05/14/2007 04:55 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Brawl In the Stands

On May 10, 2007, the Associated Press reported on the season opening concert of the Boston Pops Orchestra by noting that "A knock-down all-out fight broke out between two men seated in the balcony section of Boston's Symphony Hall, halting a performance of a musical medley from the film Gigi..."

The AP report contained no indication of precisely why the fracas broke out; we are in the dark as to whether the melee involved "artistic differences", some breach of etiquette, a long-simmering dispute between rival Boston street gangs, or something utterly benign. The AP report did, however, contain the staggering news that no injuries were reported and no arrests were made.

No arrests were made? How is such a thing possible? Two "gentlemen" got involved in a violent altercation, disrupted a performance, caused alarm to a few thousand people, and "no arrests were made." Has it really come to this?

Scholarly research has informed us that in Handel and Mozart's day, the opera house was a veritable maelstrom of activity - before, after and during performances. Nobles and the gentry would come to see and be seen, chatter away during the performances, snore loudly and copulate in the boxes. With time, however, the opera house and the concert hall became places where the audience was expected to be quiet, providing the silence that was the canvas on which the performers made their Art.

Indeed, in the latter part of the Twentieth Century the concert hall was one of the last places where one could go and expect not to be interrupted by loud conversation or ringing cell phones. It was one of the few places outside of a house of worship you could actually expect to get a dirty look or a curt "Sshhh!" when crinkling a candy wrapper.

A brawl breaking out in the stands is part and parcel of going to a professional hockey game, and fisticuffs are not uncommon at baseball or football games, especially late in the contest after several beers have been downed. But the notion of a fight in the balcony of Symphony Hall is something all together different - and utterly reprehensible. If ever a breach of the King's Peace deserved bringing the ruffians to the Bar of Justice swiftly, this was it.