Most people go through life thinking of the opera as if it were a trip to the movies for snooty people. Therefore, when a pair of tickets falls into their hands, they panic, wondering how their career selling real estate could possibly prepare them for such an evening. But the opera is really just about people getting together to enjoy music and storytelling. You should never be so afraid of trying something new, especially an opera. That's why we've created this guide to tell you what to expect.

Getting Tickets

In a way, going to an opera really is like going to a movie. If you choose a show that doesn't interest you, you won't enjoy it. So don't go to a show just because you heard a stranger recommended it. Sit down with the plot descriptions of each of your available options and see which one sounds the most interesting. For first timers, you should buy your opera tickets at the box office ahead of time so that you can see the seating chart and get the attendant's advice. Be prepared for the tickets to cost about the same as concert tickets.

Dressing

This is a major point of stress for first time opera goers. What to wear? In the movies people who go to the opera always wear tuxedos and ball gowns, but in reality there's no dress code for the opera. Some people do dress in their best suits and dresses, especially if it's a premiere, but in order to not stand out like a sore thumb, you only need to dress like you would for a wedding or to attend a Sunday church service. You will get some disparaging looks if you wear jeans, but you won't be asked to leave.

Showing Up

Arrive 30-45 minutes before the show is due to start. Most operas require attendees to go through security before they will be admitted. In order to pass through quickly, a good rule is not to bring anything other than your purse or wallet. No food, no shopping bags, no backpacks or luggage. Do bring binoculars, but don't bring a camera. Using it will get you kicked out and maybe even sued. If you're late, you won't be admitted until intermission.

Watching the Show

When the opera begins, that's the time to stop talking. Don't sing or hum along either. The opera will likely be far away and in another language, but there will be subtitles in English. You can also rent binoculars and headsets that will provide translation. Clap when everyone else claps, and hold back on the 'bravo's' until you figure out what they mean.

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