Olympic gold medallist Samantha Quek has told of her shock after being thrown out of the opera for coughing — prompting accusations of classical music snobbery.
The 30-year-old hockey star was asked to leave her seat and escorted to a “detention room” during the performance at the Vienna State Opera on Monday.
Quek, a member of the team that won Britain’s first hockey gold medal at Rio in 2016, was in Austria for a few days’ holiday with her husband, property developer Tom Mairs. They were watching Lucia Di Lammermoor, by Gaetano Donizetti, when Quek made a couple of coughs.
She said she was asked to leave her seat and forced to watch the rest of the opera on a screen in another room. Posting a picture of herself in the annex on social media, Quek said: “Just been asked to leave my seat at the Opera because I coughed twice. Now I’ve been escorted to some random detention room.”
The move was criticised by a number of supporters, including soprano Laura Wright, who told her: “And that’s why more people don’t listen to opera! #coughawaybabe.”
Another Twitter user wrote: “All these modern traditions wearing your Sunday best, keeping silent in a performance, invented by ‘High Art elites’ … Mozart, Puccini, Verdi would be turning in their grave. No wonder Classical music is a losing the next generation, so sad all these man-made barriers.”
A spokesman for Vienna State Opera said the room pictured was called the “Galerie” and was typically used for people who are late to watch the performance on a screen until the next appropriate entry time (usually the intermission) or “for people who have to leave the auditorium for any reasons”.
He said the incident was being investigated, but that normally nobody was asked to leave “after coughing once or twice or even three, four, five times”. He added: “Maybe she had a fit of coughing and her neighbour asked to leave? Usually the staff are not in the auditorium — so probably she was asked by somebody sitting next to her to leave the auditorium and the staff outside escorted her to the room with the screen.”
The opera is conducted by Evelino Pidò and stars soprano Olga Peretyatko and baritone George Petean. Tickets for Monday’s concert cost as much as £208 (€239). Quek, from the Wirral, who appeared in ITV’s I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! after the Olympics, was made an MBE in 2017. She has previously hit out at the sexualisation of female athletes.