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How to Get Into Opera

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The world of opera can appear a little daunting at first, with images of, ahem, larger women singing, and upper-class audiences who'll laugh at you if you clap in the wrong bit. But learn the basics and you can enjoy a recently-resurgent artform, and impress the ladies with your air of culture.

Margaret Cooke of Opera Bespoke, who provide tailored musical performances for any occasion, gives us some tips on how to liberate your libretto.

1. Don't be intimidated

"Most people would be amazed how much operatic music they already know. Nessun Dorma, the 1990 World Cup theme, is from Puccini's Turando and The Flower Duet, the music from the British Airways advert, is from Delibes' Lakmé. People also think opera is a pastime for the rich and snobby, but it's still pop escapism with music, singing, dancing and costumes."

2. Pick an entry-point opera

"Dip your toe in, and start in the shallow end. Choose an opera with a grand story and big tunes; something like Carmen, The Marriage of Figaro or Madame Butterfly. Don't go and see a Wagner - you could be in for a long night."

3. Do a little homework

"Before you go, find out the story, so you can follow what's happening. You don't need to buy any books, just look on the internet and do a little reading; wikipedia is great. Also try and listen to some of the arias - these are the main solo songs."

4. Choose where to watch

"The traditional way is to go to The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. People think that prices can be extortionate but some tickets can be cheap. You can queue on the day and get very reasonable prices. Alternatively, pubs such as The King's Head in Islington put on intimate performances at low prices. Or attend an Opera Gala - an evening with a selection of all the popular tunes, giving a brief history of opera whilst enjoying a meal."

5. Explore the whole genre

"Over 2500 operas have been written, so there's plenty to see. Take a friend or loved one, it's a wonderful social occasion. Or simply listen at home; there's plenty of great recordings by wonderful singers."

London's Landmark Hotel is hosting its first Opera Gala Dinner on Thursday 3rd November, featuring a specially-created six-course dinner, interspersed with opera. It will suit both aficionados and those a little more new to opera. Tickets £150. 2012 dates to be announced.

Image: Rex

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