May 27, 2012

15 annoying and inappropriate things to do at the opera house

Everyone knows that opera has the reputation of being a stuffy, boring art form for stuffy, boring people.  Groucho Marx tried to have a little fun with this state of affairs by grossly misbehaving during the scene in A Night At The Opera" in which a performance of Il Trovatore was turned into chaos by, among other things, an impromptu game of baseball with Harpo and a violin.

You laughed merrily at that, right? Everyone enjoys madcap hijinks at the opera, don't we all agree?  You bet.  Don't you want to do your part to strip our wonderful art form of stuffiness and elitism?  Of course you do.  So, in preparation for your next visit to the opera house (this could also work at those movie theater HD events from the Met), here's a list of innocent capers and high-spirited pranks you can foist upon your fellow opera-goers.  They'll probably thank you.

Your "Harry Met Sally" prop
1.  Read all the supertitles aloud, very slowly and loudly - really project.  "OH-NIGHT-OF-HORROR. MY-IDOL-WHERE-HAVE-YOU-GONE.", etc.

2.  Bring a newspaper and, during a moving death scene, blurt out all the baseball results one at a time, with great astonishment: "HOLY COW! The Dodgers KILLED the Cubs!  DURN! The Yankees got CREAMED!", etc.

3.  During passages of recitative, after every line of dialogue turn to your neighbor and loudly inquire "What'd he say? What'd he say?"

4.  Sit in the front row; wait til a choral number, then pull out a baton, turn to face the audience, and, waving your arms, shout "Let's all sing along!"

5.  Everytime one character kisses another onstage, make loud retching/gagging sounds.

6.  Whenever any character dies onstage, regardless of what opera it may be, loudly and dramatically chant Tosca's words: "E avanti a lui tremava tutta Roma!".

Who knew Wagner gave it a leit-motif??
7.  Recreating a bit from the car-trip scene in the Billy Crystal movie When Harry Met Sally, bring a big bunch of grapes, sit in the front row of the balcony, and during the overture eat the grapes, noisily spitting the seeds over the rail:  "PTOOIE!"

8.  Recreating another bit from When Harry Met Sally, during a passionate love duet, make moaning noises that grow in volume until you are screaming orgasmically.  Really sell it.

9.  Following #8 above, turn to your neighbor and loudly remark "Now you're supposed to say you want whatever I'm having".

10. During any performance of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, when the orchestra plays the opening bars of The Star-Spangled Banner in Act I, stand up, place your hand over your heart, and begin shouting out the Pledge of Allegiance.  Extra points if you sing it.

11. Three words: balcony, water balloons.

12.  During performances of any opera from Wagner's Ring cycle, keep up a loud running commentary of appearances of each leitmotif: "THAT WAS THE SPEAR MOTIVE. THAT WAS THE VALHALLA MOTIVE. THAT WAS THE WALSUNG MOTIVE.  THAT WAS HUNDING'S MOTIVE", etc.  Note: you need not concern yourself with accuracy here; feel free to make it up as you go along, randomly throwing out various motives, including fake ones: "THAT WAS THE HOCKEY MOTIVE.  THAT WAS THE CHEESEBURGER MOTIVE".

13. In any performance of Puccini's Turandot, scream out the answers to each riddle during the suspenseful music after Turandot gives them to Calaf:  "IT'S HOPE! IT'S HOPE!"  "IT'S BLOOD! IT'S BLOOD!" and so forth.

14. When the crowd cheers Escamillo upon his entrance in Act II of Carmen, keep on cheering loudly long after they stop and the "Toreador song" music begins.  For extra points, do it in the style of the cartoon character Speedy Gonzales:  "¡ARRIBA ARRIBA ANDALE! ¡YEE-HAH!"

15. When the ushers come to drag you away and turn you over to the cops after all your innocent capers and high-spirited pranks, fling your arms out dramatically and, at the top of your lungs on the highest note you can manage, sing Radames' line at the end of Act III of Aida when he surrenders to the guards: "SACERDOTE - IO RESTO A TE!!!"

My new book The Opera Zoo: Singers, Composers and Other Primates is now available from Kendall Hunt Publishing. Order online from or at or by phone from the Customer Service line at 1-800-344-9034 ext.3020.

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