Do A Little Homework Before the Performance
Just do a quick search on the Internet and you will easily find multiple resources for the opera you are interested in. If you read the story line (synopsis) of the opera before the performance you will find it more enjoyable. Not Internet savvy? Not a problem. Your local library or book store will have beginner guides that are helpful and generally include a synopsis of most operas and composers. When you purchase an Opera CD for DVD, a libretto (little book) is almost always included and will provide an overview of all the action. Remember, you don’t need to worry about understanding the language being sung. Translations (supertitles) are projected above the stage to help you follow what the singers are singing. Just relax and immerse yourself in the experience.
Arrive Early to the Theater
Unlike movie theaters where you can go in and out even after the movie has started, if you arrive after the conductor has entered the pit, you will not be allowed in until late seating is admitted. You will not want to miss a note of the performances, so if you arrive early you can relax, use the restrooms prior to the intermission and long lines and read your program for more interesting information about the opera and performers.
Silence is Golden (unless it’s time to clap)
Please silence all your electronics prior to the performance. The opera itself will evoke a myriad of emotions from the audience and you probably don’t want to evoke the wrong kind from your fellow seatmates. As a general rule, the arrival of the conductor to the pit is an appropriate time to end conversations. Remember, the theaters were designed to be acoustically sensitive so talking or even candy being unwrapped by someone four rows away is going to be heard.
Sounds of Approval
It is customary to applaud when the conductor enters the orchestra pit, after the overture and when the music stops following a spectacular aria or ensemble piece. A more exuberant form of approval is the cheering sometimes heard following a performance of someone yelling “Bravo!” This is an interesting tidbit to share at cocktail parties and the proper etiquette is as follows: if a male singer has impressed you, yell, “Bravo!” If a female singer has won your favor, yell, “Brava!” Now here’s the fun part ... if you are showing approval for an ensemble of male singers ... even if mixed with a few female singers then yell, “Bravi!” (pronounced brav-ee). If the ensemble is all women singers, go ahead and yell, “Brave!” (pronounced bra-vay). Now you’ll want to try that out, right?
Don’t rush off! Sometimes there are multiple curtain calls and if you exit while the singers are still taking their first bow, they will never know that you enjoyed their performance, not to mention the not-so-nice looks you may get from people on your aisle. Besides, don’t you want an opportunity to meet the singers after the show and get an autograph or two on your program? It’s fun! Just be aware that singing and acting on an opera stage is tiring work. If the singers are not overly chatty with you, it’s just that long conversations are exhausting right after a performance and they probably haven’t eaten much that day. They are delighted to hear how you enjoyed their performance so feel free to do most of the talking and as an extra bonus, all the traffic will be gone when you’re ready to head home!