top of page

Let’s talk Opera

Oh, noooo! Opera! Urgh... Too long! There are people shouting and yodelling something in a foreign language. What? It was in English? No way!

Let’s put things in perspective. The opera was the Glastonbury for the people from the past. It was the music festival to which people would go for various reason amongst which showing off, gambling, flirting, drinking and a bit of entertainment. Most opera theatres looked like bee hives because the rich people were buying the luxury boxes and were doing whatever they pleased in them.

The only time they would stop doing their business would be if somebody was singing an astonishing piece of music or was getting killed. Hence in every opera there are at least several beautiful arias and just as many murders. There was a lot of crossdressing too - men were women, women were men, they were confused, the audience was confused. There was love, lust, betrayal, blood and tragedy. Game of thrones, I tell you! The plot in the opera was created after the music was written. At the beginning it was all about singing. The LIBRETTO or the words not only had to fit the curves of the music but also create the drama.

The murder operas were called opera seria. No, not like tv crime drama series. Seria like serious. You see, the big voice likes a long note. Loud and dramatic. Ideally with a down drop after it to emphasise the pain. Of course there were comical operas too - the ones Mozart and Rossini preferred - called opera buffa. No, not like buffalo. Buffa like funny. These most often finished with a marriage.


The opera theatres had an important role in the society. They were the hubs for the social life. You could sell a horse or do some trading in La Scala in Milan before sitting down with a glass of wine and enjoying a bit of music. The Opera occupied a significant place in the town centre which allowed those who were going (and those curious to see who was going) to have full exposure of the clothes, the shoes, the jewellery and the cars. That has not changed until today. No more than five percent of the opera audiences have any musical interest or knowledge. Most of the people would pay a fortune to sit and ache for several hours just to be seen. But there are, of course, the five percent who tell us which of the singers we should pay for and which of the productions we must attend.

So if you are one of those, not poor but musically unprepared, and you are going soon, FEAR NOT!

Here are some tips:

  1. Dress code - your best most luxurious clothes. No flip flops, shorts and sweaty armpits even if you are in Sydney.

  2. Do not bring sandwiches, water bottles and worst of all sweets with noisy wrappers. There are restaurants and bars in the building.

  3. If your seats are in the middle of the row and you got there two minutes before the beginning, get to them FACING the people rather than showing them your bottom. Even if it is a very fine bottom, more beautiful than your face.

  4. Do not use your phone! No games and selfies.

  5. If you don’t understand the language, look up - there are subtitles above the stage. They will help you understand why that short guy got killed by the other short guy.

  6. “The soprano/ mezo/ alto/ tenor/ bariton/ bass“ are the pitches of the voices of the singers. Here is how you recognise them without asking:

    • The Sopranos are usually the blonds. They are the innocent victim even if they don’t look like one.

    • The Mezzos are the brunettes. They are the sexy foxes. Think red dress and red lipstick. Carmen.

    • The Altos are the mothers or the witches.

    • The Tenors are the fools in love. They are either poor or captured by somebody.

    • The Baritones are the troublemakers. The Don Giovannis.

    • The Basses are the fathers, the stingy old fools or the Devil.

7. Do not talk during the performance. Sleep. It is far less dangerous than talking. Ask the person next to you to poke you if you start snoring when there is a big aria/ somebody is getting murdered.

8. If you are still to choose your first opera here is a tool:

  • Mozart - 2-3 hours. Loads of cheeky clever women. Barbers, affairs and amazing music.

  • Rossini - 2-4 hours. Many old fools tricked by barbers. Some good shooters.

  • Wagner - a lifetime. Many, many, many gods. And fire.

  • Verdi - 2-4 hours. Kings, slaves, clowns.

  • Puccini - 2-3 hours. Lots of love and poor people. Go for that!

9. Don’t wonder where the orchestra is. It is there! Underneath the floor. If you really want to see them, wait for the break and look bellow the stage. If you very strongly feel that is unfair, go to the Metropolitan Opera In New York. The real musicians in the opera are on display there.

10. Make sure you DO listen to the famous songs. They are truly astonishingly beautiful. And DO NOT be afraid to go again. The more you go, the less you'll sleep


And you want to know what my today's opera choice would be?

Mozart - The Marriage of Figaro

San Francisco Opera


bottom of page