Friday, September 3, 2010

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Dear AriaGirl:
I’m about to attend my first opera, but I’m a little nervous about when I’m supposed to applaud. Is it true that applause is considered rude?
Charles G.

Dear Charles:

Congratulations! I hope you have an amazing experience. First, I want you to take a deep breath. You should enjoy your first opera, not worry about what other people are thinking. But there are some general rules of thumb. For example, some people consider it rude to clap until the end of the act. (In fact, Wagner didn’t want the audience to clap at all until the end of his opera Parsifal.) However, most people will clap after the “big numbers” – those show-stopping tunes that made the opera famous. I recommend waiting until the people around you start to clap, and then you can join them.

And if you really enjoyed the performance, you can yell “bravo” or “brava” (for men and women, respectively). Just don’t whistle – in Italian, a whistle is the equivalent of booing!

Got a question about opera? Send it in to

Ciao for now!

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