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Four Tips for Attending the Opera for the First Time

Lew McGinnis

For more than 55 years, Lew McGinnis has served as the owner of a real estate investment company in Oklahoma. During his career, Lew McGinnis has also fulfilled multiple roles in his community, from teaching children to read to directing operations at such organizations as the YMCA and the Arizona Opera.

The opera is a longstanding art form that dates back to the early 17th century. Similar to musical theater, opera combines acting and singing into a major production accompanied by an orchestra. Many might wonder what to expect or to plan for when attending an opera for the first time. Here are a few insights.

1. Concert attire
Although there is no requirement, operagoers typically dress up for the occasion. Some go as far as ball gowns and tuxedos, but a nice dress or a sports jacket will not look out of place.
2. Navigating a foreign language
A majority of operas are written and sung in languages other than English. However, every program will feature a libretto with translations for audience members, and today many opera halls include a screen that provides subtitles above the stage.
3. Length of performance
Aside from Wagner’s Ring Cycle, which runs somewhere between 15 and 17 hours, opera productions typically last about three hours, and are often shorter. Three act operas include two intermissions, and two act operas include a single break.
4. When to applaud
The best answer to this question is to follow along with the other audience members, who will usually applaud after a long solo from one of the performers. Of course, clapping is also appropriate at the end of each act, the finale, and during curtain calls.

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