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What are Opera Glasses?

Updated May 23, 2024
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Opera glasses are a magnifying device that help opera viewers focus on objects onstage from distant points in an opera hall. They are built to be small and functional, while many are also designed for fashion as well. Some opera enthusiasts use them regularly, while others find them unnecessary.

In a way, opera glasses are like binoculars, but they are specifically designed for viewing indoor performances. In larger opera venues, viewers toward the back or in balconies can be a substantial distance from the stage. As much of enjoying opera involves following the story as it is performed, not being able to see can be a big problem. These glasses help audience members see the action from locations far from the stage.

Opera glasses are designed to be small and unobtrusive, helping the user follow the performance without distracting other attendees. Many models look very similar to binoculars, but focus especially well indoors. They are much smaller than binoculars and come in a variety of designs.

Almost like opera tickets themselves, these viewing devices come in many different prices. The differences between the models include the quality of the optics and the construction of the glasses. For some models, fashion is also a consideration, with the glasses designed to look as elegant as the people using them. In those cases, the cost often rises as well.

While opera glasses can be purchased easily, they are often rented for an individual performance in larger venues. This can be useful in situations where a person attends opera occasionally and wouldn't use the device elsewhere, or when someone arrives to discover that he can't see the stage from his seat. Renting a pair for a performance is often inexpensive.

Some operagoers ask if they need opera glasses at all, and for many, it is a personal choice. Some find having them to be helpful in following the story, while others find them distracting. Those who haven't used them before might consider borrowing or renting a pair before buying a pair. Trying them out during a performance is the best way to know whether an opera enthusiast will find them useful.

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Discussion Comments
By dautsun — On Aug 22, 2012

@Azuza - As the article said, the price for opera glasses can vary for a number of reasons. For example, antique opera glasses bought from a collector will probably be very expensive. But a cheaper pair of glasses that aren't very fashionable probably won't cost very much.

In the end, you have to figure out what features are important to you. Do you want them to look good? Do you want them to have extra features like a focus wheel? Or is cost the most important thing?

By Azuza — On Aug 22, 2012

I actually saw some opera glasses for sale in the classified ads a few days ago. I was surprised at how cheap they were! The seller wanted something like $50 for them.

I was thinking about buying my mother some opera glasses as a birthday gift a few years ago, but I was put off by the price. That advertisement gave me hope that I might be able to find some for a reasonable price.

By sunnySkys — On Aug 21, 2012

@eidetic - I'm not an opera expert, but I would assume they probably clean the glasses off between patrons. So before you try to figure out where to buy opera glasses, you may consider asking the venue if they clean the rental opera glasses. I'm assuming the answer will be yes!

By eidetic — On Aug 20, 2012

I think I would be a little scared to rent opera glasses. You put them so close to your eyes, I think you could probably get an eye infection from using a pair of opera glasses someone else had used.

I've gone to the opera a few times recently, and if I continue to go, I think I will just buy opera glasses. I don't want to have to worry the health of my eyes while I'm watching the opera.

By anon25296 — On Jan 27, 2009

Most theater and opera houses have places where you can rent pairs of opera glasses, it would not be a bad idea to rent a pair first and see how you like it.

By anon19533 — On Oct 14, 2008

As a note to this article it is typically best to get opera glasses with a 3x magnification that way it gives you a good enough magnification to enhance your view, but is not so strong as to lose sight of the entire state. Also and make sure that the opera glasses you get have a focus wheel! it is no fun going to a performance when you can't adjust the focus.

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