New to opera?

New to opera? Start here to explore this thrilling art form. Learn about opera basics, get an inside understanding of key terminology, and discover all the aspects that bring the magic alive.

Whether it's your first time attending an opera or your first time at Lyric Opera of Chicago, we're raising the curtain on everything you need to know.

What is opera?

noun. op•er•a. a play in which most or all of the words are sung, and the music helps tell the story

Like a movie or a play, an opera combines acting, sets, and costumes. What makes an opera different is that the story is told with music and singing instead of just talking. The first operas were written over 400 years ago—but new operas are composed and performed every year!

Understanding opera is not as difficult as you may think. There are people singing masterfully without microphones, often in a different language, but the stories of most operas are universal. They are usually about familiar themes such as love and envy.

Operas can be any length, too. Some of the longest operas are over 5 hours long (such as Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung). One of the shortest operas is only 8 minutes (L'Enlèvement d'Europe by Darius Milhaud)!

Lyric for kids

Lyric for kids

There's no better time to instill a love of music and opera in young people than during their childhood. Designed to educate, encourage discussions and discovery, and entertain, we hope you enjoy this content, and invite you to share it with your friends! 

Explore more

Go behind the scenes and enhance your Lyric experience! Watch exclusive videos, interviews with artists, and trailers for every opera and musical production. Listen to excerpts from your favorite shows and hear informative commentaries on season productions. Discover engaging articles, in-depth features, and more on our blog.

Watch, listen & discover

Blog articles


Audio excerpts & Commentaries

Have an opera question you want answered?

Have an opera question you want answered?

"Where can I find the best recording of La bohème?" "What is the Ryan Opera Center?" "What makes opera different from a musical?" Just Ask Roger!

Roger Pines — Lyric's dramaturg and resident opera answer man — is here to help answer all your opera-related questions. Submit your opera questions using our form, email, or tweet #LyricRoger!


Photos: Todd Rosenberg