on "formality and glamour, coupled with a polished behavioral
repertoire" will prepare you for an appropriate entrée into
the world of Grand Opera and Opening Nights.
are a few protocol "do's and taboos" for the opera…
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
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 by "cramming.")
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
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 below).
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
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 row.
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 Americans do.
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 people watching!
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 last syllable.
applauding men, you cheer "Bravo!", accent on the last syllable.
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
Resources on Opera: