5 Things You Didn’t Know About Opera (part 1)

This story is part of a series of 50 stories we are releasing to commemorate 50 years of opera in West Michigan. Browse more stories and follow our journey throughout the season.


Why opera singers don’t use microphones, what famous singer holds the world record for longest applause, and other interesting facts you probably didn’t know.

Opera has a rich 400-year legacy. It’s no wonder it’s picked up a few entertaining stories along the way. We’ve collected some of our favorites below. Stay tuned. There will be more to come!


Plácido Domingo set the world record for the longest applause.

When performing the title role in Guiseppe Verdi’s Otello in Vienna on July 30, 1991, Plácido Domingo received 101 curtain calls and an 80-minute standing ovation, setting the world record at the time for the longest applause.

Domingo recalled the evening.

“You don’t know anymore what to do, you know? You go out, and the public is still there. And you say, ‘Well, what are we doing?’ And you come out again, and you take a little longer to come next time. And you say, ‘I hope they go.’ No, they continue. But it was a great, great experience, very thrilling.” Learn more.


Baltimore Ravens Kicker Justin Tucker makes a hobby of singing opera.

“It was a style of music I had never really thought about before. I don’t know if that makes me… a ‘Jack of All Trades’ or a ‘Renaissance Man’ or any label that I’ve heard before, but that’s just… what I like to do.” Watch Justin discuss his opera hobby.



Salome, 1907

Richard Strauss’ 1905 opera Salome was banned at the Metropolitan Opera.

Strauss coupled Christian biblical themes with erotic scenes that shocked opera audiences. The opera includes incest, nudity, murder and a kissing scene between Salome and John the Baptist’s severed head. Read more on the opera’s rocky Metropolitan Opera premiere.










Opera singers can project their voices over a full orchestra because they sing at a different sound frequency.

An opera singer’s voice produces sound energy that experiences a spike in the distribution across sound frequencies, resulting in strong vocal resonance. Learn more about opera singers’ formant.







Some opera composers hired groups of applauders to cheer their works (or boo their rivals).

An organized group of professional applauders (dubbed a claque) was common in French theatres during classical times. As part of an organized institution, acting agencies managed and supplied claqueurs, who would employ loud laughter, feign tears, request encores and keep the audience in good humor. The practice later spread to other areas, including Italy and New York. Learn more about claques.


OUR FOUNDERS HAD A BOLD PROPOSITION: to build a professional opera company that would put Grand Rapids on the map for a very discerning audience. 50 years later, we are humbled to be the modern bearers of classical standards and modern ingenuity. Learn more.



As an integral part of our city’s artistic fabric, it’s our responsibility to see to its continual flourishing. Please consider donating to Opera Grand Rapids to ensure our artistic excellence for the next 50 years and beyond. You’ve already made us great. With your support, there’s no limits to the height our voices can reach together. Give today.