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Etiquette

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at the Theatre

So you have never been to an opera before? There are probably several questions that you are asking yourself about what to expect from your first opera performance or trip to the opera house. Below is a quick reference guide to not just surviving your first opera house experience, but making your trip to the opera a memorable one.

B e f o r e   t h e   S h o w

Two things come to mind here. First you need to get a ticket. An important thing to know about opera tickets is that the most expensive seat is not always the best seat in the opera house. The most expensive might be the closest, but not give you the best sound.

Read the plot

It is always a good idea to do at least a little research about the opera that you are attending. Taking 10 minutes to review the basic opera plot information about the opera or hearing an opera cd of the piece, so that you are familiar with what you are about to see, will allow you to better enjoy all that is going on onstage.

Find out how long the opera is.

One of the best parts of going to the opera is people-watching. This can be almost as entertaining as the show. People who are dressed to the nines, peacocking around as if they were royalty, making small talk about “operatic things.” I would recommend getting to the theatre early enough to make it to the bathroom before the show starts. Opera acts tend to run pretty long, and queues at the loos during the interval can be even longer. Go before hand and you will have more time to people watch. Getting there early also allows you to find your seat and not have to climb over people and disturb others as they are watching the show.

Get rid of your baggage.

Have some food!

Kill your mobile before you go into the theatre!

D u r i n g   t h e   I n t e r v a l

Don’t wander too far…

… but do go to the toilet if you need to!

D u r i n g   t h e   s h o w

Enjoy the show and take it all in. It is inappropriate to hum or tap along. It is also inappropriate to talk during the performance. Please turn off all phones, beepers, and pagers. Most theaters will also not allow you to record a live opera performance, so no cameras or camcorders either. Again, just sit back and enjoy the show!

Don’t talk when the music is playing!

Kill your cough!

 Sing loudly in the audience choruses 

When do I clap?

This is always a fear for someone who is spending a night at the opera for the first time. As a general rule of thumb, there are a few key places when clapping is a good idea, assuming that the level of the performance warrants clapping:

  • When the conductor comes out to start the overture.
  • When everyone else around you is clapping.
  • At the end of an act or the end of the opera and the opera singers are taking bows.

Show your appreciation!

When in doubt, it is better not to clap than to clap and get the evil stares of people around you. Also you are bound to hear cheers from the audience of “Bravo.” Bravo for the beginner can be a bit scary, as the word changes based on whom you are saying it to. Here is a quick guide to Bravo:

  • Say Bravo (Brah-voh) to a single male performer’s exceptional performance.
  • Say Brava (Brah-vah) to a single female performer’s exceptional performance.
  • Say Bravi (Brah-vee) to a group of all male performers or a mix of male and female performers’ exceptional performances.
  • Say Brave (Brah-vay) to a group of all female performers’ exceptional performances.