The experience of performing classical music is endlessly fascinating for music lovers. Marcia Butler, a former oboist and one of our very own Opera Fan(atics), has written about this in her new memoir, The Skin Above My Knee. She describes what it is like to perform in an orchestra and the aching love that brought her to the world of music. The Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan is central to the book and serves as a leitmotif throughout the memoir, which has garnered a great deal of national press.
Marcia attends at least 20 productions each season and, as a devotee of all things opera, has graciously shared some observations and suggestions, for new and seasoned opera lovers alike, regarding the vagaries of Met Opera etiquette. She begins with her own mistakes.
Marcia’s Met Opera Manifesto
(Or, don’t wear sneakers, like I do.)
- That’s right. No sneakers. Because you will get dirty looks.
- Speaking of footwear, I challenge you to wear 4” heels and not trip on the stairs. You will trip. But you will recover. With appropriate aplomb. You’re at the opera. Sequins are welcome.
- Yell “Brava” (to the female lead) and “Bravo” (to the male lead) at least once during the curtain calls. It’s just a really nice thing to do. They work so hard up there.
- Go to the edge of the pit during intermission and talk to the musicians. Ask questions. They love it. Really, they do.
- Be prepared to get sleepy at least once or twice during the show. You have my permission to close your eyes; possibly doze. (No snoring.) My goodness, the thing is four to five hours long. Just what were these composers thinking, anyway? (Kidding.)
- Don’t bother spending time reading the long synopsis on Wikipedia the week before. You’ll never remember it. Plus, there are supertitles. Plus, it’s usually about a man and a woman in love and then one of them dies. (Usually the woman – no surprise.)
- Bring binoculars. It’s just a lot of fun to track the sweat dripping down the singers’ faces (and other stuff they’d rather not have you notice).
- Even if you’re not sleepy, close your eyes every now and then and listen to the acoustics of the best opera hall in the world. (I’m not biased.)
- Understand, right now, that the MET Orchestra is one of the finest orchestras on the planet Earth. And they work like dogs but play like the Gods.
- Understand that opera is an art form of unparalleled profundity, beauty and majesty. And that it is also just the best entertainment, ever.