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Whether you already know when to expect the heroine in "Madame Butterfly" to die dramatically on stage or you have no idea what kind of shenanigans go on during a performance of the Puccini masterpiece, you’re savvy enough to know a matinee frequently calls for a different dress code than an evening event. Your closet most likely already holds a variety of duds that would be appropriate, so whether you’re seeing that matinee in San Francisco, Los Angeles or anywhere in between, you’ll be ready.
When in Doubt, Ask
Folks working the phones at the San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and other opera venues up and down the state don’t mind calls from opera matinee neophytes, so be brave and call ‘em up. Ask for a staffer’s take on what folks wear when they arrive for a performance on the afternoon listed on your ticket and you will probably get all kinds of tips for dressing to fit in with the crowd. And yes, the advice can be just as informative if it comes from a dude.
Visit the Opera House Website
Take a deep breathe; you’re not the only Californian feeling shy about what to wear to hear the fat lady sing, which is why so many opera companies literally put “What shall I wear?” information on their websites. If it’s not hidden within the links, calendars, ticket information and other data, chances are you’ll find comforting advice within the site’s FAQ section. Some data is straight up. Other responses are downright clever. For example, on the San Francisco Opera site, read text like this: “Coming after work? Your business attire is perfect. Can’t part with that pair of old jeans or Birkenstocks? Keep them on. There is no dress code at San Francisco Opera.”
Dress For Comfort
Operas can last a few hours or all afternoon with intermissions to break up the acts, so dress for comfort once you see the range of options available to you after chatting with a staffer or getting the wardrobe skinny from the website. You’ll be sitting a lot, so feel free to wear sassy shoes for walks to the ladies room and social mixing before or after the performance. Frankly, it’s all about the company you keep when you’re attending an opera matinee. If, for example, you’re a member of ARIA, the LA Opera’s group for young professionals, you may be using the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as your networking hub, so professional attire makes perfect sense.
Break Out the Afternoon Tiara
On occasion, California opera houses stage formal matinees. Like the Oscars and Emmys -- when celebs decked out in diamonds and silk arrive at noon -- you may be asked to a charity-related benefit performance or a one-time event starring an international opera star staged during the day. Information concerning attire is likely to appear on the opera company’s invitation and/or website, but it’s still up to you to consider logistics. Your desire to emulate “Pretty Woman” star Julia Roberts at the opera is doable, but unless a limo drops you off at the entrance, think twice. A walk to the parking lot on Louboutin-clad feet in broad daylight may not be all that pretty.