Opera's Frequenty Asked Questions

Opera is an art-form like no others. It will captivate you from start to finish. It has the spontaneity of a good stage play with some of the most magnificent and difficult music ever written. You may own a state-of-the-art sound system in your car or home, but there is nothing like hearing the orchestra and opera singers live undistorted by the microphone. The musicians, sets, chorus and the singers (who are proficient actors as well) magically blend to provide you with an Opera Tampa experience that will last long after the curtains close.

Let’s get started … you may be wondering:

Q: Why should I spend my hard earned money to see an opera performance when I can spend it on dinner and a movie or the ball game?
A: An opera isn’t merely entertainment – it’s an experience. Everything is a bit larger than life – the sets, music, singers, costumes and lighting. You may even be surprised by the emotions that a performance evokes. Watch out, you just may get hooked!

Q: How does opera differ from a play?
A: In a play the actors recite their words from a script. In an opera the actors sing the words from a libretto (which means “little book” in Italian). The majority of operas were created by European composers that wrote incredible music with a story. The librettist (the libretto writer) wrote the words to the story.

Q: Why isn’t opera more popular today?
A: It is popular! It is the oldest performing art in the world that dates all the way back to the Greek civilization in an outdoor amphitheater. The United States is a babe in arms compared to many countries around the world where opera is a common form of entertainment with a bevy of hard core fans. In many metropolitan cities around the United States long established opera houses are an important jewel in the crown of a city’s cultural offerings.

Q: Are Broadway musicals opera?
A: Yes and no. In a Broadway show, musical numbers alternate with with dialogue scenes whereas in most operas there aren’t any talking scenes. Some Broadway musicals are based on the libretto of famous operas written long ago and some are written by modern day composers. Some examples include Rent (based on La Boheme), Porgy and Bess, Tommy, Les Miserables and Evita.

Q: Why aren’t there more opera in English?
A: Europe had a head start of more than 1,000 years.

Q: So why didn’t people just translate those operas into English?
A: Sometimes they did, but if you’ve ever studied a foreign language you know that verbatim translations can never adequately communicate the emotional tones of the original language. Another key complication is that every syllable of text in an opera corresponds to a note of music. When you try to translate a foreign language opera into English, you have to maintain the same number of syllables in a sentence and make sure the accented syllables land on the accented musical notes. This often resulted in destroying the original meaning which could leave an audience pretty confused. Technology came to the rescue in the 1980s with the introduction of supertitles (sometimes called surtitles) for the opera. Supertitles provide a translation of the foreign language projected on a screen for the audience to view above or below the stage.

Q: I’m not into all that fancy-schmancy stuff. Will I fit in with the opera crowd?
A: Sure there are opera devotees that know the history and are quite familiar with the most popular operas, the stars and the opera lingo, but opera truly is a performing art for the people. Don’t avoid it because you think its just a highbrow art form that attracts a lot of people dressed in tuxedos and gowns and pearls a la Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in the popular movie Pretty Woman. Back in the day when these operas were first written and performed, the audience dressed in casual clothes, brought their own food and drink, then cheered, booed and even threw a few choice vegetables during the show. It was like going to a rock concert today, only with classical music. Bottom line is this – you don’t have to dress formally or be an opera expert to fit in.

Q: How do I know if I’ll like it?
A: Not every opera will be on your favorites list and that’s just fine. Think of it this way, if you really like country music, you probably don’t like every country artist or every song. As you experience opera, you will find your preferences and most likely favor some composers over others. But if you never try it, then you will never know. The adventure lies in the experience.

Q: I’m on a budget. How can I afford to experience opera in this economy?
A: Understandable. The Straz Center Ticket Office staff can help you find seats for the opera that will fit into your entertainment budget. The best seats for the best price are offered in the season subscription package so you won’t miss a single note.