My first time at the Opera
As opposed to what is often thought, the opera is meant for everyone: students, seniors, busy executives, clerks, specialists, lovers, the just plain curious or momentary rejecters all rub shoulders without distinction. To sum up, every type of audience comes together, people can arrive from anywhere and prices are suited to any budget (starting at 10€, i.e. the price of a cinema seat).
Who do I come with ?
It can never be said enough, an opera is better when shared as a couple, or with even more people. It is an emotion to be split and talked about, between partners, friends, work colleagues, or everyone at once. Otherwise, an opera can also be a solitary pleasure to be shared with the rest of the hall.
How should I dress ?
There is no law against showing off your elegance at the opera, but the era no longer requires a tail-coat or party frock. Jeans, tee-shirts and chequered sweaters are quite welcome. The main thing is to feel comfortable as you stand in your shoes. Or sneakers. Each to his or her own.
What time do I arrive ?
On time, of course. That is to say, in “opera” terms, at least thirty minutes before the show. It will begin at the precise time as indicated on the ticket, so this is the best way to reach your seat being neither stressed-out nor in a sweat, in other words not in the right state of mind to enjoy it all. A word of advice: take enough time out to take some time.
How do I find my way ?
Nothing is easier: at the bottom, there are the stalls, at the top, the balconies. Stage right (from in the front) there are the “odd” numbered seats, and stage left the “even” ones. But this Opera house is also an Amphi with its own programme, placed on level -2, while, on the parterre level of the Grande Salle, there is the splendid Grand Foyer, where you will doubtlessly go during the interval.
Are the works surtitled ?
At this opera house, the performance language is always indicated on the brochure for each show. Being in France, pieces in foreign languages, such as German or Italian, are surtitled in French. We hope this may be of some use!
An interval, what’s that ?
During the Roman era, an interval in a show was like half-time in a football match. A chance for the author to work out a few sleights of hand. And for the spectators to stretch their legs. If you want to find out their number, and length, as well as that of the show, consult the brochure in question.
A few key words so as to shine :
Argument : the scenario of an opera.
Aria : a vocal or instrumental melody during which a character expresses their feelings and the singer their talents as a soloist.
Bel Canto : meaning “beautiful singing” in Italian, which is well named, given that this style of highly elaborate singing, that appeared in the 17th century requires both vocal virtuosity and an irreproachable technique. But not necessarily moderation.
Coloratura : a very elaborate melody, characteristic of Italian bel canto. The Aria of the Queen of the Night from Mozart’s Magic Flute is a very good example. It also indicates by extension the performer of this type of aria: in the past castratos, but sopranos and mezzo-sopranos today.
Finale : the last part of an act or work, after which, if all goes well, the audience should clap itself to death.
Libretto: the text of an opera.
Prima Donna : from the Italian for “first lady”. She is the singer who plays the leading role. The star of the show. Particularly since castratos (previously called the “primo uomo”) have vanished. Synonymous with diva (literally meaning “goddess”, and figuratively “someone who tires their entourage because of their constant demands”).
Overture : an essential piece of music in an opera, given that it lays the basis. By opening the opera, as its name states, but also by displaying the main musical themes in a spectacular way. A good reason not to arrive late.
Singspiel : a German piece, which is spoken and sung, tinged with comedy, equivalent to comic opera or the English ballad opera. For example: Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio.
Tessitura : it describes the range of notes that a singer can reach without touching any extremes. Not to be confused with ambitus which, of course, takes in all of the notes that have been reached, including the extreme ones.