I always used to say that I’d never like opera. All that changed when I went to a workshop with Swansea City Opera. The music moved me. I even got to sing with them and enjoyed their first show that I went to see.
For the uninitiated, a night at the opera might sound like a daunting experience. How much will it cost? What should you wear? Are there any special conventions you need to follow? And will you understand what on earth is going on?
Here, we answer all these questions, to ensure your first ever opera visit is a memorable experience that you will want to repeat again and again:
All about opera
At its heart, an opera is simply a musical. OK, the tunes are not always as catchy as Joseph or Cats, but you are simply watching a story being told with the accompaniment of some beautiful and powerful music.
The range of operas is as varied as the human condition. To ask what an opera is about is to ask what a book or movie is about. There are comedies, tragedies, love stories and tales that have a little of all three.
Is it expensive?
Opera has developed a reputation for being something that wealthy aristocrats attend and some people assume that this means tickets are frighteningly expensive. Both of these assumptions are wrong.
Opera lovers come from all backgrounds and demographics, and, like any live performance, you can get tickets at a good price if you know where to look. These days, that usually means online, and sites like romeoperatickets.com are a good place to get a good deal.
What to wear?
Another myth is that gentlemen have to wear a tuxedo and women a ball gown. Of course, you can if you like, but unless you’ve been given a personal invitation to join the Queen in the Royal Box, it is really not necessary.
That doesn’t mean turning up in jeans and a t-shirt, but smart casual for the men and a skirt and blouse or a cocktail dress for the ladies will work just fine.
During the performance
There is one thing that first timers get confused about in an opera, and that is when to applaud. If, before the beginning, the lights dim and everyone suddenly starts clapping, that will be because the conductor is walking out to the stand. Always give the conductor a round of applause – after all, he or she is the one who is running the show.
During the performance, it is not always obvious to know when to applaud. You do not necessarily clap after someone finishes singing, but sometimes you might – it depends on what you are watching. The safest bet is to hang back and join in when everyone else starts clapping.
Most operas are sung in a language other than English, but in all honesty, even if it is in English, it is often difficult to pick out the words. Fortunately, there will be subtitles to help you along, either projected onto a wall or shown on a small personal screen in front of you.
Enjoy the show
An opera is as compelling as any other type of storytelling, but with the added drama of the music. Most people who try it for the first time instantly fall in love with the format, and cannot wait to go again. So give it a go, and have fun!
Have you ever been to the opera? Would you like to go?