The Metropolitan Opera’s 2018-2019 season opens on Monday, September 24 with mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča and tenor Roberto Alagna in a brand-new staging of Saint-Saëns’s biblical epic Samson et Dalila.
Far from being exclusionary (or even expensive), an outing to the Metropolitan Opera is among the most thrilling and exhilarating attractions available to any New York City visitor. Here are some tips for those about to attend their first opera at the Met.
PREPARING FOR YOUR VISIT
- Tickets are available to suit any budget. Some of the best bargains can be had with “Obstructed View” seats. Your experience in an obstructed view seat may be affected by one or more of the following: a structural fixture; sightlines wherein the proscenium obscures part of the stage; sitting immediately behind the giant foam head of the season corporate sponsor’s costumed mascot; seat is technically a bathroom stall inside the Grand Tier-level restroom; lead soprano doesn’t like her profile from that angle and insists that those seated in this section keep one hand over their downstage-dominant eye at all times.
- If you’ll be seeing Verdi’s La Traviata, be sure to prepare slices of toasted bread to throw at the stage during Act I, when Gastone asks Baron Douphol to offer a toast to Violetta and the revelers. This and other “wacky” audience participation stunts have kept midnight performances of this opera running continually since 1852.
BEFORE THE CURTAIN RISES
- If you find yourself with no other plans on the morning or afternoon before the opera, arrive at Lincoln Center as early as possible for a more extensive Met experience. Depending on the day, you can take a tour of the Metropolitan Opera House; shop at the Met Store; look for the shallow depression in the concrete of the Lincoln Center plaza where the body of missing Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa is rumored to have been entombed; or go backstage and help the lead performers and chorus members’ parents finish painting the sets and sewing the costumes for your performance.
- As a concession to the dignity and feelings of the coloratura singing the brutally difficult role of the Queen of the Night, before the curtain rises on Mozart’s The Magic Flute you should elect one (and only one) “captain” of your seating level permitted to shout “WOMP-wommmmp!” any time she blows one of the top F6 notes of her big Act II rage aria, “Der Hölle Rache.”
- Double-check your collapsible top hat to make absolutely sure you have stowed it properly under your seat. An improperly-secured opera hat which suddenly springs back into shape produces a loud “THOPPP!” sound that will interrupt the opera and mark you as some sort of turbo-rube.
DURING THE OPERA
- Cheering loudly outside the confines of an acknowledged applause break is disruptive and distracting. Instead, silently show the performer you’re enjoying their singing, by lighting her or him up from your seat with a laser pointer.
- DO NOT use your phone to send texts or read social media posts. Doing so will interrupt the Facebook Live stream of the show that you’re sharing with your friends.
- Members of the string section play with such a high level of energy that sometimes the bow of their instrument gets caught in one of the strings and is fired out of the orchestra pit and into the audience. The lucky fan who catches it may keep it as a souvenir. If it lands among the seats in the orchestra level, however, the movement of the score is considered to be still in play. The instrument should be left where it lands until the umpire declares the scene to be dead, before which singers may continue to advance.
- It’s juvenile to shout-sing “Kill The Wabbit! Kill the Waaaa-bit!!!” at the first appearance of a spear during Wagner’s Die Walküre. Wait for the appropriate musical cue to appear in Act III, and shout it with the rest of the audience and the members of the percussion section.
- During Act I of Puccini’s Turandot, patrons seated in the six rows closest to the stage should watch for a discreet signal from the conductor that the beheading scene is coming up shortly. Then and only then should they raise the clear plastic sheets off the floor and over their clothes.
- During baseball playoff season, patrons seated immediately adjacent to the left or right sides of the stage may quietly respond to chorus members’ whispered requests for an updated Yankees score, or ignore them, at their individual discretion.
- When a senior dignitary is in the audience, the FAA will declare the interior of the Metropolitan Opera House to be protected airspace under the command and control of the Secret Service. The flying of remote-controlled quadricopters inside the Met will therefore be banned for the duration of that performance.
- Feel free to horse around with any instruments you find in the orchestra pit during intermission. It’s the only way the musicians will learn to always use the bike locks provided to them by the concertmaster at the start of the season.
- The “B” in “B.A.S.E.” jumping stands for “Bridges,” not “Balconies.” A parachute jump from one of the Met’s upper balconies WILL NOT count towards your B.A.S.E. certification and is thus strongly discouraged.
- Do not drop your greasy chicken bones to the floor under your seat. The Met sells fried chicken in buckets for a good and obvious reason.
- It is traditional to throw celebratory tiaras onto the stage once a soprano has completed the hat trick of singing the lead queen roles in all three of Donizetti’s Tudor Trilogy operas in a single Met season (Anne Boleyn in “Anna Bolena”; Mary, Queen of Scots, in “Maria Stuarda”; and Elizabeth I in “Roberto Devereux”). The conductor might temporarily halt the opera so that the crowns may be cleared from the stage and the stage resurfaced if necessary before resuming.
AFTER THE CURTAIN
- If you’re going to throw cartons of cigarettes to a favorite performer in lieu of flowers during the curtain call, make sure they’re the singer’s preferred brand. This information can usually be found in the Met’s season program.
- Be sure to remain in your seat after “The Barber Of Seville” until the house lights come up. There is a post-credits aria that intriguingly sets up next season’s Met production of “The Marriage Of Figaro.”
- Continuing to carry a used Metropolitan Opera ticket in your wallet for months after the performance to impress a first date is universally considered a pretty lame move and is highly recommended.