The Rake's Progress: Anne Trulove (Layla Claire) shares a tender moment with her beau Tom Rakewell (Alek Shrader)If you're a first-time Pittsburgh Opera go-er, particularly visiting from out of town with little familiarity of Pittsburgh's Cultural District, fear not! We are here to help ask the hard questions (and provide some pretty simple answers).

How can you buy tickets?

Online is obviously easiest but you'll have to contend with service charges. Use the Cultural District's central ticket purchase service. If you need advice and want to talk to someone about seat locations, the ticket hotline is 412-456-6666. And if you'd rather look someone in the eye while you plunk down your money, the Theater Square central ticket office is on the corner of Penn Avenue and Seventh Street in the heart of the district, open Mon–Sat,  9am – 9pm and Sun from noon - 6pm.

Where can you stay?

Coming from out of town for a getaway? You're in luck. There are now 16 downtown hotels to choose from, within walking distance of the Cultural District. All the major brands are there, from renovated historic buildings to ultra-modern skyscrapers. Check out our comprehensive hotel listings.

How can I buy a ticket/hotel package?

Directly from, of course! You get your ticket order through the central ticketing service and then choose from all of the hotels not just Downtown but throughout the Pittsburgh region, some at significant discounts.

What should you wear to an opera?

Relax. The days of dressing up in your finest, wearing a tiara and carrying opera glasses are long gone. Today, anything (short of nudity) goes. On a weeknight, work clothes will do. On a weekend, jeans are as appropriate as dresses and suits. It's your call on this one. Wear what makes you comfortable.

Where do you park?

Parking lots and garages near the Benedum Center cost about $10 during evening performances. Another great find is the ParkPGH app which shows real-time availability for Downtown garages. There are also a number of metered spaces throughout town and the Go Mobile PGH app is a great tool for fast and convenient payment.

Where should you sit in the theater?

Again, this is a personal preference. Pricing is obviously a consideration, as are sightlines and your need to get up close and personal or being farther away to appreciate the entire production. If the broader view is better for you, then pricing and views from Orchestra floor or First Tier provide good options. If you want to feel like the queen, sit in the front of the Director's Circle.

How will you understand what the performers are saying?

The Pittsburgh Opera makes this easier than you'd imagine. They run supertitles above the stage so you can read along with the flow of the show. In addition, this last opera is in English, so you may not even need the supertitles.

Do you need to be familiar with the opera before you go see it?

It is probably a good idea to go on the opera website and read about the production, the story it tells and the nuances of what you are going to see. The site has lots of background info, videos, insight on the cast and more. There is also a study guide written by the opera's education team, giving you even more of the scoop. Locally, WQED-FM does a preview show twice prior to each opera production. This is a half-hour show, hosted by Jim Cunningham, featuring interviews with production personnel and performers.

The Rake's Progress: Anne Trulove (Layla Claire) and Nick Shadow (David Pittsinger) compete for Tom Rakewell’s (Alek Shrader) heart and soul

Do you actually have to study?

This isn't supposed to be like going to school. You are going to the opera for entertainment, but getting some education is a natural byproduct of your experience. Embrace it! Try to listen to the opera in advance. Download it from iTunes or buy the CD. Go to YouTube and watch video clips of other productions just to familiarize yourself with your show. Remember, this is fun, not torture. Enjoy the immersion!

What if you want to know even more?

Here's where the opera company gives you even more assistance. Prior to every show, one hour before the curtain rises, experts give you some context, basically the where, when, and why of the opera you are about to see. It's right in front of the stage, you sit nearby, listen closely and prepare yourself for what's to come.

Any other helpful hints?

Productions held on Tuesday evenings have receptions following the show with artists and staff attending. These are in the Benedum Center lobby. You can ask questions and get to know the folks who have just entertained you. Oh yes, one last thing, it's free!

Enjoy your visit to Pittsburgh Opera!