First Timer’s Guide

Whether you’ve only seen operas on TV, heard about them through the grapevine, or ended up on this page by accident, there’s always something to learn. This page answers some of the most commonly asked questions about opera performances and etiquette. Let our First Timer’s Guide guide you through your first night at the Opera!


What should I wear?

While you might see evening gowns and dinner jackets on the opening night of the opera season, a typical night at the opera isn’t a formal event, and there’s never a dress code. Many people consider the opera a big night out and like to dress up, but just as many come in khakis or jeans. Be yourself and wear something comfortable. Head over to our Pinterest page for fashion inspiration for Opening Nights or other special events at Minnesota Opera.


When should I arrive?

Please arrive on time, because performances start promptly. Make sure to allow sufficient time for traffic, parking, and weather. Visit our alerts page for up-to-the-minute traffic and weather info.


What if I arrive late?

Latecomers or patrons who leave will be allowed in at intermission, an appropriate break, or will be seated at the discretion of the management.


When should I applaud?

At the opera, unlike at the symphony or at a recital, it is customary to clap after well-executed solos and small ensemble numbers. (Very similar to a jazz performance.) If you really liked it, it’s perfectly acceptable to yell “Bravo!” for men and “Brava!” for women, or “Bravi!” to everyone.


What do I need to know?

You do not need to have extensive background knowledge about opera to attend a performance. Opera is an extraordinary feast for the eyes and ears, and with English translations projected above the stage, it’s as easy as watching a foreign film. Some people enjoy savoring the experience as a delightful surprise, while others like to carefully prepare and learn all they can before the curtain goes up. There is no right or wrong way.


Are there translations?

Yes. English translations are projected above the stage for every performance, so there is no need to learn the story or wear a decoder ring to the show. The English translations make it easy to understand opera sung in any language. You can follow every twist and turn of the plot without missing a beat.


How long does an opera last?

An opera usually runs between two and three hours. The estimated run time for each performance can be found under the opera’s information page.


How do I learn more about the opera?

Opera Insights – Free, fun and informative half-hour sessions held prior to each performance. Join the Opera’s artistic staff in Ordway’s Marzitelli Foyer one hour before curtain to learn more about the opera you are about to attend.

Behind the Curtain – Explores the music, history and design of each opera. Classes will feature talks led by opera experts and informative discussions with members of the cast and creative team.


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