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At the Opera Tonight
Going to see and be seen.

"You don't know how refreshing this is. To meet someone who doesn't just come to the theater, but who gives over to it. That crowd in there, they only come because it's fashionable."
Sir Trevor Aimsley, Frasier

Basically where characters are attending an Opera, concert, or other Theater performance. They put on their best clothes and take in some culture. Yet this is mainly 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. When Men Are Uncultured, this is an opportunity to demonstrate masculinity by swearing off the "sissy gay art crap", to which their wives have taken them.

Conversely, the more worldly man can take his less sophisticated love interest to the opera to impress and cultivate her. Sure enough, she is wowed by the glamorous surroundings and mesmerised by the performance, while he observes her contently.

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. As a result, this is a very popular trope in literature of the time. 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.

Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • A Bud Light commercial has two men bring bottles of Bud Light 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.

    Anime and Manga 
  • 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+ 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.
  • In episode 61 (appropriately titled "Invitation to an Opera") of Legend of Galactic Heroes, the Supreme Chairman of the Alliance High Council is supposed to watch an opera together with the Imperial consul before he got himself kidnapped by rebelling soldiers. The Imperial consul watching the opera alone was not pleased about the chairman's tardiness.

    Comic Books 
  • In Alan Moore's Lost Girls, the final scene of part one is a visit to the opera, which is mostly an excuse for a bizarre, drug-addled initiation of Wendy into the pleasures of homo-eroticism.

    Fanfiction 
  • Earth and Sky: In chapters 12 and 13, Twilight, Rarity and co. attend a production of The Ring Of The Neighbelung starring Sweetie Belle as personal guests of the Princesses. This gives them the opportunity to present the Princesses with the concept of the flight harness.
  • Set in December 2009, Absit Omen featured a wizarding Winter Opera in which all the in-character attention was focused on those observing the event from the box seats, with the play described only in brief snippets...until the critical moment when the night took a turn for the worst.

    Film 
  • In Pretty Woman, Edward takes Vivian to see La Traviata, in the "cultured Gentleman introduces an uncultured woman to the fine things of life" version. She is, of course, enraptured.
  • 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.
  • James Bond:
    • In The Living Daylights, Bond meets his contact Saunders during a concert in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. He is assigned to aid the defection of a KGB officer, General Koskov, covering his escape from the concert hall during the orchestra's intermission.
    • Quantum of Solace has a memorable sequence during a performance of Tosca.
  • 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.
  • 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 in the private box and confront him. She dodges the security officers by jumping onto the stage and scrambling up the back wall; the audience thinks she's All Part of the Show and applauds.
  • 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 in Cavalleria Rusticana, 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 daughter 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, Ronny (Nicholas Cage) invites Loretta (Cher) to see La Bohème with him, because he loves her and he loves opera so it would be his two favorite things together. She accepts.
  • Batman Begins eschews sending the Wayne family to the usual movie (Tyrone Power in 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.
  • The Polish film Sala Samobojcow, or Suicide Room, begins and ends at the opera. It opens with Dominik's family watching a performance. Later in the story, when they visit again, Dominik has a breakdown, tells his parents he is gay and promptly begins making out with a marble bust. In a sad sort of symmetry, the story ends at the opera after Dominik's suicide with his parents sitting in separate boxes. They are now divorced.
  • Amadeus naturally has several opera scenes: over the course of the film, we see bits of performances of The Abduction from the Seraglio, The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, and Don Giovanni by Mozart, as well as the finale of Salieri's Axur, Re d'Ormus. For the central characters—Salieri and Mozart—these are work, but the character of the 18th-century Viennese opera night is expressed rather well—that is to say, rich people in fancy dress chatting and drinking and only half-paying attention to the action onstage, with the ones who had their own boxes getting dinner served and sometimes drunkenly tossing orange peels and other refuse onto the audience below.
  • The Chevy Chase suspense-comedy Foul Play ends with a plot to assassinate the Pope at a performance of The Mikado.

    Literature 
  • 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 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.
  • Exit Strategy book 1 of the Nadia Stratford series by Kelley Armstrong, has a large sequence revolving around an opera performance. Montage revolving around getting ready? Check. Montage of pretty people in pretty opera-attending clothing? Check. Everyone absolutely ignoring the performance, instead watching the rest of the crowd? TRIPLE-check.
  • In Överenskommelser by Simona Ahrnstedt, protagonists Beatrice and Seth first meet each other during an evening at the Stockholm Opera.
  • In Where Angels Fear To Tread Philip, Harriet and Caroline attend a performance of Lucia Di Lammermoor in a provincial Italian opera house. Hilarity Ensues as Harriet's British Stuffiness is offended.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Hannibal uses this for one episode. The titular character attends a performance (benefiting world hunger), and runs into a patient.
  • 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.
    Patron: Shh!
    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 Bohème 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:
    • Claude Erskine-Brown is almost defined by his love of opera (specifically Wagner), but we rarely ever see him attend a live performance. However, it does appear once or twice.
    • 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.
  • In the Doctor Who TV movie, we first meet "Amazing Grace" Holloway in the audience of Madame Butterfly when she gets paged to operate on the Doctor.
  • The pilot for Murder, She Wrote has Jessica watching the rehearsal of a murder mystery play, and giving away who the killer is before the first act was up. Some later episodes have her attending plays(occasionally based on her own works) and ballet productions, and inevitably helping solve murders that take place at these events. In one episode, she tells a detective, "There are three things in life that you can never have enough of, Lieutenant; friends, chocolate and theater."
  • In the Frasier episode "Hot Ticket", Frasier and Niles see the last play by a notable theater actor. But they care more about the prestige of the play than the content, so rather than admits they had to miss it, they fake seeing the play. Frasier manages to bluff seeing it to the actor himself, who laments how people often care more about such things because they are fashionable than caring about the art itself.

    Music 
  • The Spike Jones song "Pal-Yat-Chee" is a summary of the plot of the opera Pagliacci told from the perspective of a country-and-western fan trapped in the theatre.

    Standup Comedy 
  • 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

    Theater 
  • Cyrano de Bergerac begins at the Burgundy Hotel, a Parisian theater, the public was going to see La Clorise, but before it begins, all they really want is to play with cards, drink wine, eat food, brawl with each other, tease girls, make funny pranks, and work (some pickpocketing).
  • In Dream Girl, Clark asks Georgina out to the opening night of a production of The Merchant of Venice where an old college friend of hers is playing Portia. Georgina also claims to have 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 
  • 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.
  • Assassin's Creed III sets its first mission in a revival performance of The Beggar's Opera in the 1750s.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 shenanigans (or at least laughs with/at them).
  • 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.
  • The Oggy and the Cockroaches episode "A Night at the Opera" features Jack as the headliner of an opera, with Dee Dee attempting to shove his way into the spotlight, all while Oggy stops him, along with Joey and Marky, from ruining his cousin's night from behind the scenes.

    Webcomics 
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • Shadow of the Templar includes a trip to the opera in the fourth novel High Fidelity, in which Jeremy, Simon, and Team Templar undertake a rescue mission at a performance of Turandot to save Jeremy's friend Annabelle, who also is his answering service.

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