaction with a performance. In Europe, the old tradition of booing goes on, especially in Italy, where they take opera seriously. The most recent reported incident was in Paris, where the audience loudly hissed and booed a modern-dress performance of Luigi Cherubini’s “Medea,” more for the decor and costumes than for the singing. Reports said Medea was made to look like Amy Winehouse.

But the bass Vincent le Texier could take it no longer. He turned to the audience and said, “If you don’t like it, you can always leave.”

About half the audience did just that.