How to Go to the Opera (or Ballet)

The Astana Opera House is the only building I’ve seen in this city that is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. It is also the only building with a justified use of excessive marble. There are very few events in the city and I really miss being immersed in a creative environment, so I make a point of going to an opera or ballet once a month.

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Schedules and tickets can be found on the theatre website. Good seats sell out quickly and so tickets should be bought soon after release. Click on Tickets in the upper menu, then Русский, then КУПИТЬ, then follow the usual prompts of selecting the time and seating. The seating is poorly designed and it’s difficult to see from many areas. The best bet is to buy tickets in the central area.

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This is actually the best seat but it’s empty most of the time because only the president is allowed in (it even has a separate elevator to get to the box).

Tickets really range in price from 500 tenge ($3) to, well, a lot. When my friend asked if I wanted to go to the opera this month, I immediately said “yes!” I still always think of everything as being so cheap here and I didn’t convert the tenge until later. Then I realized it’s the most I’ve ever spent on a ticket for anything ($155). But I don’t spend much money here so I tell myself that it’s okay.

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Aida may have gotten Radames but Amneris gets that sweet cow bed!

Productions often use borrowed set designs and performers from other countries. For example, the opera I saw tonight is an Italian production. And every show I’ve seen so far has been amazing. I’m totally impressed.

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Before shows begin, there are no announcements to turn off cell phones. During the show, not only will you hear the chime of a mobile, you’ll often hear the person pick up the phone and have a conversation. There’s also a fair amount of in-person talking, flash-picture taking, and candy opening so slow it feels passive-aggressive. Two theories I’ve heard: 1) Mobile phone etiquette is behind the times here. 2) Some people are obliged by their employers to go to these shows, though they have no desire to do so.

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During intermission you can buy expensive wine and rolled meats served in martini glasses.

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And the staff wear incredible outfits that change with the seasons.

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Make sure to read a synopsis before you go! Subtitles are only in Kazakh and Russian. Even if I was fluent in either language, it would be too uncomfortable to constantly look up so high.

My friend Kevin is also always happy to provide a synopsis. Here is a summary of his explanation for Aida:

There is this slave girl who works for the princess in Egypt. And she and the princess both love the same general. But the princess doesn’t like that the general loves the slave girl.

Drama drama drama!

Then the father of the slave girl says she has to sleep with the general to find out information because he and the slaves are going to fight the Egyptians, and she goes, “oh ho ho ho ho boo hoo, okay.”

The slave girl tells the general about the fight and he is like, “oh no, not again!” And then they decide to run away together.

More drama drama drama.

The princess hears the whole thing and the general is taken away while Aida escapes.

Drama drama drama.

Then this guy says, “Hey, come down into this basement,” and the general says, “okay,” and then the guy locks the general in the basement. And the general goes, “oh ho ho ho ho so sad,” but then he hears the slave girl is locked in the room next to his and they talk and are happy and then they both die.


One thought on “How to Go to the Opera (or Ballet)

  1. I’m fascinated with your life and travels there….so glad I found your blog! Great writing. ps. Loved your friends synopsis, summed up nicely. 🙂

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