You might not be up to snuff on the proper time to clap when you’re at your next high brow social event. The rules of applause vary from the monster truck rally to the opera. If you normally go to sporting events and regular movies in a movie theater you’ll want to beef up on the rules of engagement.
At events today it seems people clap as a sort of audience participation, which has developed for the most part from sports on TV at which you can see the audience cheering – or sometimes booing – almost continuously. In the theater the audience will often applaud at the entrance of the main characters, when the curtain is raised, and the sometimes even applaud the set.
Although every person that performs wants to hear some appreciation from the audience, when there is an opera, a ballet, or a concert it’s best if you leave your enthusiasm at the door instead of risking the chance of breaking the rhythm and continuity of the program with your raucous applause.
At the opera, it sometimes occurs that the audience will clap when the conductor takes their place at the podium. Clapping is mostly expected after an aria, but be sure the aria is finished before you begin your applause. Sometimes there may be curtain calls between the acts, in which case it’s better to hold your applause for a set amount of time.
At the ballet the audience applauds when the conductor makes his entrance and sometimes after solos and pas de deux.
At a concert you should applaud when the conductor takes his place at the podium and when the concert is completed. Applause I also expected after each work listed on the program is completed. Applause between movements of a symphony or after a concerto solo breaks the flow of the music although exuberant audiences have with the music being played, it’s better to wait and see if others begin to applaud or yours may be the sound of one pair of hands clapping.
Take the time between movements to clear your throat if you must and to shift your position. Have cough drops or hard candy on hand to alleviate a tickle in your throat. Noise from the audience is frowned upon. I once attended a concert during which the harpsichord soloist took his time between movements to admonish a snoring man sitting in one of the first few rows. If you don’t know the music well, take your cue from the conductor as to when the concert is finished or when it’s time to intermission. When he leaves the podium it is always appropriate to applaud.