Friday, June 24, 2011:Opera for Newbies

Because their light is distracting, mobile phones must be completely shut off during an opera

Summer Solstice Series!

Opus Osm concludes our week-long Solstice Series of “backgrounder” articles. If you’ve ever wondered the who, why, what, or why not about opera, you can find the answers to your questions in these five articles on our Home page. Zuzana Sklenková explains everything you’ve always wanted to know about this glorious but confusing art form.

Part 5 Relax and Enjoy the Opera!

Opera exudes an aura of high, untouchable art that appeals to nerdy connoisseurs and a few curious tourists. But in fact, opera, as any other theatre form, can bring you a unique emotional experience and usually charms everyone who chances to cross the threshold of an opera house.

If you are still unsure what to expect and how to behave during an opera performance, read on. Opus Osm would like to spare you some potential social errors.

First time opera goers should start with more melodic, short works containing a clear plotline. Wagner’s five-hour Parsifal might not be the best choice. Yet famous tragedies like Carmen, Tosca, and La Boheme or Mozart’s comic pieces usually go down well with opera beginners.

It’s advisable to read up about the plot before the performance (Google it, and then even find YouTube clips of the famous arias). Also, invest in a program brochure – it’s worth the pocket change. The brochure (often, most or much in English) is usually packed with interesting information including a libretto, profile of the composer, and plot outline, so that you have an idea what exactly is happening up on the stage. And, since operatic singing in Italian is hard to follow, in many theatres there are often subtitles in both Czech and English for your convenience.

Each opera consists of acts and each act comprises several scenes. The curtain usually goes down after each act, which is the signal to clap and not to go home. (As when a relative of mine tried to leave Nabucco after the first act.) If you are hesitant about when to clap, just wait for more experienced opera goers to lead the applause and then join them. You may also find someone shouting “Bravo!” after an aria (solo). Again, leave that to the more experienced. At the end of the opera the leads and the entire cast come out for their curtsies, bows, and flowers. Again, it’s customary to shout “Bravo.” Well, only if the singer deserves it. Then it’s time to go home.

It goes without saying that mobiles must be completely shut off and never consulted in the concert hall. Likewise, humming, talking, and whispering have no place during the performance. So even though you might want to desperately hum with Carmen, restrain yourself and think about your fellows in the audience who came to listen to the trained voice of an opera singer and not to your private production.

As for the dress code, there is no need to dress up in a tuxedo or prom night dress. For men, a suit and tie, and for women, cocktail dresses are recommended. But these days, many people go to the opera in the normal, better clothes they wear to the office. Just maybe add a little fancy accessory, a nice handbag, better shoes, jewelry.

But on the other hand, if you like fashion and lack the opportunities to show the treasures from your wardrobe, this is the occasion to wear them.

The most important advice is just to be comfortable and let yourself be carried away by the story and the music. Simply, enjoy it! – oo

– Zuzana Sklenková

Photo Credits: BigFoto

One Comment

  1. Lynne DeMichele
    Posted July 5, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Thank you, Opus Osm, for making opera more accessible, populist, even! Audiences for this fabulous art form have been discouraged from supporting it due to its unfairly elitist image. It started as a peoples’ art form and is due to reclaim that status — and with high appreciation!

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