Attending opera for the first time?

What to expect

We want you to have a truly brilliant experience at the opera. English National Opera exists for everyone, creating new experiences with opera that inspires, nurtures creativity and makes a difference.

To make your visit as enjoyable and stress-free as possible we’ve pulled together some of the questions people most frequently ask about attending opera for the first time.

What’s a good first time opera?

In our upcoming 2019/20 Season, we have a number of productions which are a perfect introduction to opera!

In 2019 you can see the satirical, witty operettas Orpheus in the Underworld and The Mikado. In 2020 we think Madam Butterfly or Carmen would be perfect for first-timers.  You can find out more about the productions and book tickets below.

Is there a dress code?

There is no set dress code at ENO. Many people dress up for our opening nights, and unless stated for an event, such as Gala performances and award ceremonies, when it is often black-tie, you can wear what you like.

Smart casual to high end couture, it’s your night and we want you to have a great time – all we ask is that if you have large headwear that you remove it for the performance. If it’s cold outside it’s a good idea to leave your coat and any large bags in the free cloakroom for your comfort in the auditorium.

Will I understand what is being sung?

Yes. All English National Opera performances are sung in English, with the sung text projected above the stage (surtitles). If you find surtitles distracting for the immersive opera experience, there is one performance for each of our 10 shows which will be a surtitles free performance.

Where the opera was written in another language, we translate it into English. We believe that singing in English enhances the emotional connection between performers and audiences.

Watch some of our best-loved opera songs (arias)

Do I need to read up about the opera before I attend?

You can certainly do some homework using our plot outlines and guides to each opera but it’s not essential. Our guides will give you a short overview of the opera, the composer and the music. Just watch out for spoilers!

It can also be helpful to watch our production trailers before hand, to get a taste of what you can expect!

Isn’t seeing the opera expensive?

We believe opera should be accessible to all, so our tickets start from £10 plus £2.25 booking fee. No, really.

To see an ENO opera for a fraction of the price, you can take advantage of one of our many schemes such as Opera Undressed, for first time opera goes, or Access All Arias, for under 30s and students. We’ve also recently made it so under 18s can see our shows on opening nights and weekends for free.

Take a look at our ways to save on ticket prices

Is there an opera etiquette I need to follow?

There are no set rules about how and when you should show your enthusiasm for the performance, though most people wait until the end of a beautiful solo or duet, or a pause in the action, before clapping.

Our productions aim to be different – more theatrical, more movement, more choreography, and it’s great when audiences love that as much as we do.

Like all other theatres we ask that you do not use your mobile phone to photograph or record the performance though we positively encourage photography beforehand, in the auditorium, the foyers, bars – everywhere. Just remember to tag us on your wonderful photos so we can share your evening.

Where should I sit for my first opera?

The theatre is designed to give a clear view of the stage from every seat. It’s an architectural and engineering masterpiece, as you’ll see. However, please check our seating plan for any restricted legroom or restricted view of the surtitles.

If you would like some friendly and helpful advice then please feel free to call our friendly Box Office team on 020 7845 9300 (we’re open Monday-Friday 10am-6pm). We’d be delighted to help in any way we can.

What if I want to make my visit extra special?

If you want to add additional sparkle to your visit you could order something extra special for pre-show and the interval, order a pre-show snack box or book a table in our restaurant.

You can also enhance your visit by renting out one of the London Coliseum’s private event spaces for you and your party. We even offer bespoke entertainment packages.

Celebration Messages

Our surtitles screen at the top of the stage is used throughout the opera to display sung words above the stage, but before curtain up you can, for a fee, book a message to appear in front of thousands and celebrate everything from a wedding anniversary or birthday to welcoming your guests and congratulating success.

Request your message

We hope that we have answered the questions you may have and we can’t wait to welcome you to English National Opera and our wonderful home, the London Coliseum.