First Timer’s Guide

This page answers some of the most commonly asked questions about opera performances and etiquette. Let our First Timer’s Guide help you through your first time 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.

When should I arrive?

Make sure to allow sufficient time for traffic, parking, and weather. For public transport, check out Metro Transit. Performances start promptly, and once the doors close, latecomers will not be seated until an appropriate break in the action.

For a performance at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul

  • The Box Office opens 90 minutes prior to the performance start time.
  • The lobby opens one hour prior to the performance start time, including concession stands. Opera Insights also begin one hour prior to curtain.
  • The Music Theater opens 30 minutes prior to the performance start time.

For a performance at the Luminary Arts Center in Minneapolis

  • The lobby and Box Office opens 60 minutes prior to the performance start time.
  • The theater opens 30 minutes prior to the performance start time.

What if I arrive late?

Latecomers or patrons who leave the hall after the performance has started 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!” or “Brava!” for individual performers, or “Bravi!” to everyone.

What accessibility services do you offer?

We offer a range of accessibility services with the goal of creating a more inclusive space where our performances and events are accessible to all. You can indicate your needs when ordering tickets, by calling our Patron Services department at 612-333-6669, or by emailing [email protected]. Additional information on services at the Ordway and the Luminary are also available online.

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. There is information about each show right here on our website – including plot synopses and performer information.  Check out our shows pages to learn more!

Are there translations?

Yes. English translations are projected above the stage for every performance, so there is no need to learn the story ahead of time. The English translations make it easy to understand opera in any language. The synopsis provided in the program is a great reference point to review before the show if you want to be prepared for what’s to come.

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 on the opera’s information page.

Are children allowed?

Children six years old+ are welcome at most performances. Some performances are appropriate for younger children, while others are not recommended for children. Please call the Ticket Office at 612-333-6669 for age recommendations.

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 Target Atrium on the mezzanine level one hour before curtain to learn more about the opera you are about to attend.

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