Country opera changes its dress code

Country opera changes its dress code


norman lebrecht

October 16, 2016

Wasfi Kani, head of the relocated Grange Park Opera which reopens in Surrey next summer, doesn’t expect everyone to turn up in formal wear.

The new dress code reads: ‘Guests wear something stylish. Most of the audience wears black tie/ long or short dress, but don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd. We encourage creativity.’

What she means, she tells the Telegraph, is: ‘People can wear whatever they like. A nice Italian suit is a better piece of clothing than a tatty old dinner jacket. We don’t all have to have the same life.’

Trainers will be welcomed, provided they are very expensive.

grange park opera


  • Ed says:

    Most people like to dress nice. An enourmous crowd post pictures of what they wear every day and enjoy the feedback they get. Opera is stylish. Can not walk around in shorts and slippers in these surroundings. Clothes are one of the few things where you can get good stuff for a low price these days. Come on. Don’t be dull.

  • Philippe Artéaux says:

    One of these should fit the bill (taken from Anthea Kruston’s weekly soap opera column):
    ” ……a floor-length black gown with jewelled turquoise straps crisscrossing the just-appropriately low back of the dress”.
    “…….a purple straight lined floor-length dress, covered in teeny glittering beads, and a diamond cut-out in the back”

  • Halldor says:

    Funnily enough, exactly the same dress code as applies at Garsington, Glyndebourne and Longborough. Lots of people enjoy dressing up and it’s part of the pleasure of the occasion to see and be seen. But no-one will turn you away if you’re in jeans and T-shirt, and no-one whose opinion is of any value will judge you for it either.

  • Engela Le Roux says:

    A very debative topic ,listening to Opera and going to live productions for many years I would say 50 years plus ,I am reminded of early years ,excitement of,dress up !!,black satin ,velvet, fur coats ,pearls and the men , top hat and tails or a dark suit with bow tie ,us oldies remember !!But times change and if dress code desires so for specific Concert Hall we must comply .If we want to keep Opera alive and well for generations and share our love of this exceptional art form ..the human voice we have to be more acceptable of the dress code !casual but smart not sloppy

    • Una says:

      As an singer, I have spent my life in England trying to.get people to go to the opera myself and it’s all this nonsense that put many off, not to mention the price of the whole package before you hear one single note of the music. Better if some of the performers actually dressed up in some cases, and leave the audience to turn up tidy. A fashion parade verging on celebrity culture in the audience is not the answer to getting new audiences who really listen to any and not feel intimidated for not wearing a uniform. Dutch all these dinner jackets and black. If black us required, it should be black people in the audience not black clothes . Thank God for Opera North, Covent Garden and ENO where you can wear what you like.

      • Adrienne says:

        ‘If black us required, it should be black people in the audience’

        Required? Should be?

        Oh really?

        Why is it always black people? Suppose we’d rather go somewhere else?

        Why are we always being treated as feckless victims, for gauging how successful you are at overcoming your white guilt? Quite a few black singers over the years. We can participate when we choose to do so. Is that not good enough?

      • Steven Holloway says:

        I am so pleased you wrote this, Una. I agree entirely. I have occasionally wished that more people would dress up just a bit to attend a concert, but heavens above, I’m now vastly more concerned that more people, and younger people, attend concerts and I really don’t give a tinker’s cuss what they wear. I think the dictates of these opera companies only contribute to the slow death of classical music now underway.

        • Maria says:

          But as Halldor points out, the major companies don’t have diktats at all, nor do concert halls.

          Admittedly it might be argued that the small country opera companies add to the perception but I doubt if many non opera going young people have even heard of them, apart from maybe Glyndebourne.

          IMO, the problem is perception, which TV and education are doing little to correct, and also a certain amount of laziness and narrow mindedness which nobody wants to admit to. Easier to blame something else.

          Interestingly, young people don’t seem to be averse to dressing up for that recent American import – the School Prom.

  • Una says:

    Such are these dinner jackets …

    Sorry, never been good at typing on a phone with one finger …

  • Maria says:

    I think a distinction needs to be drawn between opera companies that are state subsidised and those that are not. Although I agree with those who point out that many people like to dress smartly, the fact remains that opera has an image problem. You’d be surprised how many people sincerely believe that black tie is mandatory.

    Halldor’s last point is valid, but the fact remains that if people THINK they will be made to feel uncomfortable in jeans and T-shirt, they will not go, and I don’t think opera houses can afford to alienate people. Nor should they if they are subsidised. Private events can do as they wish.

    On a practical level, many theatres lack effective air conditioning and I would certainly prefer to be comfortable for a long performance.

    • Halldor says:

      But not a single state-subsidised opera company in the UK has a dress code. In fact they’ve all, every single one, got statements on their websites saying “There is no dress code – wear what you like” or words to that effect. It’s an unhelpful myth, and we shouldn’t really perpetuate it. I’ve been to them all (and most of the big country house festivals) and I’ve never worn a black tie in a theatre in my entire life (unless I’m playing in the pit).

      (Now if you want to feel not only uncomfortable but actually threatened, try wearing the wrong coloured clothes to a football match!)

      • Maria says:

        Yes, it’s about the perception, not the reality. However, I doubt if the hardline “opera is for toffs” brigade get as far as the websites.

        I like the football analogy. Overbearing conventions can be found in many places, including places popular with people who consider themselves uninhibited and cool. Before the Lyceum was refurbished and modified for The Lion King, I remember seeing a long queue for a rock concert there. Massive conformity of the denim variety. Far more conformity than at the ROH where I was heading.

  • Islander says:

    Glad to see that Wasfi Kani has changed her tune. We were once at Grange Park for Tristan and Wasfi came up to us during the first interval and told us that ‘ramblers’ weren’t allowed in the building as a performance was going on. We explained that we were part of the audience and asked if she wanted to see our tickets. She didn’t. We were dressed informally but quite nicely, we thought! I go to the opera to see an opera, and would never dream of going to ‘see and be seen’. People should feel entirely free to wear whatever they like and potential new opera-goers can certainly be alienated if they think that formal wear is required. The opera itself is the only thing that matters.

    • Steven Holloway says:

      The tune may be different, but she’s singing in the same key. Note that having said that people can wear what they want, she gives as an example “a nice Italian suit”. Pure snobbery and elitism, and the major concern having a fashion parade rather than staging a fine performance. She’s hopeless.

  • Cyril Blair says:

    Sounds oppressive.

  • OperaGene says:

    How about a compromise? I’m for Casual Tuesdays with pizza slices and beer sold in the lobby.

    • Engela Le Roux says:

      Yes indeed ,get dressed in whatever is in your cupboard , round up your friends and go to the Opera and Enjoy