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A Wagner opera dilemma

I just returned from a long, opera-filled winter break in continental Europe. As fabulous as that was, I frequently encountered a difficult-to-resolve dilemma: If you’re going to an opera, when do you eat dinner? This isn’t so much of an issue for a typical opera with a 7pm or 7.30pm curtain, but for particularly long operas, theatres like to start the show sooner so that it ends at a reasonable hour. For a six-hour piece like Parsifalit’s not uncommon to begin at 5pm. (You’re probably starting to understand why I’ve named this problem after Wagner.) So if you’re at the opera house 5-11pm, what do you do about food?

I’ve asked around, and these are some possible solutions:

  • Eat before the opera. This has the benefit of keeping you from getting hungry during the opera, but it only works if you’re in an area where stores and restaurants stay open in the afternoon between lunch and dinner hours. (Often, your best bet for implementing this solution is to go to the opera house’s own restaurant.) Also, if you’re like me, you’re not usually very hungry at 4pm.
  • Snack before or during the opera, then eat afterwards. Again, the issue of restaurant hours arises, as sleepier states and countries don’t have much open late. This solution works pretty well in New York or Prague, though, as long as you’ve really had enough to tide you over before the show. (Spending a fortune on over-priced intermission concessions seems like a bad move.)
  • Skip your least favorite act of the opera. This is not really a serious suggestion, but the New York Times put among their tips for “enduring a five-hour opera”: “Consider the gaucherie of going out for dinner during the long second act of Die Walküre, as some do.” (The whole article about Ring cycle fanatics is here, and is a very fun read.)

Obviously, this is an unresolved issue, so I’d like your advice! How do you balance dinner and Wagner?

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