Opera Basics

Opera is meant to be enjoyed as an experience for the senses; it’s a beautiful, live event with an orchestra, chorus, and unbelievably talented soloists who perform one of the most spectacular performing art forms ever created. Most opera newcomers aren’t expecting to get goosebumps—but they often do, and the closer you sit, the more overwhelming the experience. If you have questions about your opera experience, examine the frequently asked questions and answers below. Whether you are a seasoned opera veteran or are brand new to the genre, these notes will help prepare you for our upcoming performances.

Will I Understand the Show?

Knoxville Opera always presents all foreign language operas and performances with English translations that are projected above the stage in what are called “supertitles.” Supertitles help the audience understand the lyrics and dialogue happening on stage. However, we still recommend that those that need glasses, bring them.

Before attending a show, you may want to read up on the story to learn more about it and find a storyline that’s a good match for you. You’ll be surprised at how even the smallest preparation will benefit your experience. Also, listen to a recording of the opera, excerpts, or something else by the same composer to get the music in your ears. Attending a pre-performance lecture is another way to complement your opera experience. Contact us at hello@knoxvilleopera.com for available lectures and outreach options.

What Should I Wear?

There’s no dress code at the Knoxville Opera. Many opera-goers wear business attire or business casual clothes, but you can dress up or dress down to whatever makes you comfortable or excited about your evening. Our goal is for you to enjoy yourself in your own way, so drop any preconceived notions and join us for an incredible evening with the performing arts.

What Time Should I Arrive?

Performances start promptly. Be sure to allow enough time for traffic and parking. Latecomers and those who exit during the performance cannot be admitted to the auditorium until an appropriate interval.

An opera preview, hosted by Maestro Salesky, begins 45 minutes prior to each performance.

Who Goes to the Opera?

Everyone and anyone who wants to enjoy a rare, dramatic, and passionate event! Great for most ages, newcomers, and seasoned opera-goes, the Knoxville Opera is an affordable and exciting experience for all. It’s even better with a group, so bring your friends, someone from another generation, a date, and anyone else who’s ready for a great night. Whether you go by yourself, on a date, or with a group of friends, prepare yourself for a good time!

Opera can be exciting, romantic, passionate, murderous, suspenseful, and hilarious. With a variety of stories and styles, check out the show’s story in advance to find a good match for you.[/column_1]

Is the Opera Expensive?

Hardly!  At Knoxville Opera, single opera seats start at $23 for adults and $15 for children and students.  Even deeper discounts are available for groups, subscribers, and season ticket holders.

Bringing a group of high school students to the opera? Great! Bring them to the student dress rehearsal for a great learning experience and low admission rates.

What Should I Know During the Show?

Prepare yourself for an amazing spectacle of music, scenery, costume, and lighting.  Tune your ears to voices that need no amplification, even with a full orchestra in the room.  Get involved with the story and the characters—let yourself be swallowed up by the truly remarkable experience.

To heighten your opera experience, we recommend sitting as close to the stage as possible.  Doing so will allow the powerful performances and sound to sweep over you.  At this proximity, you can hear the singers breathe and the bows on the strings.  In these seats, you can see the expression on a singer’s face and the look in their eyes!  In addition, the scenery is more effective at closer ranges.  Along with finding a great seat, we recommend that audience members supplement their opera experience by immersing themselves into the show with the following tips:

Get invested in the performance.  Try to predict outcomes and plot twists, or try to identify with character and his/her progression throughout the performance.

Keep your eyes open.  Look for visual details.  Are dominant colors and color schemes being shown; is there a message there?  What color is the lighting at key moments?  Examine the costumes; what do they say about the characters?  Look at the structure of the scenery; how does it fit together and support the action?  Observe the interactions amongst the conductor, orchestra, and singers.

Keep your ears open.  How does the music contribute to the show?  What is the music saying when no one is singing?  Does the orchestra ever take on a character?

Is there historical significance to this particular opera?  What’s going on in that geographical region or America during the portrayed time period?  Are historical figures mentioned, or do they actually appear in the opera?

Also, out of respect for the other opera-goers and performers, please:

  • Turn off your cell phone and other electronic devices.
  • Photography and recording of any kind is NOT permitted.
  • Don’t whisper, talk, eat, or open candy wrappers.
  • If possible, please stay through the bows at the end of the show to avoid disturbing other patrons.

At times, the house staff will make requests of audience members.  They are there to assist you to your seats, as well as help you if any unusual situation or emergency arises.

How Long is the Opera?

Expect to attend an opera performance for 2-3 hours. Operas can be long, but not much longer than some movies, and there’s almost always one intermission to stretch, use the restroom, and get a drink.

Operas tend to be long because all the words are sung, which tends to prolong the plot’s progression. Along with vocalists needing rest, there are also set, scenery, and costume changes that require intermissions.

When Do I Applaud?

It is acceptable to applaud after an overture or “aria” (expressive melody, usually performed by a singer), after an ensemble has finished singing, at the end of each act, and at curtain calls. Please applaud when performances move you, and show the performers your appreciation by shouting “Bravo!” for a male performer, “Brava!” for a female performer, or “Bravi!” for an ensemble. If you’re ever unsure if it’s appropriate for applause or not, follow the lead of the rest of the audience.