9 Tips for Attending the Opera

I love going to the opera – it is such a unique experience. Today I saw Rossini’s Barber of Seville and this blog post materialized in my head. I have now been to more than a few operas, and I have finally figured out how to maximize my enjoyment. Below are some tips I would like to share in hopes that more people will enjoy the opera experience!

1. Before you attend the opera, do some research. The more you know about the story beforehand, the more enjoyable it will be! Wikipedia has summaries of most operas, or you can do a general Google search. I have found great articles and summaries on sites like NPR. Many opera companies will post lots of content about the operas they are staging, so check the website of the company whose opera you are seeing, or any of the big opera companies (The Met, San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera, and London’s Royal Opera House all have great websites).
2. Be well-hydrated the day before, but not the day of the show. There is rarely an act under 1 hour, and usually if you leave to go to the bathroom, you aren’t allowed back in to your seat. So, don’t drink too much liquid on the day of if you don’t want to miss anything!
3. Before entering the theater, turn your cell off or on silent, and please don’t take it out during the performance. The glow is super annoying. I promise that you want to see every second of the production, plus don’t you want to honor the hours and hours of work and THOUSANDS of dollars that went into the show by keeping your eyeballs glued to the set?!
4. If you have a tendency to cough (allergies, sickness, whatever), it’s a good idea to bring cough drops. You can also hand them out to annoying coughers around you. However, please don’t get the kind that have noisy plastic wrappers. Get ones with paper wrappers, the kind in the roll, or better yet, unwrap a few beforehand. [This tip is a major old-person thing to do but if you don’t want to feel the wrath of everyone around you, it’s best to be prepared!]
5. Bring a snack! The food is ALWAYS overpriced at every single opera house. Since you just spent a ton of money on tickets, don’t waste your money on their concessions. I usually bring an apple or banana, or a bag of trail mix. It’s really exhausting to sit through 3+ hours of intense music, so you will need an energy boost!
6. I use operas as an excuse to get dressed up because I love doing so. Make sure you are wearing something relatively modest – there are usually a lot of old people around at operas, and they will glare at you if you are wearing an outfit better suited for the club. Also keep in mind that you will be sitting, so make sure that when you are sitting down your skirt is long enough. There will be lots of creepy old men around to see what you are exposing, so make sure you’re covered! If you don’t like dressing up, that’s fine, but don’t wear sweat pants! At least be at the jeans-and-tshirt level. Also, today I was lucky because I had a great seat that was a Christmas gift from my au pair family, but normally I will do standing room only seats. Most opera companies have a limited amount of seats sold the day of the show for $10-$20. If you choose this option, wear comfortable shoes! Don’t be afraid to stretch or sit on the floor as you need to.
7. Don’t bring too many layers, because you will be holding them all in your lap (unless you want to pay for the coat check).
8. Once you get to your seat, keep your ticket accessible. Theater seat labeling can be confusing, and I’ve had to prove that I am in the right seat/kick someone out of my seat at almost every single opera I have attended.
9. Enjoy the show! If you don’t know what’s going on, don’t stress. Just listen to the music and let yourself get lost in the beauty of it all.

Do you like to go to the opera? Which is your favorite?


4 thoughts on “9 Tips for Attending the Opera

  1. In good old Praha I saw Dvorak’s Rusalka (little mermaid) on a ticket that cost, you know, practically nothing. Amazing set, amazing everything! I sat next to another musician who had a score open in her lap and let me take a look.

  2. Hi Maddy,
    Before we had our baby my husband and i went to the opera often, I applaud your tips. Brava especially to bring your own snacks! It never occurred to me and is a brilliant suggestion!

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