Five Tips Before Going to Your First Opera
1. What is opera?
Opera has been around for hundreds of years but that doesn’t make it old news. Opera is an exciting display of incredible singing, costuming, scenery, and plots filled with life, death, love, tragedy, and so much more. “Opera” is plural for the word “opus” which means work, and opera is the blending of multiple works: music, text, costumes, dance, staging, scenery, emotion. Regardless of what your interest is, you can always find something that you can relate to. While this art form is full of tradition, it is easily accessible and meant to be enjoyed by all, regardless of operatic knowledge.
2. Opera singers are athletes
When you’re watching these singers on stage, remember that they are performing a multiple hour production from memory. They have not just memorized the text but also the entire score (music), they are singing in a different language (with correct pronunciation), acting, while covered in makeup, wearing heavy and elaborate costumes, performing under hot lights, and singing over an entire orchestra without any form of amplification.
3. Forget what you think you know about opera and try it!
There are a lot of stereotypes about opera performances and opera audiences that do not match the experience at the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival. Yes, there is an orchestra and the story is primarily told through singing, but there is a full plot to follow, dynamic scenery and costumes – all of the performing arts at once! And while you may see an elegantly dressed couple enjoying an evening out at the opera, you’re also likely to see young hipsters, multi-generational families, and many other types of people at performances.
4. Come prepared
A little background before attending helps you enjoy the performance better. Don’t worry about spoiling the ending! Arrive a few minutes early, read the synopsis in the program to become familiar with the plot, and enjoy the whole opera experience. It’s also a good idea to listen to a few of the “greatest hits” from the opera (easily found on YouTube) so that you recognize some of the melodies and it feels familiar while you’re sitting in the audience. You might even surprise yourself with how much you already recognize!
5. Opera is about the whole experience
The whole evening should be enjoyable. Take advantage of the intermission that allow you to stretch your legs, read the program notes, use the restroom, check out the orchestra, and reflect on what you’ve just experienced in the opera. It’s about enjoying the whole experience; being in the gardens and at the stables of Lismore Castle, people watching, being absorbed in the drama and music, wrapping yourself up in the excitement of the entire event.