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How To Appreciate Opera

Going to the opera? Get more out of the performance by following these steps.


  • Step 1: Prepare for the performance by searching online for the opera you will see. Read about the story plot, the characters, and the composer.
  • Step 2: Arrive at the theater early so you can read the program notes, which usually contain information about the opera and performers.
  • TIP: If your seat is in the mezzanine or balcony, buy or rent small binoculars to see the performers' facial expressions and movements.
  • Step 3: Familiarize yourself with the way the opera is translated. Some opera houses have seat-back screens for subtitles and others project supertitles on an above-stage screen.
  • TIP: Operatic singing often distorts the way words sound, so you may need to read the translation even if you understand the language the opera is sung in.
  • Step 4: Note how opera singers are able to fill an entire opera house with sound and express emotion with their voices.
  • TIP: Microphones generally aren't used in opera, except when it is performed in a venue where the sound doesn't carry well enough on its own.
  • Step 5: Note the different elements in the opera, such as arias, or solos, and recitative, which are sections that sound like speech.
  • Step 6: Take in the "big picture," including how costumes, dancing, acting, and orchestrated music complement the singing to tell a multi-faceted story.
  • Step 7: Relax and enjoy the experience. By regularly attending the opera, you'll learn more about this curious – yet fascinating – art form.
  • FACT: Richard Wagner's four-part opera cycle, commonly known as the "Ring" cycle, is nearly 15 hours long.

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