Living in Paris, the Opéra is an intrinsic part of French art and culture.
My first visit of the Paris Opera, aka the “Palais Garnier”, was during a guided tour, almost a decade ago. The intricate details, the history behind its construction, the hidden messages in the architecture, the majestic interiors and mesmerizing atmosphere are enough to make just one visit seem like an escape from reality.
Although the Opera is still mainly associated with high society and often seen as an elitist activity, over the years, it has become more popular and democratized. So wherever you are in the world, knowing the rules to follow while attending an opera, classical concert, or even ballet performance is part of our journey to lovely ladies.
So today we’ll get into the top 5 etiquette rules to put your best foot forward at the prestigious venue.
1)- The Dress Code
As #LovelyLadies, it’s advised to look your best in such an elegant atmosphere. Indeed, historically the dress code was very formal but the democratization of culture could not leave the opera aside, which has always suffered from its elitist reputation. Rolf Liebermann, (grand director from 1973 to 1980) is credited with having declared that “sneaker jeans” were accepted in the Palais Garnier. But that doesn’t mean that it should be the case to miss out on an opportunity to dress up and look fabulous.
Makeup should be sophisticated and glam.
Here are a few elegant looks to inspire your style choices:
Below is a picture of Soprano and opera singer Pretty Yende, who is currently playing the role of Manon in the lyrical opera at ‘l’Opéra de Paris’.
There are fashion capitals such as Paris and Milan, where the opera tradition is to be formally dressed, even cities like Prague which caters to an older clientele, it’s best to wear a more elegant attire.
I would advise that you follow a formal dress code, accessorise with feminine touches such as scarfs, brooches and lace accents. The opera is experienced by some as a unique show where it is appropriate, as a respect to the orchestra and the singers, to be on your beat presentation. So don’t hesitate to go all out and remember, in the wise words of Oscar Wilde, “you can never be overdressed or overeducated”.
2)- Be punctual
Being on time is a sign of discipline and good manners. Some performances put a time limit on late arrivals and may not allow seating after a certain time. So it’s best to be safe than sorry. In this case, being fashionably late is actually frowned upon. As, even if you are allowed in, finding your seat is disruptive to others in your row and can even disturb the performers depending on the venue and your seating location. Therefore, best approach is to treat the show as an Time-sensitive appointment, like catching a flight, and arrive suitably in advance.
It also allows you to skip the line that picks up as the start of the performance draws near. It is advisable to use the cloak room and check in your coat and other items that could be a hindrance to you and others during the evening.
It is indeed a matter of both politeness to others and of safety, because if there is any sort of emergency, coats and bags in the aisles will impede evacuation.
Owing to these circumstances, for both safety and comfort reasons, it’s best to leave your cumbersome belongings with the venues cloakroom attendant.
Also being on time doubles as an opportunity to plan a mini-photoshoot to glamorize your insta-feed. The less people, the more space to capture those flawless poses you’ve been practicing!
3)- Keep your composure
Given the austere surroundings and caliber of attendees, it’s advised to be on your best behaviour. Operas and other performances of classical content require a certain level of decorum. With the rise of the right to property with the Age of Enlightenment and the Victorian sense of propriety that spread beyond the confines of Great Britain, the setting has become more rigid over the last 150 years. Ìt’s advised to keep cel phones on airplane mode or at least silent during the duration of the performance and some venues actually prohibit their use.
As lovely ladies, you could be invited to the performance for a date, although you are in a romantic setting, it’s important to avoid PDA with your beau. Although most performances are mostly in dimmed lighting, discretion is everything and kissing and other forms of touch can get cringe and uncomfortable for other guests. Furthermore, couples who snuggle and put their heads together can block the sight-line of those in the seats behind them.
There is usually at least one intermission that allows attendees to get some refreshments, use the restroom, make phone calls and whatever else. Also, you shouldn’t leave your belongings in your seats during the pause if you exit the room. They should be under your supervision at all times and most operas do not take responsibility for any losses or stolen items- especially due to negligence.
Tip: No IG scrolling during the performance ladies. Put your phone on silent and tuck it away until the curtains close.
4)- Interacting with other attendees
Keep things light and cordial. Most people understand the social stature of the event and will be open to small talk.
It’s perfectly ok to want to say hello and interact with those seated next to you.
Most people attending such events are well mannered and would be interested in a light conversation before the performance begins.
Once the performance starts it’s best to remain silence and not disrupt with any chatter. I remember at a classical play at the théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, my friend and I basically witnessed someone shush another guest for whispering. So depending on the audience- you might just want to remain relatively silent.
5)- A proper ending
At the end of the performance, it is appropriate for attendees to show their appreciation and enjoyment. The customary form of cheering on the performers for their efforts is applause. For classical performances, standing ovations can be in order.
A mini lesson in etiquette is with Italian audiences or more extroverted ones, if the performance was particularly memorable or enjoyable, audience members will shout “Bravo!” (for a male performer) and “Brava!” (for a female performer) when singers or musicians take their individual bows or “Bravi!” for the whole ensemble. Usually people use the generic term Bravo but with this mini etiquette lesson, you should know better now. This show of energy by the audience is a sort of release after having sat still and silent for so long. However, as lovely ladies, it is better to remain composed and feminine in your show of enthusiasm for the performance.
On a final note, this is when you can take your time and make a fashionable exit. As elegant women, there is really no need to rush toward the exits, you can elegantly stroll through the corridors on your way out, after basking in the afterglow of a wonderful performance, departing at your leisure.
Have you ever been to the opera? What is your favourite city to enjoy a nice classical performance? Any favorite arias? Share your experiences below?