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Basic Etiquette for Attending the Opera

Simon Whalley

An accomplished musical leader, Simon Whalley has held Director of Music positions at such institutions as Eton College, Windsor Castle, and most recently, the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. A self-described voracious consumer of culture, Simon Whalley spends his free time attending everything from museums to ballets and operas.

Going to the opera is an enjoyable and fairly simple experience, as long as patrons follow common rules of etiquette regarding:
- Clothing. Many people enjoy dressing up when they attend the opera, but it is not always necessary to wear formal attire. If a performance mentions a specific dress code, then it must be followed by all attendees. However, if no dress code is mentioned, the audience can dress in either formal, semi-formal, or casual attire.
- Arrival. Walking into the theater once the performance has begun is distracting and rude to the already-seated audience members. To avoid this, individuals should arrive to the opera about 30 minutes before curtain time. This gives them plenty of time to find their seats and prepare for the performance. Ushers also may bar late arrivals from entering the theater until the first overture or act to limit distractions once the opera begins.
- Applause. All audience members must demonstrate a certain level of respect for their fellow attendees and the performers when they applaud. Most applause occurs after an overture or following an outstanding aria, which is an elaborate melody sung by one person. Applause can also be given at the end of each scene.

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