As someone dating in 2010 — rather than, say, 1910 — going to the opera probably isn’t high on your list of go-to date ideas. But because opera is something that everyone should experience, and because chances are your date hasn’t been either, it can be a fun “first” for both of you.
Believe it or not, America has more opera companies than any other country in the world, so finding a performance near you shouldn’t be that hard. It also doesn’t have to be expensive: opera companies are falling over themselves trying to get young audiences, so most offer extremely discounted tickets and performances for young professionals.
What To See
Opera lovers will tell you that any opera is enjoyable, but if this is your first opera, some choices are definitely better than others. For your first time, you want to pick something short and fairly familiar.
La Boheme is the perfect starter opera: it’s fairly short, with a very straight forward plot. (You might already be familiar with it; it’s the basis of Rent.) The score is extremely recognizable (you’ve definitely heard Musetta’s Waltz: Youtube it) and the romantic story line makes it a perfect date opera.
Carmen has one of the most recognizable scores in history (La Habanera and the Overture are probably default ringtones on your cell), and has to be the sexiest opera of them all.
This opera is being discovered by young audiences thanks to a recent production starring the hot young singer Anna Netrebko. This opera has it all: tragic love, huge chorus numbers, a ballet, and a powerful death scene.
What To Wear
Like everything else, opera isn’t as formal as it was even 30 years ago, so you won’t need to rent a tux or don a floor length gown. Still, since there are so few occasions in life that require dressing up, take advantage and show your date how well you clean up. A suit (or at least a button-up?) for the guy, and a cocktail dress for the girl.
Before You Go
Opera is one of those art forms that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. If you take the time to familiarize yourself with the score and plot beforehand, you’ll obviously get more enjoyment out of it once you’re there.
Realistically, you won’t have time to take a crash course in opera: Maybe Youtube a few of the opera’s biggest hits as you get ready. Plus, most opera companies have pretty cool podcasts to get you prepped for each specific production. The only absolute must-do is to read a brief synopsis of the plot before you go, so you’re not totally lost.
What To Expect When You Get There
- Opera glasses
If you can, make sure to rent some opera glasses (really just binoculars). They’re usually about $5 bucks, and guarantee a good view no matter where you’re sitting.
All modern operas have supertitles (aka subtitles) so that you can, you know, understand what the hell is going on. They’ll either be projected on a screen right on top of the stage, or in little screens in the seat in front of you (like on airplanes!)
There are a lot of them! But you can drink during all of them, so that’s good.
It’s weird, but at operas people usually just clap at the end of the act, and not after an original song. This rule is broken all the time though, and people often burst into ovations after especially powerful arias. Also, snooty people frown upon clapping for the set, but if you ever see the curtain rise on Turandot at the Met, you’re gonna want to clap, too. If you feel especially moved, you can call out “Bravo!” or “Brava!” and not even feel self-conscious about it.
Opera is basically the only art form where people still regularly boo at performances. This usually only happens at the really big houses where people have crazy high expectations. If this is your first opera, you probably don’t know enough to boo, so, uhm, don’t. Still, it’s always sort of exciting to be at a performance where the audience gets angry.