at the classic opera houses of Europe, those attending
an Opening Night should dress in formal attire.
wear black tie (tuxedo, preferably in a traditional
style) or white tie and tails to an Opening Night. On
other opera nights, black tie or a dark suit is appropriate.
can choose long or short elegant gowns, but long is
considered more formal. Ensembles are often accessorized
with gloves. It is best to coordinate the degree of
formality with one's escort.
women choose designer gowns from haute couture designers'
summer trunk shows to insure that theirs will be one-of-a-kind.
opera is often viewed as a place to "see and be seen".
In fact, many attendees of the Vienna Opera House traditionally
participate in a promenade during intermission.
natural look in makeup is preferred, because pre-performance
dinners usually begin while the sun is still shining.
performances other than Opening Night, a basic black
dress with opera length pearls is always a good standard.
operas are performed in English, so at least a little
research is essential; you may wish to read the synopsis
online or at the local library. If you are more ambitious,
you might watch a video of the opera or listen to a
CD while reading the libretto (a printout of the words
that are sung). That will enable you to have a deeper
appreciation of what you are seeing and to discuss the
performance intelligently, or at least intelligibly.
you want to dazzle your friends, crib a bit of musical
trivia for the pre-performance cocktail party; for example,
you might drop the fact that Puccini always introduced
his heroines "off stage" - you heard them sing before
you saw them perform! (But be aware of real opera aficionados,
who will know more than you can possible assimilate
yourself plenty of time to get ready. If you're rushed,
you will forget your performance tickets, parking pass,
or opera glasses. Worst of all, you may be late! Late
arrivals are usually relegated to video screen viewing
until the next intermission. Once the house lights dim
and the doors close, no one is seated until the intermission;
it is considered too disruptive.
beans, garlic, onions or peppers before the performance
- these foods will make your stomach gurgle. During
the performance there can be no extraneous noise, unplanned
exits, or sharing snacks surreptitiously with seatmates.
Don't overeat before the performance. You will be sitting
for a long time and will be more comfortable in your
clothing if you have not overindulged. (It also helps
not to be wearing a suit or dress that has become a
couple of sizes too small.)
hour or two before the curtain is not the time to drink
enormous quantities of alcohol, if you hope to avoid
needing the toilette before the overture is finished,
and sleeping through the important arias.
NEVER applaud until AFTER the last operatic note is
played no matter WHAT the curtain does! (A similar rule
applies to the symphony that has four movements and
applause comes ONLY after the last movement.)
not applaud the scenery, supertitles or entrance of
a star performer. It is gauche. The term is NOT" subtitles"
since they are OVER the stage, except for houses like
the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the Santa Fe
Opera in New Mexico which have the English translation
on the back of seats.
an Italian opera, it is perfectly acceptable to applaud
after arias, in contrast to Wagnerian (German) operas
that for the most part do not have arias. In fact, after
Wagner's "Parsifal", often performed at the Met at Easter,
you should not even applaud after the entire first act,
because Wagner felt it interrupted the musical continuity.
welcome the conductor with applause as he enters before
the performance begins. His pivotal role is crucial
to the timing and synchrony of the performance. An interesting
aside - Richard Wagner was the first composer to face
the orchestra and the stage. Prior to the time in the
late 1800's, composers faced the audience with their
backs to the stage.
to behave in your seat:
most important rule: Leave at home bangle bracelets,
cell phones, pagers, electronic devices, watch alarms
and anything else that makes noise (but see the point
the realm of international business, it is commonplace
to be able to check communication devices with meeting
staff that will monitor them. Until our cultural institutions
adopt this enlightened policy, devices should be turned
off or set on "vibrate." A melodic Puccini aria broken
by the sound of a customized cell phone ringer would
be barbaric, even if your cell phone plays Mozart.
use penlights to read the program or libretto (words
that are sung) during the performance. There is no substitute
for pre-performance homework.
not fidget in your seat, bob your head back and forth
or tap your toes, no matter how restless you become,
or how tempting the pulsating rhythm of the percussion.
sitting in a section other than box seats, raise your
seat when you vacate it, for the convenience of those
who must move along the row. Say "please excuse me"
when passing in front of others as you move along the
have a much more civil way of passing in front of others
as they move along a row of seats: they face those they
are passing, instead of offering their derrieres as
still! If you have an itch, do not scratch it. If you
have a cold, bring cough drops (not wrapped in crinkly
paper) and nasal spray, or, stay at home.
not wear hats that obstruct vision and, no matter the
discomfort, do not take off your odoriferous shoes.
· Do not use your program as a fan or percussion instrument.
TALKING, snoring, humming, or whispering while ANY music
is being played. Audiences that insist on talking during
an overture truly show their ignorance. Overtures are
part of the opera, not just a "tuning up" for the brass
section or an opportunity to catch up on the latest
to do at curtain call:
is one time you can definitely be a bit boisterous,
but there are rules to follow:
in mind that the performers come out like heads-of-state,
in reverse rank order - the top stars are last.
is not appropriate to throw tomatoes if you disliked
the performance, even if they are sun-ripened from your
garden. A lack of applause will communicate your objection.
Bouquets of flowers are gently tossed to the artists
during Curtain Call.
applauding women, you cheer "Brava!", accent on the
applauding men, you cheer "Bravo!", accent on the last
applauding both men and women, you cheer "Bravi!", accent
on the first.
tempting as it is to beat the crowd to the parking garage,
STAY to applaud the performers. For great performances,
STAND and applaud. The artists have worked hard and
they deserve your thanks. This is not the time nor place
for VCR manners! After all, would you dine in someone's
home and not say "Thank you?"
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