How to opera

At Victorian Opera we believe opera is for everyone. We want you to feel comfortable and enjoy your experience, so please ‘come as you are’. Allow us to bust a few myths about going to the opera.

My best tuxedo/evening gown is at the drycleaners, what do I wear to the opera?

Don’t stress. You don’t have to dress up for the opera! Just come in whatever you’re comfortable wearing: jeans, t-shirt, suit, little black dress, fisherman pants, kimono, high-vis vest…except naked. Please don’t come naked!

Coming straight from the beach? No worries, you can leave your surfboard at the cloakroom. Just see our friendly venue-partner staff.

I don’t know a word of Italian/French/German, how will I understand what is going on?

All our operas in foreign languages are presented with surtitles. It’s like subtitles at the movies: the words being sung are projected in English above or on the side of the stage.

Or you can simply sit back and enjoy the beautiful music. Opera plots are often pretty silly anyway.

I hear operas are realllllllly long, how will I go the distance?

Not every opera is a marathon. While there are operas like Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg that go for over 5 hours, some of Victorian Opera’s performances are around an hour long with an average length of two hours this season. You can check the duration of each show on our website.

Don’t forget there are also breaks. Longer operas will have one or two intervals which give you time to stretch your legs, go to the bathroom, hydrate and snack.

Time goes faster than you think when you’re swept away in the drama on stage. If you find you really can’t watch another moment or fear you’re going to turn into a pumpkin, no one is going to stop you from leaving or judge you. But it’s worth giving it a shot, isn’t it?

Opera is really expensive; how will I afford a ticket?

Times have changed, opera is no longer the domain of the upper classes and tickets are not as expensive as you think. We believe opera should be accessible to everyone which is why we offer a range of ticket prices starting from just $25 for family productions and only $35 for all C-Reserve seats and 30 Years and Under tickets. That can be cheaper than going to the movies these days.

Can I bring my children?

Certainly! We love introducing youngsters to opera. In fact, every season we put on productions that are specially designed for family audiences, such as Alice Through the Opera Glass and The Selfish Giant.

Of course, use your judgement and consider the themes and length of the opera. Perhaps you don’t want your 5-year-old to see Salome carrying out John the Baptist’s severed head on a platter.

My journey to the venue was delayed by a herd of angry bulls and I’m late. Does it matter?

Sorry, the performance does start at the time printed on your ticket. There are no coming attractions, no supporting acts, it will start without you. If you’re late, you may have to wait until an appropriate break in the performance before you can take your seat but we will let you in.

Always allow plenty of time to get to the theatre.  To be safe, aim to arrive at least half an hour before start time. If you’re early then you can always grab a drink before going in (it doesn’t have to be champagne either).

Should I eat before or after a performance?

It’s really up to you. Consider the starting time of the performance and your eating habits. All we can say is that a grumbling stomach may distract your fellow audience members. As will crinkling chip packets and rustling lolly wrappers.

When should I applaud?

Whenever you feel like it. Traditionally opera audiences hold their applause until after a big aria or the end of an act. But we want everyone express themselves when they’re at one of our shows. So go on, clap/cry/boo/cheer/gasp whenever you like!

Save your biggest applause for the curtain call when you can show your appreciation for the incredible feats performed by the artists.

I don’t understand what’s going on, can I ask my friend questions during the performance?

Better not to. The acoustics which make the theatre perfect for opera also mean that any noise will disturb people many rows behind you. Read the synopsis in the free programme, focus on the surtitles and save the philosophical debate for interval or post-show.

Can I take photos or record the performance?

Take as many photos as you like before the show and during interval (#VictorianOpera) but please refrain from photography during the show, unless you want to be publicly humiliated by an usher frantically gesturing at you.

We’re not trying to stop you from capturing memories, it’s to do with copyright and boring legal stuff like that. Anyway, you won’t make any money from your bootleg copy of The Barber of Seville with silhouettes of heads bobbing up and down.

I know this opera really well, can I sing along?

The artists on stage have had years of training and are paid to do this. And the audience has paid to listen to them. If you want a sing-a-long, better to wait until your next singing lesson or book yourself a karaoke booth after the show.

I’m addicted to Game of Thrones, is it OK to watch it on my smartphone during the performance?

Although we want everyone to feel comfortable, this is probably going too far. The light from mobile phone screens can be very distracting to other audience members in a darkened theatre. So please don’t answer phone calls, compose emails, check in on social media either. It’s best to switch your phone to aeroplane mode or turn it off completely so you can escape into the magical world on stage.

Should I bring my own rotten tomatoes to throw at the stage if the performance is bad?

Who are you? A time traveller? This custom went out of fashion in the 19th century! Anyway, all our performances are pretty great so there is no need for this. Why not bring flowers instead? Singers love them.

How do I find out more about the opera?

We have lots of useful information on our website including Behind the Scenes blogs, podcasts, videos and even an opera glossary. Be sure to sign up to our eNews and get all our latest content delivered straight to your inbox.

When you buy a ticket you will also receive a pre-show email with details about the venue, articles about the opera and a link to download the programme, if you are on our eNews list. On the night, you can also collect a free printed programme with production information, singers’ biographies and a synopsis.