West Australian Opera's Koolbardi wer Wardong (2021). Jarred Wall as Wardong and Jarrad Inman as Koolbardi. Image by James Rogers.

How to Opera: Your guide to attending an opera

So you’ve never been to the opera before? What's holding you back?

At West Australian Opera we pride ourselves on sharing our beloved art form with people of all ages and from all walks of life. There are so many outdated myths and stereotypes about How To Opera, and we hope this myth-busting guide will provide you with some clarity. 

I don’t have a tuxedo or evening gown - what should I wear to the opera?

Come as you are and express yourself however you choose to - after all, we are at the theatre! If comfortable means a little black dress, a cocktail gown, a collared shirt with dress pants, or a t-shirt and jeans – that is up to you.

I don’t speak any Italian, French or German, how will I be able to understand what is going on? 

First of all, not all of our productions are in foreign languages, but when they are, they are presented with surtitles. These are similar to subtitles, expect the words are projected in English on both sides of the stage. You’ll be so caught up in the music and drama that you’ll probably surprise yourself with the realisation you understand more than you think, but the surtitles are always there in case you do get a little lost. We also provide printed synopsis sheets for you to read and enjoy some spoilers of what’s to come. 

Tickets to the opera must be expensive. I don’t think I can afford it. 

At West Australian Opera we pride ourselves on making opera as accessible as possible with a range of opera moments for you to choose from. In 2022, ticket prices for our outdoor arena performance of Carmen start at just $15 (booking fees may apply). You can enjoy our popular regional Gala Concert performances, where you can experience opera amongst some of Western Australia’s most iconic locations. These experiences are a great way to introduce yourself to the world of opera. We also offer free events such as our Artist in Conversation Series with the UWA Conservatorium of Music. We have discounted tickets available for under 40s, students, concessions and groups. 

When am I allowed to applaud?

Traditionally opera audiences hold their applause until the end of a big aria (song) or at the end of an act. However, our artwork is open for interpretation and we encourage individual expression, so feel free to clap whenever you feel compelled to. If you want to show off your newfound opera knowledge then feel free to shout out the terms Bravo for a male performer and Brava for a female performer. 

I love the sets, costumes and music that is currently being performed on stage, can I record it? 

We love your enthusiasm and encourage you to take many photos before the show and during the interval, and we’d love for you to tag us @waopera. However, we do ask that that you refrain from taking photos or videos during a performance. It’s not courteous, it’s distracting to our performers and other audience members and you’ll be approached by an usher. We want you to enjoy the moment and if you’re documenting it for anybody else, tell them to purchase a ticket instead. 

I hear operas are quite long, how will I cope? 

Operas are comparable in length to feature films. Most run 2-3 hours and include an interval, plus time flies by when you’re having fun!