At the Opera Tonight
This is about what the characters do there. What is actually being performed, and what happens on stage, is usually irrelevant (even if we see the opera or concert). If it's important to the story in any significant form, it's not this trope.
Often this is just to show at least one of the characters trying to be cultured, while the other is often bored to tears. But there are variations. Compare Men Are Uncultured, where this is an opportunity to demonstrate masculinity by swearing off the "sissy gay art crap" (sic), to which their wives have driven them.
This is some Truth in Television. People used to go to the Opera because that was the popular social area of the day and they would only pay half-attention to the actual performance. It wasn't until about Richard Wagner's day that you were really expected to sit down and pay attention.
At least in fiction, if a lady wears a fur or a similar garment, it's far more likely to be a wrap or short cape than a coat or jacket. Perhaps this is because the costumers can have the ladies wear them for longer without obstructing the dresses (whether pimped out or little and black) being worn.
The Trope Namer is Repo! The Genetic Opera. There are several performances, but only two of them are shown, and then only because plot-relevent things occur during them; throughout the event the main focus is what goes on backstage/in the audience. The line is from a song wherein several characters prepare to attend.
- A recent beer commercial has two men bring bottles of their favorite drink to an opera...only to have all the bottles burst on them when the Fat Lady hits that one high note. Another, more savvy attendee shows that he brought cans.
- In Cowboy Bebop Faye tracks the leader of the Red Dragons to his box at the opera hoping to collect a bounty on him, only to find that he's already been murdered by his subordinate Vicious as part of a trap for Spike.
- Victorian Romance Emma, being set in 1890s London, has several upper-class characters spend time at the opera. It's one of William and Eleanor's first dates.
- The Grand Finale of Blood Plus has the characters heading down to the Opera House to try to stop Diva from carrying out her plan to turn the world into Chiropterants via song.
- Done to a very small extent near the beginning of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, where Zechs debriefs Treize whilst the latter is at what appears to be an opera.
- Gankutsuou: Albert's first meeting with the Count and when he gets the pocketwatch as well as the first time he sees Haydee.
- Gunslinger Girl: Rico assassinates a target at an opera. What's playing is Tosca, but she doesn't pay attention to it at all while Claes and Triela are back at the dormitory musing at what they think Rico and Henrietta's reactions would be if they were to see the whole opera and Claes even recites Tosca's Cry to God aria.
Comic Books[edit | hide]
- In Pretty Woman, Edward takes Vivian to see La Traviata.
- In Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin and Palpatine have a key conversation while attending...a Space Opera.
- In The Untouchables, Robert DeNiro as Al Capone is seen attending an opera when Frank Nitti comes up and whispers the news that Jim Malone had been killed.
- In Guarding Tess, they went to the opera. She falls asleep, and Doug accidentally knocks her over instead of waking her up.
- Repo! The Genetic Opera. Trope Namer. Although there's an opera, the actual performances are, for the most part, much, much less important than what the attendants are doing.
- In a very unsettling subversion of the trope, Birth has Nicole Kidman's character visiting the opera, and has the camera focus on her face alone for three full minutes while she seemingly undergoes a complete moral breakdown.
- Quantum of Solace has a memorable sequence during a performance of Tosca.
- The Fifth Element has Korben and Ruby attend a Space Opera onboard the Luxury Liner.
- In Catwoman, villain George Hedare takes his mistress to a Cirque Du Soleil-style performance; the latter is bored and leaves...just in time for the heroine to take her place and confront him. She dodges the security officers by jumping onto the stage and scrambling up the back wall; the audience thinks it's All Part of the Show.
- In Hannibal, the title character attends an opera (a fictional adaptation of Dante's La Vita Nuova) while in Florence.
- The final scene of The Godfather III. Anthony Corleone makes his debut, while Michael and Kay seem to be reconciling and ready to start again. This is quickly overshadowed by the several deaths after his performance, including that of his sister Mary, which is what finally breaks Michael's spirit.
- In a flashback sequence in The Lost Weekend, Don and Helen go to see La Traviata at the Met. Unfortunately for Don, the first aria of that opera is a drinking song, and he sits the rest of the opera out because the sight of everyone but him holding drinking glasses is too much to bear.
- In Moonstruck Nicholas Cage invites Cher to see La Boheme with him, because he loves her and he loves opera so it would be his two favorite things together. She accepts.
- Batman Begins eschews the usual Tyrone Power Zorro and instead has Thomas and Martha Wayne mugged and killed leaving the opera early. (The opera in question is Mefistofele by Arrigo Boito, which shows thought from the writers: a lazy writer would probably have gone with Die Fledermaus for the name, but Mefistofele is much more thematically appropriate.)
- Like the title says, A Night at the Opera features an opera, namely Verdi's Il Trovatore. The Marx Brothers show up and Hilarity Ensues, including a baseball game in the orchestra pit.
- In either of the Hitchcock films The Man Who Knew Too Much, the climax of the plot takes place in the Royal Albert Hall during an orchestra's concert.
- The Love Parade has a scene where Queen Louise and Alfred attend the opening night of the opera and are forced to hide the strain in their relationship to avoid a scandal that could ruin the country.
- Connor MacLeod in the second Highlander II the Quickening'' film attends a performance of Gotterdammerung, during which he has a flashback and introduces an extremely unpopular element to the series.
Literature[edit | hide]
- In Diplomatic Immunity, Miles and Ekaterin go to the Minchenko Ballet. They enjoy the show, but the main purpose was to be seen.
"But there's no point in being seen enjoying their art if we just look like any other anonymous downsiders. Tonight, I think we should both look as Barrayaran as possible."
- In Madame Bovary, Charles takes his wife to the opera, but that is unfortunately where she starts another affair.
- This is done early in The Count of Monte Cristo with people paying more attention to who's in the other boxes (one of whom is the mysterious count himself) than to anything happening on the stage. A bit of Truth in Television - at the time that the story is set, the opera itself was often incidental to the social act of simply being there and being seen.
- In one of the Tales of the City books by Armistead Maupin, two very minor characters meet in the men's room of the opera house on Opening Night. One is doing coke, and the other reveals that he always replaces his hearing aid with a small radio and listens to a baseball game throughout.
- In Evelina by Frances Burney, there's an opera scene mainly to show off how uncultured most of the other characters are.
- The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, a notable Sherlock Holmes pastiche, includes a trip to the Vienna Opera by Holmes, Watson, and Freud (yes, that Freud). The opera itself only matters insofar as Watson and Freud are terrifically bored by it—more important is who else is attending that night...
- The beginning of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence is a long look At the Opera Tonight and a chance to get to know the setting. This setting is revisited a few times. Also, Wharton discusses how the crowd chatters as a matter of course during certain songs, but remain obediently quiet for the important songs.
- In Libba Bray's Rebel Angels Felicity, Gemma, Pippa, and Ann all go to the opera. The important plot point there actually happens in the powder room, and in the lobby later all are focused on who's accompanied them and not the opera itself.
- Balzac used this trope to extremes. In almost every episode of Comédie Humaine, the characters go to opera for flirting or to make a scandal about their screwed up marriages and liaisons. The performances are unimportant, but usually some Rossini. Also, A Harlot High And Low opens with an opera ball.
- Lampooned in The Baroque Cycle. Nobody who's anybody in the time of Louis XIV attends an opera to watch the actors; don't be absurd.
- While what's happening on (and behind) the stage in Maskerade is very important, there is a nod to this trope; Granny observes that most of the audience is there to be seen, not to watch.
- War and Peace includes a scene where various characters socialise at the opera, with dramatic consequences for some of them.
- The Scarlet Pimpernel has a people-socialising-at-the-opera scene.
- In My Wife and Kids, leaving the opera early means the father catches the son trying to get it on with his girlfriend.
- In at least one Sex and the City episode.
- In an early Cheers episode, Diane takes some of the other characters along. They all, Diane included, end up sound asleep.
- Happened on an episode of Will and Grace, when Grace confronts Karen by tracking her down in her box at the opera.
Grace: Oh, come on, it's Madame Butterfly. You know how it ends. [GRACE MAKES A KNIFING MOTION] Aah-aah-aah!
- In Angel's "Waiting in the Wings", the characters went to the ballet and incidently showed the world that Summer Glau could act.
- Seinfeld had an episode at the opera. It focused on how The Meistro kept his pants creased.
- Given how often opera is mentioned on Frasier, the characters attend it on screen surprisingly little. Though they often mention trips to the opera, and/or meet in Frasier's apartment before a performance. (It's likely the budget of a sitcom just didn't cover lots of extras in fancy dress on many occasions).
- An episode of Sister, Sister has Ray and Lisa go to a performance of La Boheme with Ray's limo clients. Usually Ray is the cultured one and Lisa is the uncultured one, but Hilarity Ensues to make it seem like Ray is the uncivilized one.
- The Gossip Girl episode The Tantrum of the Opera.
- Jeeves and Wooster has an episode where a group of young men, including Wooster, attend an opera and fall asleep.
- Rumpole of the Bailey's Claude Erskine-Brown is almost defined by his love of opera (specifically Wagner), but we rarely ever see him. However, it does appear once or twice.
- Additionally, Rumpole meets the actual culprit in "Rumpole and the Official Secret" in a box at Covent Garden.
- In the 2002 miniseries Napoleon, Napoleon Bonaparte goes to the opera and other public events in Paris so his enemies, the Austrians and Russians, won't expect his "Grand Armee" as it secretly marches across Europe without him.
- Audrey in Rules of Engagement accidentally finds out that Russel is secretly a theatre/musical enthusiast.
- The Human Target episode "Imbroglio."
- Boy Meets World had an episode where Mr. Feeny takes Eric to the opera in an attempt to instill an appreciation for culture in him. Eric is bored out of his mind, but just as he's about to give up and leave, "Ride of the Valkyries" begins to play, which he recognizes as "Kill Da Wabbit." From that point on, he's utterly enthralled, to Feeny's exasperation.
- In the first episode of The Palace, Prince Richard and Prince George weasel out of a Wagnerian opera to go clubbing—but they do end up at the opera house later that night, after their father dies unexpectedly.
- One of Bette Midler's funniest routines (which she worked into the movie Beaches) is a song about Otto Titsling (who despite what you may have heard, did not invent the brassiere). Bette works in a number of "T"-bombs, but the first verse evokes this trope:
Otto Titsling, inventor and kraut
Had nothing to get very worked up about
His inventions were failures, his future seemed bleak
He fled to the opera at least twice a week
- The play Cyrano De Bergerac begins at the Burgundy Hotel, a Parisian theater, the public was going to see La Clorise, but before it begins, they all really want is to play with cards, drink wine, eat food, brawl with each other, tease girls, make funny pranks, and work (by some pick pocketing).
- In Dream Girl, Clark asks Georgina out to the opening night of a production of The Merchant of Venice, and she is interested because she went to college with the actress playing Portia. Georgina also says she played Portia in high school, back when she wanted to be an actress, and takes over the role from the actress in a Dream Sequence.
Video Games[edit | hide]
- Painkiller has the Opera House level, which involves samurai, ninja and beetle-things trying to kill Daniel - and him killing them.
- Parasite Eve begins with the heroine attending an opera, where the audience gets killed and the opera singer turns into a monster. The final scene is an Ironic Echo of this.
- The Hitman: Blood Money level "Curtains Down" takes place in an opera house where one of your targets was in a rehearsal of Tosca. The other target was watching the other guy do the rehearsal of Tosca.
- Final Fantasy VI has its famous "Aria de Mezzo Caraterre", but it's the only part of the show that we see in detail. The plot actually focuses on the party trying to rig a meeting with Setzer and gaining access to his airship by using Celes as a decoy for the real opera singer. And then Ultros decides to drop in as well...
- Also hilarious for some of the party members' reactions to high culture:
Sabin: "Uh. Why's everyone singing?"
- A significant part of Gabriel Knight 2 revolves around a fictional lost Wagner opera, "Der Fluch Des Engelhart." The endgame is set the night of the opera's first performance, and focuses both on the trope's regular features, and another character setting things up from the backroom so they can get on stage at the right point.
- Family Guy: Peter gets dragged to the ballet; he's so bored he ends up exchanging texts with Quagmire.
- The Simpsons have attended several theatrical performances. Lisa and Marge will be paying attention while Bart and Homer usually get bored. Lisa, being a eight-year-old child, occasionally joins Bart and Homer in their shenannigans (or at least laughs with/at them).
- In the trilogy "Magical History Tour" where Bart plays Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Lisa (as Salieri) dopes the Emperor during a Mozart performance so he falls asleep, leading the fops in the audience to follow the Emperor's lead.
- The film "The Poke of Zorro" that the Simpsons go to see is a Historical Mash-up wherein Zorro saves the life of the King Arthur at the opera house (after fighting The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask, ninjas, and The Scarlet Pimpernel) and is proclaimed the new king of England.
- Used in the Don Bluth movie of Anastasia, the Parisian Ballet is used as the setting of a few important revelations and fights—and the ballet is the extremely apt Cinderella.
- Played with in Hey Arnold! where the class does go to an opera, but they fall asleep and end up in their own version of it. Yes, they sing.
- The Real Ghostbusters go to a performance of Wagner's Ring Cycle in "A Fright at the Opera," though not for their own enjoyment: the opera house has an infestation of real, ghostly Valkyries.
- The climax of Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers takes place at the opera.
- In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Sweet and Elite", we see Rarity attending an opera during a musical montage of her mingling with Canterlot's upper crust.
Web Comics[edit | hide]
- The Adventures of Wiglaf and Mordred has an arch featuring the entire cast (at the time, anyway) attending a piano concert to see one of the protagonists sisters perform. Of the 73 strips in the arch about three deal with the actual piano performance, most of which involves Wiglaf outperforming the actual pianist.