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New to opera?

Treat yourself to a night at the opera and you might be surprised at what you discover. Here are our top ten myth-busting facts about our favourite artform.

Audiences at Leeds Grand Theatre © Tom Arber

1. Nothing beats a live performance

You can listen to a famous aria online or watch a performance on DVD or at the cinema, but nothing comes close to the experience of live opera singing in the theatre. Add in a spellbound audience and you know you’re in for something special.

2. You can wear whatever you like

There’s no dress code for a night at the opera. If you want to go glam and make a special occasion of it, that’s fine, but jeans are just as acceptable.

Katie Bray as Varvara and Alexander Sprague as Kudryash © Jane Hobson

3. You won’t be sat there for hours

Most operas are only a couple of hours long and there’s usually at least one interval where you can get up and stretch your legs. There are even some that only last around an hour providing a short, sharp shot of emotion without any need to leave your seat at all.

4. It’s easy to follow

Opera is simple to understand, even when it’s sung in a different language. Many operas are performed in English and, when they’re not, there are always translation screens at each side of the stage. There’s no need to worry about missing any of the action either – as singing takes longer than speaking, your eyes can easily move between stage and screen without losing the thread.

5. The human voice as you’ve never heard it before

This is definitely what sets opera apart. The lack of microphones means there’s no barrier between the performer and the audience, and you get the incredible experience of listening to someone singing over a full orchestra without any amplification. The sound really does have to be heard to be believed.

6. It’s an emotional rollercoaster

As opera is powerful, edge-of-the-seat stuff, it’s perfect for adrenaline junkies and people who love experiencing emotion in its rawest form. Nowadays, opera singers are also talented actors, so you can become immersed in all the drama from the very first note.

Alex Banfield as St Brioche, Máire Flavin as Hanna Glawari and Alex Otterburn as Cascada with the Chorus of Opera North © Robert Workman

7. It’s visually spectacular

Opera is one of the most visually stunning spectacles in all theatre. As well as some sumptuous sets and costumes, you often get a LOT of people on stage at any one time (principals, chorus and sometimes dancers as well). This always makes for an impressive sight – and amazing sound!

8. It won’t break the bank

An evening at the opera is much cheaper than most people think with tickets starting from just £15 at Leeds Grand Theatre, depending on where you choose to sit in the auditorium. If you have never been to the opera before, you can also sign up to get £20 tickets in the stalls via our Try It ON scheme, for performances from September 2019. Students and young people aged 16-29 can sign up to Opera North’s free Under 30s scheme and get tickets for just £10, as well as the chance to enjoy a selection of other benefits.

Under 30s event © Tom Arber

9. You don’t need to know anything about opera

Opera is definitely not just for those who know loads about it, nor is it as elitist as people tend to think. In fact, Opera North was recently awarded Theatre of Sanctuary status in recognition of its commitment to welcoming, including and valuing everyone who comes along to its productions, whatever their circumstances. For those who like to be armed with a certain amount of know-how beforehand, our handy In a Nutshell series (which you can find below) provides, at a glance, all the essential details on every opera we stage.

10. There’s something for everyone

Say ‘opera’ and everyone has an idea of what they think it is. However, there’s actually a wide range of styles, and the music of one composer sounds utterly unlike another so, even if you don’t like Mozart, it’s worth giving Puccini a go. As opera deals with all kinds of human experiences and emotions (think love, betrayal, jealousy, loss…), it also surprises people how relevant the productions still feel today.

Each season at Opera North, there’s always plenty to choose from, whether you prefer to be shaken by a dark tragedy or to laugh out loud at a toe-tapping comedy. Have a look at what’s coming up to see what takes your fancy.


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