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Do you need opera glasses for ROH amphitheatre?


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Hello, I'm very new to theatre going in general, never mind ballet, and was wondering if anyone had any advice on the need (or not) for opera glasses at the Royal Opera House??

 

I'm going to see Birthday Offering/A Month In The Country/Les Noces in July and will be in row J of the amphitheatre. The only other time I've seen a ballet at the ROH was from the stalls, so I could see everything that was going on really clearly. I've suddenly started panicking a bit about how much I'll actually be able to see from where I'm sitting when I go in July! I know absolutely nothing technically about ballet so don't feel a need to see the dancers' feet close up but I am wondering whether not being able to see their faces clearly will spoil things, especially in A Month In The Country where the acting is important?

 

Do you think opera glasses are a necessity from the amphitheatre? Would be really grateful for any advice/opinions!

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Welcome. A good point for discussion.

 

I never use opera glasses, not because my eyes are wonderful but because I just don't get on with them and find them more trouble than they're worth, especially as I wear glasses. However, maybe if I had the right pair things might be different. My impression is that good opera glasses are very difficult to find - most small binoculars seem to me to be too powerful. Good optics are expensive too.

 

The view from the Amphitheatre, even without opera glasses, may be better than from the Stalls as one can take in the whole stage more easily and the birds-eye view can often enhance things. In ballet, faces are not that important: it's the whole person who acts.

 

However most of the regular ballet-goers whom I know do seem to be wedded to their binoculars so may be able to give better advice about what to get (or not) than me.

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When I first started going to ROH and other theatres, I bought a small pair of binoculars (about 8x magnification) but I found them too powerful for ease of use - I was constantly having to adjust the focus and in the end gave up. I was given a pair of rather nice opera glasses (I was horrified when I saw how much money the ROH shop sold them for!) and found those much better.

 

As John said - you don't need them for an overall view but if you wanted to see particular dancers closer up they can be very useful. For example, in some of the "war horse" pdd, it can be nice to focus on the dancer during the solos. You may want to use them in story ballets for close-ups on the faces of dancers but it isn't necessary as the choreography adequately tells the story.

 

Whatever you do, enoy the performance!

 

Edited to correct the spelling mistake I noticed and to add a bit about story ballets.

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I bought some opera glasses a few months ago and really enjoy using them. However, on one occasion a woman behind me complained that my use of them was blocking her view and this has made me uncomfortable about using them since. I have been wondering whether there is some kind of opera glasses etiquette of which I am unaware. A few weeks later another woman complained when I leaned forward for a minute forward to see who was in the orchestra pit. I immediately sat back and so I never found out which instruments were being played at Streetcar.

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Thanks very much for the replies :)

 

It's reassuring to hear that the acting should still come across, even from a distance. It does sound, from all your posts, that the opera glasses can be more trouble than they're worth. Hmm...

 

Aileen, I hadn't even thought about the issue of binocular etiquette! It sounds like the woman who complained about you leaning forward to look into the orchestra pit was being a little unreasonable though. It's one thing if someone's doing that for several minutes on end and spoiling your view for quite a while but a minute, surely, is forgivable!

 

I wonder why the ROH don't have those little opera glasses that are attached to the seats? I was taken to see Les Sylphides and a couple of other short ballets at either Sadlers Wells or the ROH back in 1985 when I was nine and remember using the theatre's own opera glasses to better see the 'action' on stage. It seemed like such a good idea.

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Re leaning forward: I realised very early on that leaning forward obstructed the view of the people behind so stopped doing it (even before I'd started watching ballet). I've had people lean forward in front of me to peer into the orchestra pit at crucial bits of the action and it absolutely infuriates me when that happens.

 

I've never had an issue with people in front of me using binoculars or opera glasses and have never been obstructed by them. I wouldn't worry too much about one person complaining.

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It wasn't you at Streetcar, was it, Janet? I'd never realised that leaning forward would block someone's view. I would have thought that leaning forward (in your seat) would make you "smaller" if anything. Where does being considerate end though? If a very tall person is sitting in front of you should s/he be requested to slide down in his/her seat a bit because s/he is blocking my view for the WHOLE of the performance! In both of the cases I mentioned above the complainant was a woman of mature years who wasn't particularly polite when she made her request/complaint. I'm afraid that it isn't only the young who are rude. Some people of a certain age and class (usually older middle-class women) seem to think that they have the right to complain the minute that something is not to their liking. I suspect that if my husband had been with me at the time they may not have said anything.

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I've had people lean forward in front of me to peer into the orchestra pit at crucial bits of the action and it absolutely infuriates me when that happens.

 

Me too!

 

As for opera-glass etiquette, I think you do need to be a bit careful, because arms can stick out (and so can binoculars). When using them, I usually try and keep my arms tightly in, and favour the left arm or right arm depending on where I'm sitting and where people are sitting behind me (trying to keep the view of the arm obliterated by my body if possible) so as to try not to cause any obstruction. That said, it's pot luck partly, anyway: some audience members are very sensitive to anything like that, while others are much more laid back. I remember once, early on in my ROH-going career, I was in the rear stalls for some reason (in the days when I think they were lower down than they are now relative to the stalls circle), it was sweltering hot and I needed to fan myself so I could breathe adequately. Someone sitting in the front row of the stalls circle leant over and asked me, rather brusquely, to stop. I was tempted to reply that if I fainted as a result and had to be carted out of there by ushers it would have disrupted his (and a lot of other people's) appreciation of the performance far more than me occasionally fanning myself!

 

Anyway, I'm getting a little off the subject here. Quite a few people in the amphi do use opera glasses. Some even use small binoculars (I have a x8 magnification pair which I find too much, but a x4 seems to work). Bluebird (I don't know if that was her just posting while I'm writing this) is very good on the specs of such things. I suppose it's going to depend, among other things, on how good your eyesight is. I think you may lose a bit in Month if you can't see the facial expressions, but doubt it'll be that much: if it were MacMillan, I might say differently. Birthday Offering and Noces wouldn't be a problem, I'd have thought.

 

Anyway, welcome to the forum, Marieve, and I hope you enjoy the performance in any case!

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I'm afraid that it isn't only the young who are rude. Some people of a certain age and class (usually older middle-class women) seem to think that they have the right to complain the minute that something is not to their liking.

 

No indeed. I think a lot of people who are regular theatre/ballet/operagoers regard any breach of theatre etiquette as extremely bad manners, and expect everyone else to know better. Not everyone does, unfortunately, sometimes because they couldn't care less, and sometimes because they just haven't thought about it (I feel another one of those famous Ballet.co "audience behaviour" threads coming on ...). If you can actually have a reasoned discussion with them and say "When you're sitting back, I can see the whole stage, but as soon as you lean forward you block out 25% of the stage for me", that's fine, but of course these things usually happen during the performance when etiquette requires you to remain quiet! But no, as an extremely general rule, leaning forward does not in any way reduce your silhouette (except possibly if you fold your arms on your lap and then lean your body on your arms, but I'm not even sure about that!). Theatre sightlines are often designed very specifically, and usually on the assumption that people will sit back in their seats, and if they don't it can be quite disastrous. For example, I once was sitting in the side of row B in the amphitheatre. I was watching a bill including Polyphonia. There was a woman with "big hair" sitting in a tactically important seat in front of me in row A: when she leaned forward, she took out the entire centre of the stage for me, and I could only see the side couples! *And* I couldn't reach her to tap her on the shoulder and ask her to sit back!

 

Sorry, I'm digressing rather here ...

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Aileen, no it wasn't me at Streetcar! Until it happened to me, I hadn't realised how much someone leaning forward could block a view.

 

Your issue of tall people is very pertinent! When I was recently in Munich watching BRB, on the first evening we were on the 2nd row. There was no rake at all on the first few rows of the stalls. My friend and I were fine but the poor lady sitting next to us had the misfortune to be sitting behind a gentleman who was enormously tall. She was having to move from side to side to see anything at all and I actually heard the lady behind her complaining (in English) about her moving around! She and her husband swapped seats after the interval but then so did the tall man! She and her husband swapped back as the lights went down.

 

Now all balletcoforum readers know why I prefer to sit, in most instances, on the front row of the stalls. As I tend to visit certain theatres on a regular basis I have worked out where I prefer to sit in most circumstances. For example, at the Liverpool Empire if I am not on the front row I go in row L or further back. At the Palace Theatre in Manchester, the front row is too low and I prefer the side stalls in rows D-F (D15 or D31 is my favourite seat).

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When I use my opera glasses I keep my arms close to my body. If opera glasses really are a problem then perhaps they should be banned! What other people find unacceptably distracting, annoying or inconvenient may not be the same as what you or I do. I would probably have found Alison's fanning irritating (she felt that she had a good reason for doing it but that didn't alter the fact that it was distracting to the other person) but I would just have put up with it and not said anything. When you're out and about there are dozens of things that other people do that irritate you which you could complain about but I choose to let things go. It's not pleasant, as an adult, to be tapped on the shoulder and told off in front of other people in a public space such as a theatre. Next time (if there is one) someone complains to me I plan to say something in return.

 

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I often sit in row J of the amphi at the ROH and must say I would be lost without my mini-binoculars, it's a wonderful view of the whole stage from there and I always think classical ballet looks best from above, especially the corps de ballet, but for pdd and solo's I like to use about x5 or x8, that way I get the best of both worlds!

 

As to etiquette, it's not usually people who use opera glasses/binoculars that annoy me, but people who can't sit still and especially sit forward all the time.

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Definitely not frightened off! As an ignorant newbie, it's good to know What Not To Do at the ballet :D I really had no idea that leaning forward even slightly could affect the person behind you's view so much.

 

Beryl, your post about being lost without your binoculars in row J is swaying me towards getting some now. I'm just thinking that as a non Londoner who'll only be able to see the RB occasionally, it would be a real shame not to make the absolute most of this occasion.

 

I'm pathetically excited about it, especially Les Noces. When I was deciding whether to see it and had a quick look at the RB recording on YouTube, the music honestly sent a chill down my spine and moved me to tears, even though I have no idea what they were singing about! I really can't wait to see it live.

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Sometimes I use binoculars to see details of the costumes and scenery: so far no one has complained, thank goodness. I have on several occasions seen a very senior staff member of the Royal Ballet use them from her seat in row B of the Grand Tier. Admittedly, most of us don't have the same the same need to see the dancers in so much detail but I guess that in terms of etiquette it's perfectly acceptable to do so within reason.

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I think that opera glasses can enhance the performance as I like to see the performers faces from time to time, and also the costumes, but for the most part a whole stage view is best. I have never found the use of them by others irritating and I hope I have never annoyed anyone else

 

I agree that one of the most irritating things is people leaning forward. I once sat in the third row of the Balcony and should have had a great view except that several people in the front row lent forward the whole time. I took the cowards way out and asked one of the attendants to have a word in the interval. It does actually refer to this in the guidelines part of the ROH programme under ' Enjoying the performance' but I don't suppose everyone reads this

 

The other most annoying thing is people who wait for a quiet part to unwrap their confectionary, cough sweet or whatever. Really breaks the spell

 

Having said that most people are lovely, friendly and happy to chat in the interval if they are not making a bee line for the bar so I hope you have a wonderful time Marieve. Anticipation is part of the enjoyment too!

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Definitely not frightened off! As an ignorant newbie, it's good to know What Not To Do at the ballet :D I really had no idea that leaning forward even slightly could affect the person behind you's view so much.

 

 

 

Beryl, your post about being lost without your binoculars in row J is swaying me towards getting some now. I'm just thinking that as a non Londoner who'll only be able to see the RB occasionally, it would be a real shame not to make the absolute most of this occasion.

 

Don't forget I'm a complete ballet nutter who has to see as much of my favourite dancers as possible :) there are lots of people who sit up in the amphi who don't use them, in this particular programme Month in the Country would be the one where a close-up view of the dancer's faces would be an advantage.

 

 

I'm pathetically excited about it, especially Les Noces. When I was deciding whether to see it and had a quick look at the RB recording on YouTube, the music honestly sent a chill down my spine and moved me to tears, even though I have no idea what they were singing about! I really can't wait to see it live.

 

It's a great programme, I'm most looking forward to Birthday Offering.

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Definitely not frightened off! As an ignorant newbie, it's good to know What Not To Do at the ballet biggrin.png I really had no idea that leaning forward even slightly could affect the person behind you's view so much.

 

Well, I'm glad to see we're attracting "ignorant newbies" as well (and one who even dared to Start A Thread - my goodness! We have people who've done no more than lurk on here - or rather The Old Place - for years :D ). If there's anything else you need to know, please do ask. The ROH is by no means alone in that leaners-forward can block other people's view - I've been in numerous other London theatres where it happens as well.

 

The full recording of the RB's Les Noces is out on DVD, I believe - along with The Firebird, if I remember rightly (and that's featuring in a bill next year).

 

You've reminded me that last year, when we still had the old site, I was putting together some sort of "advice to newbies" post, but never got around to it. Perhaps I should look it out ...

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I would definitely take opera glasses, absolutely no question. Obviously, you won't want to watch the entire performance through them but I find I want to see dancers expressions sometimes and without them it's impossible unless you're fairly close to the stage - or have much better eyesight than I do. As far as it annoying other people goes, I've never been annoyed by someone using binoculars nor has anyone ever complained to me. There are far greater annoyances to be had : texting (during the performance), constant whispering, unzipping bags, rustling sweet wrappers and so on .........

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I agree with Anna....I would definitely take them, Marieve. I use them all the time, even when I'm standing in the stalls circle. They are good strong ones, and afford me close-up views of the dancers' faces which I would not be able to see without them. This is very important to me at certain parts of various ballets, for example when Romeo and Juliet first set eyes on each other, and watching the interaction between Lise and Widow Simone during many points of Fille, and checking out what is going on the crowd scenes of MacMillan's story ballets. I could go on, but I hope you get the picture! No-one has ever complained to me about using them in more than 35 years of going to the ROH. Enjoy the performance, and welcome to the forum; please let us know your impressions once you have been.

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Forget opera glasses .... I use FIELD GLASSES ... have for yonks ... As far as I'm concerned they are opera glasses for the poor ... but, of course, rich in spirit. (Blessedly they still have not taxed these ... and I have, I must confess, worn out more than a few pairs globally).... ENJOY YOUR LIFE IN THE THEATRE, MARIEVE.

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Thank you very much, everybody, for the very helpful advice and also for the welcomes and encouragement :)

 

Am definitely going to get some cheapo binoculars now, to see how I get along with them in July. Actually, I'll probably get two pairs as it might feel a little rude to be using them myself while my companion (sister) only has the normal view of the stage...

 

Alison, a guide for newbies would be wonderful. I'm amazed to hear that people lurk for years without ever posting - then again, I lurked for aaages and only registered in order to post the binoculars query.

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Am definitely going to get some cheapo binoculars now, to see how I get along with them in July.

 

Just one more word of advice. Try to get a pair with the widest field possible. In my opinion, the width of the field is almost more important than the magnification. With a narrow field you can only focus on one pair of dancers. With a wider field you can focus on many more.

 

Binoculars with a wide field don't have to be expensive. Although my 8.2 degrees binoculars cost between £30 and £40, my spare Jessops pair have a field of 7.2 degrees and, when I bought them a couple of years ago, cost around £12.

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Told you Bluebird would have all the specs!

 

I meant to add, I have a pair of cheapy plastic ones - the sort you do in fact find in the back of theatre seats, except with a cord. Cost me less than a fiver. They're fine for me until about halfway up the amphi, depending on the performance (and sometimes the cast).

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Go for low magnification (say 3 to 6x), because it will generally give you a bright image (very important for viewing in low light) and a wide field of view.

 

The objective lens diameter in mm should be at least 5 or 6 times the magnification. This is to ensure an “exit pupil” – the diameter of the circle of light leaving the binocular eyepiece (which you can see by holding the binocular up to the light at arm’s length and looking at the eyepiece lens) – of at least 5 or 6mm. This is to make the most of the expanded pupil of the eye in low light conditions and give a reasonably bright image – very important.

 

My own pair is 6x32, so 6 into 32 means it has an exit pupil of 5.3mm. I also have a 7x42 which is brighter, but rather large to take to the theatre. I would steer well clear of something like a 10x25 – that’s for outdoor daytime use only, and only then in good light.

 

For glasses wearers: you need a binocular with a long “eye relief” i.e. ~17 to 19mm. In addition, the eye cups must be retractable i.e. they can either fold, push or twist down (I prefer the latter – solid and secure but easy to use). I don’t think opera glasses offer long eye relief or retractable eye cups i.e. they are not made for glasses wearers. Long eye relief and retracted eye cups mean you can hold the binocular to your glasses, with the eyepiece lens at the correct distance from your eye, and get the full field of view. Eye relief often isn’t quoted in specifications in which case the depth of the eye cups is a good indicator (shallow cups = poor eye relief). But the best advice is to look and try before you buy and you will then know whether the eye relief (as well as size and weight etc) is OK or not.

 

As John said, finding the right pair for theatre use is not easy and with optics, you get what you pay for.

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Well I am going to be different and say that I have hardly ever bothered with binoculars in the theatre although I have plenty as a keen bird watcher! I always sit in the amphitheatre as I feel that Ballet is best seen from above. Les Noces has particularly interesting group patterns that can't be appreciated as much from the stalls. I find that I just want to enjoy the action as a whole.

 

Talking of annoying audience behaviour, one that got me was a woman constantly fishing in her bag and then swigging from a bottle of water- would have been ok just the once but all the way through? She kept bumping me in the process and was quite offended when I asked her to stop. It quite spoilt the evening for me as I really like everyone around to be as absorbed as myself.

 

Found myself missing the ROH on Monday when at a performance of Les Mis late comers were still admiited after half an hour! Then two people left and returned to their seats during the first half. And every now again a woman was standing up, thankfully not in front of me, singing along and waving!!! So I actually missed the stricter rules at ROH!

 

Anyway Marieve, do let us know how you find the performance. I remember my first visit many years ago was to see Giselle, and oh! the joy as when I was halfway up those old stone stairs (anyone remember them) to see that Lesley Collier was standing in that night!

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I have 7x21 binoculars, with field of 7.5 degrees, small Olympus ones. They are about the size of the palm of my hand. From the back of the stalls circle, they typically cover a couple doing a pdd perfectly, and you can really see the emoting, better than in a seat over the orchestra pit (one of my other haunts). I'd say bins essential for the Amphi though, unless you just want to enjoy the patterns.

 

As for spectacle wearers - I prop my specs up on top of the bins (peeling back the eye cups of the viewing lens on the bins). A little prep work helps - focus the right eye using the screw on the eyepiece, then use the general focus for the left, which is the one on the twiddly bit between each section. Then tweak a bit more, til its right. As they move back and forth from stage fromnt to stage rear, you may need to make the odd adjustment.

 

I'd also never get the sort that have 2 hinges, as I find them impossible to get right - the one, central hinge far easier to cope with. If you go a lot, definitely worth splashing out £30-50 on a pair, i reckon. Oh - and elbows in, definitely, when viewing - it means those behind you don't get irritated, and also aids in steadiness. I found I got used to using them pretty quickly, such that now I hardly notice the imperfections and can concentrate on the details of the dancers, that the view afforded by them brings.

 

Oh - and I find opera glasses completely useless on the whole; not enough magification, and almost impossible to focus

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