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Tips for Choosing and Attending an Opera

Part of the Opera For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Going to a live opera performance isn’t like going to a movie. For one thing, you’re paying ten times as much for a ticket. For another, you’ll be experiencing some pretty strange sights and sounds. Follow this checklist for best results:

  • Choose the right opera. Operas — their music and their stories — are 100 percent as varied as today’s movies. Some are delightful romantic romps, such as The Marriage of Figaro and The Elixir of Love. The majority are heart-rending love tragedies, like La Bohème and Aïda. A few are nearly X-rated shockers featuring adolescent mother-killers (Elektra) or teenage necrophiliacs (Salome). Don’t walk into something you’re not ready for — especially if you’re on a hot date.

  • Get to know the opera in advance. The opera’s probably in a foreign language, it may be set in an exotic time and place, and it may have a complicated plot. By renting the video or listening to the CD (while following the words) beforehand, you’ll be familiar with the story going into the gate. Your opera-going experience will be 50 times better.

  • Eat. Going to an opera isn’t like going to Fiddler on the Roof — it’s probably much longer, especially if Richard Wagner wrote the show. Eat something light before you go, and then have a full dinner afterward. (Unless it’s Wagner. Then take food to the show, which you can scarf down during the intermissions.)

  • Arrive early. The people-watching alone is worth the ticket price. How many opera snobs can you find?

  • Check out the orchestra pit. The instrumental musicians — half the opera’s payroll — will be hidden from view all night. Before the show starts is the time to witness all the action down there, including all the strange warm-ups that the orchestra players go through.

  • Hit the restroom before the curtain goes up. Your next opportunity may be the intermission, which may be hours away. Moreover, the 2,000 audience members will be trying to get into a restroom designed to hold 6. Ladies: This especially means you. Unless you want to stand in a line that could stretch to the moon and back seven times, go before the show.

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Opera For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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