West Australian Opera's Macbeth (2019). Photograph of James Clayton (Macbeth) taken by James Rogers

How to Opera: Your guide to attending an opera

So you’ve never been to the opera before? What is it that’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 There are so many outdated myths and stereotypes about How To Opera, and we hope this myth-busting guide will provide you with some clarity.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, so 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 is 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 caught up in the music and performances that you’ll probably surprise yourself to realise 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 so you can have a read beforehand or during the interval 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. We offer our annual FREE event City of Perth: Opera in the Park in February which attracts a crowd of over 10,000 people. You can enjoy our concerts of opera hits including Opera in the Quarry or our regional events, where you can experience opera amongst some of Western Australia’s most iconic and picturesque locations including The Pinnacles and The Valley of the Giants. These experiences are a great way to introduce yourself to the world of Opera. If you are looking to attend our mainstage productions at His Majesty’s Theatre we have $30 tickets for under-40s and discounts for 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. But 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’m loving the sets, costumes and the aria that is currently being performed on stage, can I record it? 

We love your enthusiasm and encourage you to take as many photos before the show and during the interval, especially at our media wall, and we’d love for you to tag us with @waopera. But 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 most likely be approached by an usher. We want you to enjoy the moment and if you’re documenting it for anybody else, just tell them to purchase a ticket instead. 

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

So you’ve never sat down and watched an entire Harry Potter film in one sitting, or watched a game of football or a tennis match? Most operas run 2-3 hours, and include a twenty minute interval; plus time flies by when you’re having fun.