Opera lovers, take note

A letter appeared in the Times today (29th April 2014). I can’t give you the link as I am not a subscriber and anyway it would be behind a paywall for those of you who are also non-subscribers.

So horrified was I by this letter that I have decided to copy it out in full for you:


Martin Furber [note: a man who wrote complaining about dress code snobbery among opera audiences] is uncomfortable with black tie at the opera, but we wear black tie to respect the performers; all involved give their all for our enjoyment.

Wearing black tie is all that we can do, aside from our applause, to show our appreciation. Glyndebourne in the summer would not be the same (nor enjoy our patronage) without black tie (though shoes seem to be a problem for some). Because the Royal Opera House (ROH) will not insist on black tie we prefer to pay £500 for the best seats at Baden Baden rather than attending the same at ROH because we will be among those who are happy to dress appropriately. I am sure many opera fans will, like us, be delighted that  Mr Furber has found his niche at the Welsh National Opera.

DJ Swainson, Wiltshire.


This is my reply, which I’ve only just sent so may or may not be printed:

Dear Sir,

DJ Swainson is clearly very concerned about how he appears in public, but does not seem to realise that in print he comes across as a raging snob (letters, today). Opera orchestras and singers do not care what their audiences look like: they care whether they are attentive, and whether they appreciate what they hear and see. Of course it is nice to dress up, but it is not compulsory, and there is no dress code.

All those concerned with the future of opera would prefer that people should be encouraged to try out the art form and to enjoy it whatever their personal financial or social circumstances, and not be put off by outmoded and disdainful attitudes from those who seem to feel that the art belongs only to those who own a specific type of expensive clothing and who can afford to spend hundreds of pounds to avoid those who don’t.

With his final dig about Welsh National Opera, he merely exposes himself as unable to appreciate the excellent work of this fine company, for which I pity him.

Yours faithfully,

Catherine Rose


UPDATE on 1st May: They didn’t print my letter – I rather suspect it was a bit too rude – but there are five letters in a similar vein at the top of the letters page in the printed edition today. Well worth reading!


Published in: on April 29, 2014 at 19:43  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Brava


    • Grazie. I just hope he doesn’t have friends in the mafia.

  2. I’m surprised to learn that there are people who go to Glyndebourne who have a problem with shoes. Have they not thought of orthopaedic ones? (I dress tidily and sit in the slips at the Bristol Hippo for the WNO – I think seats were £6 last time, but less if you buy for more than one production.)

    • He doesn’t seem very clear about what his problem is though, does he? I have to say I read it as his dissatisfaction with people not wearing black shoes to go with their black tie.

      • Not his only problem – what a trial it must be going home on the bus afterwards! Must confess, when I started reading it I thought it was going to be a spoof. Hardly believable (I live a sheltered life).

      • Well, quite! 😀 Some nice letters in the Times today about it, though they didn’t print mine – I think mine was too rude!

  3. Effortlessly, elegantly scathing, Lady Eff. I hope they print it. I’m not sure this man deserves opera.

    • Thanks Rosalind. Good point – DOES he deserve it? On the other hand, presumably he’s of such enormous means that he can afford it – and afford to go to Baden Baden for it. Doesn’t it make you want to go to Baden Baden and turn up in jeans though?!

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