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Debate: Should you dress up for the opera?

Is the evening's magic lost if you don't wear black tie?

By Rose Slavin (Former Assistant Content Producer)

21 October 2016 at 5.30pm | 136 Comments

Most opera houses won’t enforce a dress code. But the notion of what to wear has remained a sticking point for years. So long, in fact, that for many seasoned opera lovers, it's as tiresome as its sister question from the world of classical music: 'Should you clap between movements?'

That said, we're still asked almost every day by soon-to-be audience members about the 'correct' attire for an evening at the Royal Opera House – so: should you dress up for the opera?

Kasper Holten, Director of Opera for The Royal Opera, says yes.

‘Going to the opera is and should be special, a treat for yourself, where you go far away from everyday life and into the stuff that really matters in life,' he says. 'You will be seeing and hearing amazing artists who have trained for years and years performing for you in incredibly beautiful surroundings. Celebrate it.’

The idea that attending an opera is a special occasion is shared by many other companies too, in varying degrees. Sydney Opera House says wearing a tux is not the norm, but they do insist ‘shoes are worn at all times’ – Einstein on the Beach-wear isn't encouraged for opera-goers making the trip from nearby Bondi.

The Metropolitan Opera won’t turn you away for wearing jeans, but there’s an inference what you choose to wear is part of the whole performance of the evening. Visiting Lincoln Centre is a ‘great excuse to get dressed up’ – and if you do, you might be one of the chosen few that makes onto their style blog – Last Night at The Met.

Glyndebourne offers more of a nudge, calling formal evening dress ‘customary’ for the summer festival and even warns audiences about the perils of the British weather. The tradition reaches back to when the festival was founded by John Christie and his wife Audrey Mildmay, who felt wearing your finest attire was a way of showing respect for the artistry and talent on stage.

For many, the idea of donning your glad rags is met with horror or alarm. How can opera be for 'everyone' if not everyone feels they'd fit in wearing a fancy outfit? But, as Kasper Holten explains, it's not about the clothes, it's about the whole experience of the night out:

‘Dressing up doesn’t mean being able to afford Armani or Prada,’ says Holten. ‘It can mean putting on your favourite jeans, the dress you use on very special occasions, making an effort to make yourself feel special, to feel that this is something special. So don’t go to the opera to dress up and impress others – but impress yourself.’

We asked our Twitter followers what they thought:

So what do you think – should you dress up for the opera?
Let us know in the comments below:

This article has 136 comments

  1. Patrick John Gordon Shaw responded on 21 October 2016 at 6:59pm Reply

    Yes - if possible and weather and means of travel to the ROH permit! It is terrific and indeed inspiring for those on stage to look out at and perform in front of an audience that has taken the trouble!

    • ML responded on 23 October 2016 at 3:32pm

      Performers on the stage can't see the audience due to the glaring stage lighting and the house lights being dimmed. They can only see the audience on the rare occasions that the audience goes on clapping for so long (often with standing ovations) that the house lights are switched on while curtain calls continue.

    • Clive Burton responded on 27 October 2016 at 10:42am

      If people can afford the eye-watering Opera prices - and, to a lesser extent, the cost of a ballet ticket - they can afford to dress sufficiently well not to cause offence. I am not talking black tie , but shorts and vest in the (expensive) bar is not acceptable to many people on their 'special' evening out.

  2. Coppelia responded on 21 October 2016 at 7:03pm Reply

    Any sort of dress code would be at odds with London's 'live and let live' attitude; and hardly sends out the message that opera is for everyone. Just because someone has not made an effort with their clothes does not mean opera is any less "special" to them. Personally I couldn't care less what people wear, it's their behaviour that shows respect for the artistry and talent on stage, not their appearance. I expect the regular booers are some of the most smartly dressed!

  3. David responded on 22 October 2016 at 8:28am Reply

    The Metropolis focussed approach to dress code takes no account of the many people who live outside London, maybe a couple of hundred miles away, who have to struggle with lengthy train journeys, hotels, bulky luggage and so on for whom smart casual is the best, indeed the only compromise. As Coppelia argues, the key issue is behaviour - courtesy and consideration for those on stage and around you.

  4. StephenB responded on 22 October 2016 at 8:55am Reply

    People watching is one of the pleasures of any social occasion. It isn't much fun looking at old men in shorts anywhere but the park or the beach and I am always suspicious of young people in jeans sitting in the Stalls. I bet they haven't paid! That gets very annoying when I have paid. But other than that what people wear is their business. Just as it is my business not to like what they wear!

    • Jane Ennis responded on 23 October 2016 at 1:51pm

      Designer jeans are OK....

    • Betty May responded on 23 October 2016 at 2:52pm

      Why are you suspicious that young people in jeans sitting in the stalls probably haven't paid? If I wanted to treat any of my grandchildren to a night at the opera that is exactly where they'd be and dressed as they wished too!!!

    • friederike responded on 23 October 2016 at 8:21pm

      although I agree that opera is a special occasion and one should dress up, I find it ignorant for you to place this particularly upon young people as most of those jean wearing villains you describe I have noticed are mostly middle aged men (also I dont know if you've tried getting into operas without paying but as far as I am aware, not a big thing amongst the youth)

    • Paul responded on 22 December 2017 at 10:58pm

      I bet they haven't paid!

      How can you possibly make that assumption based purely on how someone is dressed. That’s ridiculous! As for dress code, it’s a reflection on modern times and I agree with many here that it’s behaviour not appearance that counts. For one I, would rather see smart phones banned than smart jeans.

  5. Bruce responded on 22 October 2016 at 1:46pm Reply

    I wear a suit and a bow tie. I don't care what anyone else wears.

  6. Gillian responded on 22 October 2016 at 2:25pm Reply

    Many years ago at a performance on New Year's Eve at the Royal Opera House I sat next to 'Snow White'. I commented on how wonderful she and her boyfriend looked (he was dressed as a harlequin) and she told me that at the Met it was a tradition to go in fancy dress on New Year's Eve and then go on to a party. Maybe we should start doing the same thing here.

  7. matteo gallanti responded on 22 October 2016 at 3:45pm Reply

    Without having to wear a tuxedo or even a tie, a little more effort in london would be nice as much more than any other opera house we see hidious looks

  8. Barry responded on 22 October 2016 at 4:19pm Reply

    Opera has an image problem, it’s unfortunate but true. It seems to be worse in the UK where many associate it with snobbery and elitism. I think these associations are ridiculous but we have to live with them. If opera companies wish to continue receiving public money, they must avoid presenting their critics with easy targets and appear as welcoming as possible. I have actually met people who insist that opera audiences always wear black tie. Unbelievable but true, and dangerous for the future of opera in this country.

    • Jane Ennis responded on 23 October 2016 at 1:55pm

      As I said in a previous post, I love to dress up anyway, but I disagree with imposing a dress code, especially black tie. The singers and orchestra are not performing the opera to look at us, after all.........we are there to look at and listen to them.

    • C. Maeder responded on 27 October 2016 at 10:57am

      I fully agree, I have many friends who feel ill at ease going to Covent Garden , therefore don't go.I never dress up can't see the point.
      I come to hear and see music not what other people wear. The Opera House should have special nights, no suits and ties.

  9. Mark Richards responded on 22 October 2016 at 4:27pm Reply

    I say yes. Everyone has special clothes and at Norma it was lovely to see so many people having made the effort to dress up. The ROH is a beautiful theatre and so like football fans dressing in club colours etc. we should make the effort to show our "support" as Opera fans for the performers and our surroundings.

  10. Kenneth Y responded on 22 October 2016 at 8:30pm Reply

    Going out, whether to the opera, ballet or the theatre is one of life’s great treat so one should dress accordingly. I have been visiting the ROH regularly for 25 years or more, and have defiantly seen a relaxing of what many people believe to be expectable. It is however understandable that many people visiting London may not have been practical to pack clothing for the opera and some may have decided to visit the ROH at the last minuet. In a single night at the ROH I have witnessed, shorts, ripped jeans and t-shirts at one end of the scale and black tie at the other. I have however never seen white tie, which is surly the correct dress for a night at the opera… I would recommend a dark suit for gents and a suitably elegant dress for ladies, in this attire one can enjoy ones evening without felling in any way self-aware.

  11. anon responded on 22 October 2016 at 9:35pm Reply

    Of course it is nice to see people who are wearing their evening finery but at the end of the day it doesn't matter a jolt what people are wearing. I'm one of those young people who work very hard to be able to afford stall tickets,and I am happy to spend my money on being able to attend performances by wonderful artists. It is important to encourage young people to attend the theatre, regardless of what they might be wearing.

  12. Richard Thomson responded on 22 October 2016 at 11:36pm Reply

    A decade or two ago, I was refused admission to the Cairo opera house because I wasn't wearing a tie. I was told they had a strict dress code because all the major European houses had one. I said I'd never worn a tie at the ROH or Vienna or Paris etc etc. I still didn't get in. Restrictive things, dress codes.

    In 2016, if it's good enough to wear on the stage, it's good enough to wear in the auditorium. In other words, almost anything. I feel sorry for the orchestra - the only ones with no choice at all (the men at least). In an age dominated by uniforms, whether at work or at public events, maybe the opera house is the place where the widest range of dress is publicly on view. And it doesn't cause a fuss. A cathedral of tolerance indeed.

    Surely you show respect at the opera not by what you wear but by not lighting yourself up to consult your mobile every few minutes, by not trying so hard to be the first one to scream out 'bravo' and by not clapping until the music has actually finished. Endings are sometimes good. Sometimes silence is the most profound, most respectful response to music.

    • Nico Tillmann responded on 26 October 2016 at 7:54pm

      Thank you for your wounderful comment, I absolutely agree

      I had the same experience in Cairo and found it ridiculous.

      Adarionally I prefer polite visitors above well dressed once with lack of manners

  13. Nicholas Drey responded on 23 October 2016 at 9:42am Reply

    Dressing up is fun and undoubtedly enhances the experience for me if I am in my glad rags and others are dressed up too. However, many people feel alienated from our great cultural institutions and events, a dress code just reinforces this. Further I often come straight from work to the ROH, my work attire is necessarily informal, and it simply not possible for me to travel with a suitcase! Perhaps a solution is to encourage dressing up at certain performances so that people have a choice, and perhaps can be encouraged to push the boat out for some. I have had times when I have felt overdressed and its dispiriting when so many are in drab everyday clothes. I liked the idea of fancy dress on New Years Eve, that was mentioned above. But whatever we wear it's the performance that is 99% of the experience, and as many people as possible should be encouraged to come and enjoy it.

  14. Marguerite responded on 23 October 2016 at 10:03am Reply

    As a visit to the Royal Opera House should be accessible to everyone, dress code should not be so restricted that not everyone can afford it. It is a given that disrespect like wearing bermudas and flip flops would not be the right attire! I do agree it is not possible for those outside london without a hotelroom nearby to change into finery. Therefore a 'smart casual' dresscode is just right for all to be able to come and enjoy. I do agree though that if you are in a position to dress up for the occasion, it is a wonderful thing to do. Often I am the only one in a long evening dress or one of very few. It is starting to be an exception, which is such a shame. I appreciate the distinguished history of the theatre as well as the artistry of the performers who, I know especially in ballet, have spent some 20 years to perfect their craft. I like to honour the occasion and show them by my presence as well as taking care of my appearance just how much I appreciate the privilege of being present. Thank you Royal Opera House, you are a great part of my life.

  15. Bryan Moore responded on 23 October 2016 at 10:05am Reply

    It;s a matter of practicality. When I come to the ROH I travel up by train early and take the opportunity to look round London and it wouldn't be appropriate to wear a dinner jacket to the sorts I places I find myself sometimes before getting to the event. So although I would love to dress up as a compliment to the artists, I limit this to a smart suit and tie and good polished shoes which looks smart but not over the top. I might say that these days, even that feels overdressed in tourist London!

  16. Laraine keable responded on 23 October 2016 at 10:06am Reply

    Yres a night at the opera is special and you should make an effort...jeans are not suitable

  17. Bryan Moore responded on 23 October 2016 at 10:08am Reply

    One further comment. I would far rather see the House filled with happy people dressed comfortably and enjoying the performance with every intention of returning than an elite of people dressed in evening clothes done to make a statement and draw atention to themselves.

  18. Dan Jones responded on 23 October 2016 at 10:16am Reply

    One should be able to feel comfortable in themselves. The opera should be open to all, dress codes restrict this. There is indeed a bad image in the U.K. around the snobbynes of opera. I find it quite sad that some people believe that you should wear a suit as a minimum. Many people can't afford and don't own suits, let alone evening dress. There are many affordable tickets to the opera, but to imposes an outdated attitude of black tie, only creates further social separation.
    I personally dress smart, but on the lower end of smart (smart trousers and a shirt), because that's how I like to go to the opera. I would never judge anyone for wearing jeans and a t-shirt. If your there, your there to enjoy the music, performance, and the artistry. What matters is keeping the art alive and opening it up to more and more people.

  19. Yes, you should dress up for opera. An opera house should not need to enforce a dress code, but it's attendees should know that dressing up for the performance is part of the charm and the perfomance itself. Jeans should not be worn. Why are people so quick to accuse opera houses of "elitism" for their non-enforced dress codes? If you turn up in jeans, you will feel underdressed - as you should feel. Would you turn up to a wedding party in jeans and accuse the bride and groom of being elitist if they preferred you to wear something nicer?

  20. Steve Clark responded on 23 October 2016 at 10:37am Reply

    I do not believe in mandatory dress codes because people should be free to dress as they wish (and can afford!). I, personally, like to dress smartly (jacket, tie) in order to show respect to the occasion, the performers and, not least, the wonderful building but each to their own.

  21. Roger Taylor responded on 23 October 2016 at 10:38am Reply

    A reasonable balance would seem appropriate here, showing respect for the occasion, performers and other opera goers. At Royal Opera performances the majority are dressed in reasonably smart attire, in other words either "business" or smart casual. However there are some who look really scruffy and considering the ticket prices it is impossible to believe this is because they cannot afford decent clothes. I would urge opera houses to actively encourage a reasonable dress code, otherwise it is case of the thin end of the wedge.

  22. Mike responded on 23 October 2016 at 10:46am Reply

    I wear a bow tie most days, but I have also worn jeans, a shirt and a blazer.

    I go to ROH about 30 times a year and mostly sit in cheap side amphiteatre seats, but love it as much as the first day I stepped inside and still make an effort to dress up. Back in Uni, I used to take the train from Newcastle to see a matinee, usually sit in the upper slips, and return the same day. 7 am start and something like 10 pm back home, and I'd still wear a suit.

    ROH probably sees a lot more diversity than any other big Opera House in Europe, but it doesn't really affect me. A few years ago, I went to Bayerische Staatsoper, in Leipzig, and had standing seats at the back of the highest tier. Everyone else around me was wearing a suit or long dress. Same story goes for Vienna. But London is different, and this can be both a good and a bad thing. In the end, probably best to embrace the diversity and enjoy our time at the opera!

  23. Robert Garbolinski responded on 23 October 2016 at 10:51am Reply

    Go as you want - the only one that should care is you. Comfort is everything. I regularly go to the Royal Opera House in shorts and have also done so at the Metropolitan Opera and no -one batted an eyelid. One the lights are down who cares. You go to see the show not a fashion parade - that was supposed to stop in Wagner's time!

  24. Valeria responded on 23 October 2016 at 10:59am Reply

    I do hope that opera dress code will remain conservative.
    "People should be beautiful in every way--in their faces, in the way they dress, in their thoughts, and in their innermost selves."- Anton Chekhov

  25. Hannah responded on 23 October 2016 at 11:04am Reply

    We always dress up. It's a special occasion, it's what my parents taught me to do to be respectful and it's a lovely evening out. Why wouldn't you when you're spending that much money on a seat. People have no standards these days.

  26. Richard responded on 23 October 2016 at 11:11am Reply

    Re-introducing a strict black-tie dress code would be an unfortunate step back in time and one that is seemingly at odds with the ROH!s campaign to increase the diversity of its audience. For the opera/ballet to survive the ROH should be engaging with its younger/new supporters who largely eschew such stiff formality and are the future funders of the art forms. Very few people, if any at all, wear jeans and t- shirts in my experience of going to the opera house and the current status quo is a comfortable one that should be maintained rather than pandering to the cries of those with a rose tinted vision of the opera house past.

  27. Peter Lewis responded on 23 October 2016 at 11:25am Reply

    I've told people who I've encouraged to go that the Royal Opera House isn't a stuffy place full of 'tut tutters'. I know it can be a special occasion but mainly it's just entertainment and there's no reason to dress any differently than if you are going to any other theatre, sports arena or cinema. Just dress as comfortably as you like. The audience hasn't come to watch other attendees has it?

  28. jill o'mahoney responded on 23 October 2016 at 11:32am Reply

    Whilst I would love to dress up for the opera, indeed the ballet too, it is not possible when you are travelling from the other side of the country to the venue. In these circumstances you can only dress as well as possible. Maybe if the ROH could hire out vintage costumes and have somewhere to change, things could go back to how they were many, many years ago.

  29. I like the idea of dressing up but it's just not practical. Often times I'll be coming from somewhere else or in London running errands and so wandering around for the whole day in a ball gown isn't exactly doable. That said, I'm not about to turn up in a tracksuit or anything! :D

  30. Nicolas responded on 23 October 2016 at 11:46am Reply

    People should wear what they want. Opera or ballet are special to me, that's why I go dozens of time a year and have travelled thousands of miles for performances, and the suggestion that by coming straight from work (which does mean jeans and t-shirt) I might not be celebrating the artists who've trained for years as much as the person whose job enforces a dress code or who comes just once in a blue moon and therefore wants to make an occasion of it is ridiculous.
    If anything I have the impression the regulars are the ones more likely to dress casually, surely that's a good thing and something the ROH should communicate if they want to get rid of their elitist image.

  31. Jill responded on 23 October 2016 at 11:52am Reply

    Formal attire may not be in everyone's wardrobe; however, I feel that showing up at any performance (theatre, ballet or opera) in t-shirts, jeans and the like is disrespectful to the performers and other audience members.

  32. Alex Rossiter responded on 23 October 2016 at 12:02pm Reply

    I tend to assume that if you turn up in a tuxedo then you are just there to be seen, rather than enjoy the music.If you turn up in tweed then you might be enjoying the music but still want to visibly project yourself as an intellectual. If you turn up in jeans and t-shirt you are probably actually enjoying the music. If you turn up looking like you've been dragged through a hedge backwards, you are probably the composer.

  33. Simon Ridgeston responded on 23 October 2016 at 12:15pm Reply

    I always wear a suit and tie when I go to the opera and ballet, for me getting dressed up is part of the experience.

  34. As 'an old man in shorts' I really couldn't care less what other people are wearing. If they want to dress up that's fine but I go to watch the opera not the audience and I prefer to be comfortable in what can be a decidedly warm place. Opera as a great art form should be open to all so any kind of restrictive dress code would be bound to put some people off even trying, and it just bellows 'privilege'. It's high time also that the orchestra should be allowed to wear dark comfortable clothing - penguin suits just reinforce the 19th century 'must dress up' image for some of opera and classical concerts.

  35. Adrie Van Der Luijt responded on 23 October 2016 at 12:50pm Reply

    Personally I would say black tie always for Glyndebourne, smart casual for the Royal Opera House and come as you are for English National Opera. But more importantly, always have good manners. Elbowing to the front of the queue at the bar, checking your mobile, booing, applauding in the wrong places, shouting or chatting during a performance are infinitely worse than showing up in designer jeans or a garish 'creative' outfit.

  36. Black tie, if not white

    • Ann responded on 26 October 2016 at 5:23pm

      Enjoying a performance at the ROH is a rare and special treat and expensive too. I WANT to wear something special and I like my partner to make the same effort and to wear black tie. My memories of the evening are enhanced by the surroundings.....the excellence of the performers is guaranteed.

  37. Unfortunately, many new audience to the opera world are not even interested to the opera performance but only to tell other they have been or seen and often looks awful when they fiddling with their mobile phone during the performance. It's nice to look good with stylish attire for that special night at the opera, look good. .feel good! ☺

  38. Jane Ennis responded on 23 October 2016 at 1:50pm Reply

    I like to dress up anyway, so I just dress up a bit more for the opera!! I don't mind if other people don't, though. ......except I was a bit shocked on my first visit to Bayreuth when I saw sone men in shorts, with SOCKS UNDER THEIR SANDALS!!!!

  39. Lois Pelecanos responded on 23 October 2016 at 3:00pm Reply

    When I lived in London I'd dash to the opera straight from work (like most of the audience I'd presume, apart from Saturdays). It's not possible to dress up in that situation, and anyone in formal attire was regarded by us regulars as a one-off tourist. It shouldn't matter at all what you wear - just that you are respectful to your environment and the rest of the audience.

  40. Funny that Mr Holten has been the one to suggest dressing up - I would certainly do so if what was on stage and the occasion merited doing so: the lush and elegant Arabella (with te Kanawa) and Tosca (the Zeffirelli production with Pavarotti) shows from some years back, yes, and we did. The recent "experimental" productions with the shark, William Tell, Cosi fan Tutte, no.

  41. PS Glyndebourne does deserve dressing up as the patron is treated to beautiful gardens, free car parking and ample time between acts (ok, ages) to use the toilets which are in great condition. The toilets at ROH have improved esp disabled ones and the Amphitheatre ones next to the bar, but there are still queues for others (admittedly, much much better than the horrendous provision at the Royal Albert Hall) but if you want us to wear our best suits and gowns, then don't expect us to squish into tight stalls with our skirts on the bins. Or if you provide longer intervals so that we can walk to (while being trapped in the crowds) and queue for the better toilets. Don't get me wrong- it's preferable to see bigger crowds ie more people enjoying the music and artistry. But dressing up doesn't necessarily mean a more enjoyable performance or a better behaved crowd. I still remember the first night of Chroma and the first night of a new ENO Peter Grimes production. Most of us were not dressed up but what an electric atmosphere and after the spellbinding performances and incredible quality of the productions, the audiences' responses were passionate and enthusiastic- cheers nonstop for ages.

  42. Katrina responded on 23 October 2016 at 3:31pm Reply

    The suggestion that people who don't dress up don't appreciate the evening or don't respect the artists is ludicrous. One appreciates the opera with their mind and soul, not through their physical appearance. I have a deep, deep passion for the opera and find this approach extremely superficial. The way I look has nothing to do with what is happening inside me during a performance.

    Those who insist that one must dress up for the evening either aren't frequent guests, or primarily go to show themselves, rather than experience the music. I'd say the latter is quite silly.

  43. How about a compromise - have Casual Tuesdays with pizza slices and beer sold in the lobby.

    • Claude responded on 24 October 2016 at 8:37pm

      Or how about 'Uptight Tuesdays' with larks' tongues and nightingale wings?

      Leave the rest of the week for normal people who would prefer to concentrate on the show.

  44. Richard Tuthill responded on 23 October 2016 at 4:31pm Reply

    Is this not a matter of doing as the Romans do when in Rome? Fitting in? At the lower end of the spectrum, for Live in HD at the local theater, jeans are fine. Even take out food to be eaten prior to or during intermissions is now permitted. At smaller local or provincial opera companies, dress shirt and jacket for the men with maybe 50% wearing ties. Same at the Met for a matinee. Suit and tie at the Met or other big houses for evening performances with tuxes and long dresses only for special occasions. Have not been to Glyndebourne yet, but I would wear a tux there, perhaps a white dinner jacket.

  45. Susan B responded on 23 October 2016 at 4:35pm Reply

    Extreme dress-up is an artifact of the days when people went to the opera to be seen. When Wagner introduced the darkened auditorium, focus moved to the stage, where it should be. Today, extreme dress-up too often means big hair obstructing the view of those behind, noisy jewelry, intrusive scene—not too mention the discomfort of restrictive garments, or overly warm or cool clothing. Dress how you like, within the limits of respecitng the artists and your fellow audience members. And put away the mobile!

  46. Carmen Danies responded on 23 October 2016 at 6:19pm Reply

    I agree with behavior superseding dress code. But for me, old school dressing up is part of the experience. So is dining out, to seal the experience. It is possible to celebrate the experience with something out of the norm. Opera is a big effort to produce. I prefer to do my part in elevating the occasion.

  47. Matt long responded on 23 October 2016 at 6:20pm Reply

    So just as the colleseum encourages a wear anything code the ROH confirms itself as the home of elitism.
    I dont own 'black tie' clothing, nor do i want to. Im off to the ROH 3 times before xmas, including new years eve. Thanks for making me feel uncomfortable.

    • Claude responded on 24 October 2016 at 8:15pm

      Spot on.

      Some of the comments on this thread make me wish to see tumbrils lining up on Floral Street.

    • Chris responded on 26 October 2016 at 9:05pm

      I couldn't agree more Matt. Don't feel uncomfortable - I'll join you in not looking as smart as many on here would like, but we'll be there not to cast judgement on others, but rather for the enjoyment of the opera...

  48. Susan B responded on 23 October 2016 at 6:22pm Reply

    (Edit: intrusive SCENT)

    • Anne responded on 26 October 2016 at 7:50pm

      I'd love a ban on perfume in all theatres, my mum had to stop going to theatre or opera for a while because so many perfumes triggered her asthma.

  49. Peter responded on 23 October 2016 at 6:48pm Reply

    Although I believe a smart look goes a long way it's important to be open to all. I'm one of those people who wouldn't be able to make it to London in my best clothes.

    Why turn away people who are there to appreciate the arts? Regardless of colour, race or clothes everyone should be welcome to attend.

  50. Nina Battleday responded on 23 October 2016 at 7:13pm Reply

    Well, I can either afford theatre tickets or smart evening wear, but not both! And given some ballets and operas which are pretty lengthy I would's better to be comfortable. And who wants to go home after the performance wearing evening dress?

  51. Gwen Young responded on 23 October 2016 at 7:36pm Reply

    The performers have made a monumental effort to give their best. I think the audience should respond by dressing appropriately. It's fun to do
    a bit of people watching in the bar; it's not about money, it's about style.

    • Claude responded on 24 October 2016 at 8:00pm

      Actually, it's not about 'style' it's about music. Well, it is for opera (I can't stand ballet).

      From my experience, performers are happier with people who are there for the performance rather than those who dress up to be seen.

  52. Michael responded on 23 October 2016 at 7:37pm Reply

    The beauty of London - like the beauty of her opera - lies within the diversity of her people. Dress as you feel like and do not judge others on how they do it themselves. If you feel like wearing black tie, then so be it, but equally, if you feel like attending in your jeans, then so be it. As long as people are respectful of one another, clean, and there to enjoy the music and celebrate the artists, they are and should be made to feel welcome!

  53. Henry Young responded on 23 October 2016 at 7:53pm Reply

    I like to see a well dressed audience but not to the degree that what's being worn becomes more important than why you're attending a Live Performance or that a well dressed member of the audience looks down on their fellow audience members. What the performers want is an audience who comes to the theater or opera house and when the house lights dim and doors shut become voluntary captives of "imagination" willingly giving their energy to the performance. You know those moments when 100% of the house is totally engaged and the real magic is happening somewhere between the lip of the stage and the audience becomes a meeting place where the desire to know and understand two worlds, the one without and the one within in some communal quest to comprehend.

  54. Carol Tyler responded on 23 October 2016 at 7:58pm Reply

    The premise of etiquette is to make other people comfortable and to establish norms that allow predictability and reduce stress. It's just as easy not to wear jeans which themselves have implied status regarding informality and which to me are a degradation of the values and aesthetic standards of these fine art forms. If jeans are permissible today, indeed flip flops will follow tomorrow. Having said this we must be careful not to alienate upcoming generations who truly possess evolving fashion and social standards, as they will be supporting these very art forms which are losing ground, sadly.

  55. Heidi Herrmann responded on 23 October 2016 at 11:18pm Reply

    This has been an interesting question often debated! We love going to opera for over 50 years now and have always dressed up; not always in black tie, but suit,tie and nice cocktail dress. We appreciate the artist on stage for the wonderful performance they let us enjoy,after so many years of hard work and telnet. The LEAST we can do to honor the is to take the time to dress as Ivey as we can. It is a matter if respect, not only for the artists but for ones self ! It should be a special evenings special outing,probably with someone you enjoy being with, and it will make YOU fell good as well. The argument often is:" But what if you have to come straight from work ?" so why not dress a little nicer to work that day? Why do people feel embarrassed to be dressed up ! If you are,then simply explain that you are going to the opera tonight........well, you wanted to look nice I feel it is almost rude to go to a wonderful event like this and look like you have just finished your yard work or come directly from a work out. And P!EASE do remove your hat beany

  56. And please do remove your hat,beanie and baseball cap!!!!!! Everybody owns a nice little dress, a pair of slacks and some nice shoes. If you do not......Good Will can help you out there !
    That's all folks ! An OLD lady from Seattle.

  57. Nina battleday responded on 23 October 2016 at 11:57pm Reply

    Well,it's a choice between tickets or clothes! As a,frequent theatres, opera and ballet goer, my budget doesn't stretch to dressy clothes, and while I wouldn't turn up at any theatre in rags I would,find a dress code impossible. Also, if attending a lengthy performance comfort would seem to be the most important consideration, and who wants to negotiate the bus or underground wearing their best glad rags?At a recent performance I saw one man,wearing artistically ripped jeans, and another in immaculate evening dress- to me it all adds to the enjoyable character of the ROH.

  58. Ann Derby responded on 24 October 2016 at 1:12am Reply

    If someone asks for suggestions on dress for opera it must mean they want to dress respectfully. Seems to me that the shorts/sandals lot wouldn't care enough to ask. Not impressed by their choices. Appreciate nicely-dressed folks who made an effort, whether formal, business-formal or casual. But paramount thing is good manners! Wow, it's a letdown now to go to pop/rock concerts with their constant talking, hollering and comings/goings for beer/bathroom. SO spoiled by wonderful opera audiences!

  59. Caroline Luce responded on 24 October 2016 at 2:19am Reply

    re: dressing up or not - I think of opera as every day food - therefore everyday dress will do too.

  60. Jennie Halsall responded on 24 October 2016 at 9:27am Reply

    As a seasoned ROH attendee, having a the odd special night with black tie is great but not all the time when people are rushing from work to get there for 6.30/7.00. Shorts and vests NO and should be banned from every theatre. I went to the Opera at Hackney Empire last week, sold out, such a joy and an audience under 35/40 wearing very relaxed clothing and you were allowed to drink in your seats, you could have heard a pin drop during the performance and the atmosphere was fabulous

  61. Pablo responded on 24 October 2016 at 9:42am Reply

    Yes. Of course.

  62. Gerard Doyle responded on 24 October 2016 at 1:18pm Reply

    Dressing up is important to me but is not practical at times. My priority is to get people involved in the opera and ballet rather than creating obstacles. As some people have already commented manners and being considerate of others is far more important.

  63. Andrew Campbell responded on 24 October 2016 at 3:21pm Reply

    Dress in what makes you feel comfortable. I would feel distinctly uncomfortable in evening dress & wear jeans & T--Shirt to the opera. I agree with the comments above that people who go dressed up go to be seen not to see.

  64. Lin Lloyd responded on 24 October 2016 at 7:43pm Reply

    Of course one shouldn't dress up for opera. One might wish to, or at least wear more than casual clothes, but it is just silly to suggest that there is any kind of norm to adhere to. opera should be striving to reach the masses, and can do without these kind of perceived restrictions.

  65. Claude responded on 24 October 2016 at 7:54pm Reply

    "All dress is fancy dress, is it not, except our natural skins?" G.B. Shaw

    In which case, so long as people don't turn up naked, they are fine.

    If the way people are dressed affects your enjoyment, you're probably there for the 'event' rather than the music.

    I saw Toby Spence on Sunday afternoon at Wigmore Hall. He wasn't wearing fancy dress. Did his performance suffer? Not a bit.

    Welcome to the 21st century. It's very nice, one you get used to it.

  66. Ben responded on 24 October 2016 at 7:57pm Reply

    Opera should be accessible - both financially (which it is, with hundreds of tickets available for a lot less than for Book of Mormon and with dozens available for the same price as a cinema ticket) and psychologically. Making attending the opera feel even more grand than it is won't help make people feel that it is accessible and democratic. Most of the time, adding a fancy dress code would be a hassle for people attending post-work. Opera would not be helping itself if it imposed an evening dress requirement.

    Having said all of that, I have sometimes wondered whether it might be an idea to have occasional black tie evenings on a Saturday for those people who enjoy the sense of occasion of dressing up. But not the rest of the time.

  67. Heather Willson responded on 24 October 2016 at 8:03pm Reply

    It's not a question of evening dress or jeans- there are many options between these extremes.
    I like to wear a dress to the opera because it makes ME feel good, and the sense of occasion is part of the whole evening- in addition to the quality of the performance.

  68. Mark G Sumner responded on 24 October 2016 at 8:58pm Reply

    I couldn't disagree more with Mr. Campbell's remark about people "dressing up" to be seen rather than see....No, though I haven't polled a typical ROH audience nor taken particular notice of how they are dressed, I do like to "dress" in the older meaning of the term, it performs a role of respect for an august institution, the performers, and the "experience". It's obviously completely personal, but I enjoy the experience more when I'm suitably dressed.

  69. I prefer patrons to arrive washed and mostly covered in fabric. That includes washing hair - no point wearing you nice little dress when your hair smells like wet dog.

  70. Sandra Bishop responded on 25 October 2016 at 1:33pm Reply

    If there was a formal dress code it would put me off coming. Since retiring from work I have got rid of most of my more formal stuff and only dress formalIy if I absolutely have to eg for a wedding. I spend a lot of money on my tickets as opera and ballet is my recreation and would object to being told what to wear. Times have changed, in my view for the better, get over it. That said, I would never come in anything scruffy or my trainers but go for black jeans (smarter than blue ones), good shoes or boots and a nice top. This is what I am comfortable in. Far worse is the individual (usually male) you get stuck next to who doesn't wash their clothes or hair often enough! And we certainly shouldn't put young people off by being overly prescriptive. As someone else said, the artists can't see the audience anyway and I think they are far more concerned with the atmosphere being generated and that the audience is enjoying and appreciating the performance.

  71. I was wear a waist coat with tie with white shirt and navy trousers and black shoes. I do what I like to wear in the royal opera house in the evening. Sometime I wear white shirt with short sleeves.

  72. David O'Brien responded on 26 October 2016 at 12:24pm Reply

    Whilst I respect the dedication of the performers and am happy to dress smartly when I am downstairs, I do think that the Amphitheatre is different. In the summer it can be unbearably hot and stuffy and the seats are cramped. It is ridiculous to expect these patrons to suffer further in jackets and ties. To concentrate on the opera or ballet you do need to be in reasonable comfort, and the Amphitheatre does not offer much in this way. Perhaps Mr Holten could watch a performance from the top and offer his views ?

  73. Brian Hickey responded on 26 October 2016 at 2:12pm Reply

    Going to the ROH is an occasion for me so I wear black tie?
    I feel those who pour scorn on me for this would be the first to laugh if I wore a black tie rig to go to the beach.

  74. Micheal Gruetzner responded on 26 October 2016 at 4:38pm Reply

    For me going to see an opera is not so much a special occasion as more a perfect way to relax and enjoy. I am not going to look scruffy but I am wearing what I am wearing in the office too. However if I go to the opera with my wife or children, well that is a special occasion and we all dress 'posh' ... I have only been once 'downstairs' when Raven Girl was on and the seats were ridiculously cheap even for me. Otherwise it's Amphitheater ...

  75. David Myers responded on 26 October 2016 at 4:40pm Reply

    Whenever I visit the opera or ballet at Covent Garden I wear a smart suit and tie. It's a great opportunity to dress-up in, what for me, is not my everyday attire, being now retired.
    It's part of the experience!

  76. Nigel Ogilvie responded on 26 October 2016 at 5:07pm Reply

    Last visit to the ROH very few people seemed to have out on their best clothes. This disappointed us. People with limited means don't have to wear top hats and ball gowns, but if they don't bother to look their best it diminishes the experience for others. We watch dvd's now; the live atmosphere is disappointing.

  77. J L Middletton responded on 26 October 2016 at 5:28pm Reply

    Absolutely dress up to go to the Royal Opera House, people are lazy; when going to something special an effort should be made, Why do people think it is acceptable to turn up looking scruffy, the French call it bad manners not to take trouble with your appearance, "you offend the eye of the people you pass -.I don't care what I look like", I'll wear what I like attitude. It is inverted snobbery and it is insulting to the performers and the staff if you are dressed for the pub. Would they attend the office party in any old thing. I don't think so.
    Let's raise the standard and make an effort, no jeans and no trainers, the so-called masses a previous correspondent mentioned can afford to dress up for their nights out on the town so make an effort, it is a special occasion.

  78. RodT responded on 26 October 2016 at 5:37pm Reply

    Those who are saying here that people "should dress up" are clearly saying "we want to keep riff-raff out of OUR opera house". We even have someone on here accusing those in jeans of not paying! This is appalling, and those saying it need to take a hard look at themselves, rather than judging others by their dress.

    I can afford both formal dress and good tickets, and I often do dress up to attend the ROH. However, I have also turned up in my jeans, as that's what's taken my fancy for that day. If there are those that don't like it - tough. I don't dress for them. Neither do I dress "out of respect for the performers". They can't see me, so this is a false argument.

    Opera and the ROH are there for people who appreciate the music and the performances. Dress is irrelevant to that. If you want to wear black tie, fine, go ahead. If you don't, fine, go ahead.

    Those who are more concerned about the way people dress than the performance would perhaps be better served giving up their seats for those who are the other way around.

  79. Maggie Kemp responded on 26 October 2016 at 5:56pm Reply

    The cost of the ticket and the train fare to get to London means I have nothing left for fancy clothes. Opera for all? Pish tosh.

  80. Fiona Goodwille responded on 26 October 2016 at 6:11pm Reply

    For some years I have been wishing that the ROH would recommend a minimum dress code. The current guidance: "There is no dress code – feel free to dress up or down" has led to some pretty unattractive results. I don't want people to feel that they have to dress up to some particular standard, but I do object to those who (increasingly) wear a (not smart or clean) T shirt with scruffy/torn jeans or shorts. I don't think anyone would be upset by your answer to the dress code question being changed to: "Whilst there is no formal dress code, our suggestion for appropriate dress is 'Smart Casual'."

  81. Peter responded on 26 October 2016 at 6:37pm Reply

    The question should be "what dress code will the ROH actually tolerate"? For example if I turned up in just a pair of speedo's and a tartan head scarf, I guess you might turn me away. How about a leopard skin leotard? The norm for most at the ROH is smart casual, or business attire, with very few going for black tie, even in the boxes. My guess is the ROH tolerate society norms, which evolve all the time... designer jeans? an oxymoron?

  82. Alister Hutchin responded on 26 October 2016 at 6:40pm Reply

    It is not so much the type of clothing but it needs to be smart. More important is whether you have scrubbed up = sitting close to someone for a few hours who hasn't is unpleasant. It has happened to me

  83. Anne responded on 26 October 2016 at 7:09pm Reply

    It's what is in your heart and mind that matters not what clothes are on your back. One can show respect without dressing up. Some of us love opera but do not like dressing up. I don't think Mozart would care two hoots what we wear just so long as we listen and enjoy. What I love about Covent Garden is that people dress the way they want to - some dress up and some don't long may that last.

  84. Oeivind responded on 26 October 2016 at 8:19pm Reply

    The artists are there to sing,dance and act. They don't pay attention to or notice what the audiences are wearing.
    People should come as they are. Dressing up should not be required. You are there to watch and enjoy a show.
    It is very sad if people choose not to go to the opera because they find it intimidating.

  85. Chris responded on 26 October 2016 at 8:53pm Reply

    Hear hear RodT. Quite frankly anyone should be able to wear what they like and the ROH should be discouraging the elitist talk which thinks only smart will do, and promoting the inclusivity required of a publicly-funded body. Opera can, and should be, for anyone and everyone, regardless of how they dress. I rarely dress up for it, and following some of the comments on here, will continue to dress down. If someone wants to look smart, that is up to them, but it isn't acceptable for them to look down on anyone who isn't looking smart by their standards, or state ridiculous things like it effects their enjoyment - that reaction is caused entirely by themselves!

  86. The only time I wore a dinner jacket and bow tie to the opera (in Leeds), a few people assumed I was the usher and I was asked about interval times, seat directions etc. Not doing that again!
    I do like to make an effort though and suit, tie and decent shows makes it a proper night out.

  87. Waltraut Schmitz responded on 27 October 2016 at 7:11am Reply

    I live In Zurich and here everybody goes dressed "smart casual" - no long ball dress - this would look a little ridiculous here, but I feel sick to sit near somebody who "smells" !!

    • Patrick Shaw responded on 27 October 2016 at 10:53am

      I had the bad luck to sit next to someone in the ROH Stalls who had fearful body odour. My companion was kind enough to swap seats with me!

  88. John M. responded on 27 October 2016 at 5:04pm Reply

    It has been "interesting" to dip into this thread now and then but I wonder what someone who thinks going to the opera/ballet is elitist would make of some of the comments. We are trying to encourage more people to get involved in opera so the fewer artificial barriers there are the better. My interaction with the performance is not affected by what I wear. I would not feel comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt or tux and a bow-tie but if others want to wear them, well - fine. An evening at the opera or ballet means different things to different people. I am more disturbed by the number of iPads and phones which light up during the performance, or people who talk during the performance or applaud before the music has finished. Now some people are talking about dirty clothes, unwashed hair and BO. It would seem that these people operate some sort of hygiene code. I wonder what their interval conversations are like; or rather I don't. Please, focus on the performance. Really, the trainers, shorts and unwashed hair do not spoil a performance, nor do they show lack of respect. They possibly challenge some preconceived ideas about an evening at the ROH. Chacun à son goût, live and let live, love thy neighbour, it takes all sorts, etc.

  89. Jill W responded on 29 October 2016 at 7:55pm Reply

    I have the impression (which could be wrong) that before the 20th century opera goers were likely to be dressed according to their station in life and where they could afford to sit. Certainly, in the late 1970's, when I went to see opera in London about once a week, I would wear jeans and a smartish top and mostly sat in the balcony and never the stalls. Now, I rarely go but when I do I use a similar logic about what I wear. Basically I agree with those who say that behavior and the smartness (not the type) of clothing are the most important factors.

  90. cjl1 responded on 1 November 2016 at 5:29pm Reply

    I'd like to think people should wear whatever they feel comfortable in. You're not going on stage, so what's the fuss? However, on my last visit to the ROH I did feel seriously under-dressed and wanted to hide in a hole when I saw how dressed-up everyone else was. Perhaps I'll avoid hanging out at the bar next time... it's less conspicuous if you're just sitting in the audience and the house lights are dimmed.

  91. Kevin responded on 3 November 2016 at 11:26pm Reply

    I have seen Robert Garbolinski in his shorts at the ROH....

  92. Tony F responded on 5 November 2016 at 9:06pm Reply

    May I say if I pay £100 a ticket for an evening out, it is an occasion, I want it to feel special, I want it to be memorable. I will prepare for it. I don't want to feel like I am on the Underground.

  93. John Swainson responded on 7 November 2016 at 10:07pm Reply

    Yes we should... The audience at the RoH oftimes behaves more as if it as at a football match than an opera. Perhaps if they dressed in Black Tie for the occasion they might behave accordingly ... although, that said, I have been to Black Tie dinners where some take their jackets off. Thankfully Garsington and Glyndebourne expect Black Tie and don't expect the 'ra ra ra' mob who should really stick to the ENO so that the rest of us can enjoy our opera in civilised company.. .

  94. I have a friend who's a fashion queen/guru/devotee who for an eagerly-awaited performance of NORMA which neither of us had ever watched before, arrived... in jeans, ripped ones at that I held my tongue (though my face spoke volumes) and we thoroughly enjoyed the opera
    A couple weeks later, 2 friends and I had tickets for the enchanting ballet LA FILLE MAL GARDEE and I almost had another heart attack. More jeans!!! fuzz-balled sweaters, beach tops, sneakers...

    So I am glad that the ROH came to the rescue by publishing the well-timed article below, which will save the few frienships I still have, by preventing other fashion faux-pas.

    full article on

  95. Ian T responded on 23 February 2017 at 5:56pm Reply

    It's my first time to an opera house and something that in my youth I'd never imagined I'd ever do... But as you age your appreciation of things and your preconceptions of others unfamiliar to your own experiences gradually shift. I will be taking my beautiful Fiancée to see The Sleeping Beauty in a weeks time and it occurred to me that I had no idea what was acceptable dress. We wanted to do all the dressing up bit but I was concerned that as with the RSC dressing down for the highbrow is, and I guess always has been, rather vogue.
    Therefore, I am very grateful to Rosie Slavin for offering me, a first timer, some reassurance that as I squirm uncomfortably in my starched white shirt, bow tie and evening suit I won't be the only overdressed pillock there.

  96. Michael Wright responded on 16 March 2017 at 9:12pm Reply

    I'm not convinced by the argument that an opera performance is intrinsically any more "special" than a pop performance. Any live performance is potentially wonderful if the ingredients and performers work. Just enjoy the art you like, there should be no requirement for audiences to dress up. My own preference is for people to wear what makes them feel relaxed and l am extremely uncomfortable with dress codes of any kind, other than observing basic cleanliness. Frankly, I'm amazed we're continuing to have this discussion.

  97. penelope simpson responded on 17 March 2017 at 9:18pm Reply

    Sick to death of seeing people in backpacks and peaked caps. You don't need to dress up, but the Opera House is beautiful, the performances are beautiful - isn't it nice for the audience to also contribute by looking their best and generally adding to the enjoyment of all? Aren't there enough opportunities in life to wear your ripped jeans and your grunge?

  98. Vera Rodgers responded on 18 March 2017 at 10:08am Reply

    We went to the opera in Venice a couple of years ago and when we picked up our tickets were informed that we were required to wear DJ for men and long dress for women. In the end my husband wore a suit and tie and I had a short sparkly cocktail dress. The theatre looked so magnificent and I think it made the evening so special I wish we could do it more often.

  99. Vera Rodgers responded on 18 March 2017 at 10:09am Reply

    I should say it was particularly that evening when a VIP was attending.

  100. James responded on 19 March 2017 at 6:28pm Reply

    I spend all of my working week in a suit and tie, so the last thing I want to wear at the weekend is evening dress. Not that I dress as a complete slob (smart jeans and shirt), but I really couldn't give two hoots whether someone turned up in joggers or tux.

    I'm there to appreciate the music, not for the 'social occasion' or anything else. If others place more value on this aspect of opera that's all good and well. However, it's completely unreasonable to expect me or anyone else to sacrifice personal enjoyment of the evening and music (by wearing something I don't feel as comfortable in) in order that their evening feel 'more special'. If their ultimate priority is the music, they should understand this, and if not, they don't really have any place commenting.

    Disappointing too that the Director of Opera at the ROH appears to hold the view that dress is important. I thought there was meant to be a drive to try and dispel the 'elitist' image many people have of opera?

  101. Brendan Quinn responded on 20 March 2017 at 7:38pm Reply

    I would feel a complete melon if I went to the Ampi in black tie. Gala performances maybe, Glyndebourne if I can, Wexford the same. Nobody is going to tell me how to dress when I have paid a significant sum of money for my ticket. It's all a matter of common sense, why on earth is this being debated in 2017?

  102. Petya Zankinsky responded on 20 March 2017 at 9:33pm Reply

    At one of my last visits to Rotterdam, I went to a remarkable concert at the Doelen – a play by Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky - “Pathetique”
    Beethoven Ouverture Egmont, Mozart Pianoconcert nr 20, Tsjaikovski Zesde symfonie.
    Dirigent - Lhav Shani
    Piano - Lahav Shani
    By all means it was a very moving experience with deep dramatic note.
    De Doelen has one of the best acoustics in the Netherlands creating rich and outstanding audience experience. De Doelen is also known as one of the greatest classical concert halls in The Netherlands.
    Any classical concert has to be enjoyed in style.
    Dressing up and selecting outfits for such occasions, makes the events even more exclusive and glamorous.
    I wore a beautiful dress - nude pencil dress with seductive cut-outs at the back and on the neck line. I wore it paired with black heels for a glamour night out. My outfit fully matched the essence of the music – like a perfect romance.

  103. Lesley responded on 20 March 2017 at 10:09pm Reply

    Being practically dressed for travelling to London, spending the day there, the evening at the opera, then running for the last train home, is an important consideration for many of us. And so is being dressed comfortably for the opera we've come to see. Maybe that means sitting through 3 hours of Rheingold without an interval. That's not something I'd contemplate doing in skinny jeans...

  104. Say what you like, but I love going to opera and ballet where people make an effort. Moscow and Saint Petersburg keep the old culture going and men usually wear suits or at least jackets, and ladies wear dresses or nice trousers and tops, and even bring pumps to change into during the winter when they have to wear boots outside. I get that it is not convenient, people consider this not accessible, but it just always lifts my excitement to be at the opera or at the ballet even more, when I see that the rest is also treating it with respect and as a special occasion. I cringe when I see people with jeans, trainers or backpacks, just can't help it.

  105. I'd haste to add though that white tie or even black tie and gowns - that's probably can't be expected from everyone. A nice smart attire (and not sporty outfits) that's all I would be hopeful for :)

  106. John Peach responded on 23 March 2017 at 8:32pm Reply

    I have a three hour journey each way by car and train. Whilst I try to look smart, I do need to be comfortable. It can be a long day.

  107. Bridie Macmahon responded on 23 March 2017 at 10:42pm Reply

    I wonder why this question is asked about 'the opera' but not about 'ballet' (let alone 'the ballet')??! Is the opera audience different? If so, why? (I only go to ballet.) Anyway, having read some of this thread I'm very glad I can only afford to book in the amphi, where on the whole people are there to watch rather than be watched. If people want to dress up, fine; but why on earth should people feel that they have to possess black tie or evening dress in order to go to opera/ballet? That is elitist and offensive in the extreme. I agree that the Opera House (or any theatre) is not the beach; but the main requirements of attendance are to pay attention, to respond, to prepare, to be on time, to concentrate - i.e. to give the performers the respect and attention they deserve, and to do nothing to break the powerful connection that is (or can be) created between performers and audience in the live theatre setting. None of which has anything to do with what is being worn.

  108. Just because someone feels more comfortable dressing in casual clothes does not mean that they don't love opera or can't get totally into experiencing the opera while dressed casually. Why not let people vote with their feet? Occasionally offer a Casual Tuesday performance and see what happens.

  109. Peter Lewis responded on 25 March 2017 at 8:09am Reply

    Once again, this discussion is being opened up. Why? Who gives a fig what we wear? As long as it doesn't break any decency laws wear what you like even if it's your birthday suit!!

  110. Sarah O'Connor responded on 6 October 2017 at 3:13pm Reply

    I completely agree - it's a shallow debate. It's disappointing that people here express the view that 'if you can afford the ticket, you can afford the clothes'. What if the tickets were gifts? What if you'd spent all year saving up for the tickets, and couldn't afford the clothes? ROH is such a magical place; it deserves a magical audience. That will arise from the capacity of their hearts, and not their pockets.

  111. Paul responded on 19 December 2017 at 7:09pm Reply

    Why do we dress up on our wedding day? Because it's special. Going to the Opera or Ballet is very special. We are part of the evening, as the performers are. That's why we applaud. To those who see dressing up as 'elitist', I'd ask how is a tie or a nice dress connected with wealth? Ever heard of M&S or Zara? They sell those things too. Nice dress creates a sense of occasion and makes us feel great. Lastly, I see only YOU. I can't see myself. You affect my evening. If you don't wish to dress up, please buy the dvd and stop ruining our evening.

  112. Chris Uden responded on 29 December 2017 at 11:07am Reply

    I don’t know where this notion that a “younger audience” would rather turn up in torn jeans and t-shirts... It’s actually quite insulting. In my experience young people enjoy dressing up for a night out every bit as much as any other generation. Common sense would suggest that you can’t go far wrong with “smart casual” for the theatre/opera/ballet...

  113. Pure hypocrisy. The theater does not impose a minimum dress code, with the excuse that the work is a show for everyone, so you find people in jeans, T-shirt and sneakers. On the contrary tickets do not cost less than 150 pounds (if you do not want to go near the heaven) the prices at the bar are exorbitant (the bar is sponsored by a brand of champagne), and the foyer has been reduced to a restaurant where you can eat between an act and the other, with the spectators taking and leaving small bottles of water in the hall. You have diminished the melodrama, which is not only a show in which to listen to the singers, but it is an experience to be lived, starting from preparation and clothing. And of course to be dressed up is a way to respect artists, other spectators, and in particular the story and the importance of the Opera House.

  114. Joe responded on 26 January 2018 at 8:55pm Reply


  115. Just dress up, what’s the problem with it? The petfomers have spent a lifetime perfecting their art, it’s a privilege to experience it. It’s a special occasion, you should try your best. I think it’s a respect matter, I am not rich at all, but I don’t understand when I see people with trainers, jeans and a badly ironed tshirt at a place like the ROH

  116. Hal responded on 7 March 2018 at 10:14am Reply

    Interesting discussion! To put this whole interesting discussion into perspective: How many people wear black tie and how many wear jeans at the ROH (and if there are differences, especially for a "prestigious" show with global star singers on a Saturday night?)
    I regulary visit opera houses across continental Europe, but are not acquainted with today`s British customs in this respect.

  117. Rikard responded on 11 April 2018 at 2:56pm Reply

    When among other people, and such venues as the ROH in particular, everyone should try to act respectfully to others as well as to dress and smell well. Dressing in jeans and t-shirt is disrespectful, not only to the artists, but to everyone who has to witness the disgrace. Not dressing well shows that you are an egoistical person who lacks any empathy for your fellow man.
    Pretty much everyone can afford a simple suit at say H&M.

  118. John responded on 25 April 2018 at 10:16pm Reply

    While Black Tie is no guarantee of 'good behaviour' too many who go as if dressed for a football match behave accordingly. It is a truism that there is a high probability that those who' dress up' to show their respect for the cast and the orchestra are also people who understand courtesy and good manners. Slovenly dressed and/or ill-mannered people spoil the enjoyment of all those with whom they interact. Witness(for example) queue barging for the cloakroom or those who have middle seats but do not get seated early so barge past others to get to their seats without a word of apology. If you can afford the orchestra stalls you can afford Black Tie or at least a good suit. I don't care if the RoH is seen as elitist. Like any other club ... if you want to join....learn how to dress and behave. There is always the ENO for those who find dressing up anathema. And the travelling excuse is no excuse ... every station has a bathroom ... as does every train.

  119. morons responded on 4 September 2018 at 7:07pm Reply

    Many people who go to the opera are tourists, it is not practical to pack all your formal clothes while living out of a backpack.

  120. James Tyler responded on 6 March 2019 at 7:10pm Reply

    I agree with a previous comment, about the pressionalism and hard work of the artists involved, they should be honoured by people turning out in their best attire. On another point as a growing lad I was always told to wear my best as it's traditional to do so, in my opinion those people who turn up in jeans or formal work wear should be refused entry point blank. Tuxedos and evening gowns, all the way.

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