It’s been announced that San Francisco Opera is experimenting with a new beverage policy: drinks will be allowed in the hall. According to their website “drinks must be [an] approved compostable cup with lid, available at all bars in the War Memorial Opera House.”

For some, this is simply groundbreaking, though it’s not exactly a novel idea. Many venues in England have allowed plastic drink cups in the auditorium for years. Yet it looks like SF Opera may be the first arts group of this scale in California to experiment with drinks in the hall.

While many modern opera goers find this vulgar and yet another sign of the fall of western culture and society, the 18th century opera experience was wilder still. Opera houses in the time of Mozart were regularly the site of card games, drinking, gossiping, shouting back at the performers, and general carrying on. Concert hall etiquette seemed to change towards what we see today in a post-Wagnerian opera world when more restrained, upper-class behavior became the norm.

Again, this is a six month test to see if enjoying a beverage with Bellini is disruptive, or generally acceptable. Many have already opined as to the type of beverage suitable for various operas (a strong dark beer for a bit of Wagner – sorry – no such thing as a “bit of Wagner”). Others worry about the swishing of ice from the G&T crowd. Then there are inevitable needs to visit the facilities in the middle of a favorite aria.

What do you think?

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