2021-2022 Season

Opera Etiquette

4 Things to Remember to Do @Opera

by Pollyanna Eyler, dramaturg

Follow these steps and you’ll be in-step with the operagoers.

  • Timing Arrive early to observe other operagoers and to comply with any and all COVID policies. Look for BYU students on assignment, friends and family of performers, season ticket holders, and those that arrive in high style.
  • Audio The Franklin and Florence Jepperson Madsen Recital Hall is acoustically enhanced for sound distribution – so please silence your phone, watches, and any other electronic devices as these distract the performers and from the performance.
  • Know Before You Go Study the plot(s) of the opera before you go. If you need to brush up on the specific scenes, check out this link:
  • Supertitles* These are the electronically-projected translated words above the stage during the opera. Contrary to popular belief, translating an opera from the language of the librettist (who wrote the words to the opera) into the language of the audience has been a common practice and desirable way for the composer (who wrote the music) and the entire opera company to increase profits. While some patrons prefer to purchase a printed libretto (the translation of the script), supertitles on a reader board imply that the audience is all on the same page. According to the NYTimes, electronic supertitles first appeared on the New York City Opera stage in 1983 to make opera more accessible to the audience. Here are four ways to watch this relatively new phenomenon:
    • Operagoer Level – If you’ve learned the libretto translation of the song by heart, you needn’t watch the scrolling screen.
    • Semi-Operagoer Level – If you want to reaffirm the meaning of a phrase, a quick glance at the screen offers a refresher geared to each patron’s needs.
    • Semi-Greenhorn Level – Look at the supertitles until you get the gist of the story, then allow the emphasized notes and the performers’ nuanced expressions to wash over you with the confidence of an operagoer (my personal favorite fallback if I haven’t brushed up on my libretto).
    • Greenhorn Level – Keep an eye on the supertitles, but allow your view to take in all the action occurring on-stage. Like learning to ride a bicycle, you’ll eventually feel safe in taking off the training wheels and freeing yourself to enjoy the show!

* If the supertitles are blank, it usually implies that the vocalists are repeating recent phrases, a good time to take in the whole stage!


One Comment

  • Jamie

    I love the opera etiquette information! Opera can feel like such a foreign and maybe intimidating world at first, but brushing up on the how-to’s of opera-going can make you more comfortable to understand and enjoy the performance! Thank you!

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