During this holiday season, plan on experiencing a play, the opera, or the ballet. They add that special holiday flavor to this joyous season. Usually you will find more young children and adults who are not regularly opera patrons in the theaters enjoying the traditional Christmas classics such as “A Christmas Carol” or, “The Nutcracker Suite,” so have extra patience for those who may not be pros at theater-going. It is that special time of the year when we come together as neighbors to give thanks and to celebrate our good fortunes. But whatever play or ballet you plan to attend, make your experience enjoyable from beginning to end. If you are a novice at theater-going, and want to add to the experience of everyone, and not detract, the following are questions people generally have for etiquette opera, along with the answers.
What do I wear?
First, there is no longer a dress code for opera, but fastidious people like to make it a special occasion and dress up. And with that said, no one should go to the theater in jeans. A good rule of thumb for proper dress is, the better the seats, the dressier you might want to be. For a school matinee, a crisp white blouse and blue or black skirt are perfect for students. Adults, for casual wear, think afternoon luncheon wear for the day, and business dress for the evenings. Dressing up for special occasions is part of the fun!
How will I know what’s going on if the opera is not in English?
Most opera houses make it easy! There are super titles in English projected above the stage of most opera performances. That means that if the opera is sung in Italian, you’ll be able to follow the story by reading the lines as it is performed. You don’t have to know anything at all about the opera to follow the drama, moment by moment.
When should I clap?
Opera was designed for applause. Unlike a symphony concert, it’s generally OK to clap when someone has just finished a wonderful aria, which is a song. If you’re in doubt, just follow the lead of others in the audience.
Is there anything else I should know about being in an opera audience?
The rules of common courtesy apply at an opera, as they do at any performance: Never talk, whisper, giggle or laugh during a performance. Turn off your cell phone before the performance. Arrive on time. If the music has started, you may miss the whole first act! Avoid talking from the moment the overture starts until there is clapping; all of the music is important in opera, even when the curtain is down. Cover your mouth when you cough, and if you must use sweets or cough drops, unwrap them before the opera begins and keep the wrappers in your purse, to be discarded later. Above all, enjoy yourself.
When do I leave? Please don’t jump up and push your way through other patrons to beat them to the parking lot while actors are still on stage giving their last bows . Proper opera-goers stay seated until the last curtain falls, then they gracefully make their way out of the theater.