The opera can be a little intimidating but underneath the grandeur, there’s relatable stories to the tune of enchanting music. Because opera is not a mainstream form of entertainment, it can be difficult to know what to expect. With some preparation, however, attending your first opera can be an enriching experience. From classical music lovers to complete newcomers alike here’s our guide to making that happen:
What To Wear
Although an evening at the opera is a special event, you do not need to wear tuxedos or fine furs to fit. Unless it is opening night or a gala, many people wear cocktail dresses or suits to performances. More casual attire, such as dresses or sport coats, are often worn to matinees. Since my wife and I were celebrating Valentine’s day I opted for an ASOS Curve long-sleeved sequin and tulle dress, a tapestry coat with faux fur collar, and comfortable three-inch block heel boots. I don’t wear perfume but if you do apply it with a light hand because many opera houses request that you not overdo it on cologne or perfume so that performers and other guests are not affected by it.
Picking An Opera
Some operas are more approachable or accessible than others. By selecting a relatively short production with some familiar music, you will likely have a better experience. Familiar, well-known titles such as La Boheme (by Puccini), Carmen (by Bizet), or La Traviata (by Verdi) are good choices for those new to the genre. An English-language opera, like Porgy and Bess (by Gershwin), may appeal to you if you’re intimidated by the foreign languages used in other productions. This time we chose Elektra and enjoyed it immensely, but my favorite by far is Carmen so grab tickets if it ever debuts in your city. If you love drama and telenovelas, you’ll adore Carmen.
Look for discounted tickets. The Metropolitan Opera in New York City, for instance, offers a limited number of $25 tickets daily on their website and Lyric Opera Chicago offers deep discounts during theatre week. The inexpensive seats up high in the opera house will still have good acoustics because opera houses are designed to accommodate large audiences. You can use opera glasses, similar to binoculars, to view the performers if your seat is at a distance.
Before The Curtain
Traditionally, operas are three hours long with a fifteen-minute intermission. So it’s important to arrive early so you can take pictures, have cocktails, enjoy hors d’oeuvres, use the ladies room, obtain a program, be escorted to your seat, and turn off your phone.
Intermission only allows enough time to stretch your legs and grab a drink but beware of having too many snacks and drinks because there’s always a long line to ladies room during intermission and after the performance.
To avoid long wait times and sore feet book a restaurant close to the opera house in advance or grab a ride and dine somewhere less crowded in a different area.