An invite to my first opera. I don’t know about this. Opera is not mainstream. Isn’t it pretentious? I feel intimidated, baffled and even a little frightened by this upcoming event. What if I don’t understand it? Is there a certain way to listen to it? What if I just don’t get it? Will they throw me out if I fall asleep? Or look bored? And what about concert manners? I must read up on those. Google University will help.
Do What When
Concert manners start with not being late. No tripping through the aisle to your seat after it starts. No way. The ushers are the enforcers. They will not let you in until after the first act. No squeaking chair, no coughing, no fidgeting, no whispering (whispering is not silent), no walking around. Look only at people you can see without moving in your seat. Don’t turn around: they will sneer at you. Really? Don’t even think about opening your purse, taking your sweater off, rustling the program or even saying shhh. Not allowed. It’s not like watching TV (Hey Al…grab me a beer). If I mess up, these classical snobs will bury me with shame. Maybe I will just sit like a statue and hold my breath. Play it safe.
And even worse would be the ultimate blunder: clapping at the wrong time. Death at dawn will be the penalty. I’m sure of that. Clap at the end of each aria (aka the pretty songs in opera versus recitative where they just talk)? The combination of these is what makes opera so emotionally intense. Clap only at the end of each scene when the curtain goes down? Or after each act? I’m pretty sure you do applaud when the conductor walks out to the stand. That person is running the show! Will there be clapping cues? Should I wait till someone else claps first and hope they’re not an ignoramus like yours truly? Why didn’t I major in Opera? Darn.
Why Can’t We Be Friends
Or maybe I will make this opera my best friend, before the concert. Effort on my side. Listen to the music as I read the libretto (text). Over and over again until I want to de-friend it. Will this send me into states of ecstatic abandon? Maybe not, but I will know the story. Read up on the performers and the biography of the composer. Check out the historical period of the piece. Romantic, Baroque, Classical? Go Google! YouTube, here I come.
Fashion Faux Pas
What should I wear? Why do people dress up? Because they can? I’m from the land of tee shirts and Homer Simpson flip-flops. For any occasion. If it’s opening night, does one go formal? And what does that mean? Floor-length gown or is a cocktail dress appropriate? Will my frock from Goodwill give a deceptive outer appearance of great worth? Polishing my shoes might help. Maybe I’ll get my teeth cleaned, too.
The audience stands, applauds and shouts bravo as they throw flowers on the stage. Bravo means well done in Italian. You say bravo for Mr. Diva, brava for Miss Diva and bravi for two or more performers.
Who is performing more? The opera or the audience?
So many questions I have. The final one is: should I stay or should I go?