In opera, you hear “Toi toi toi!”. This trio of words actually imitates spitting on someone. The word is an exclamatory statement that prevents a hex from being put on the performance. Some even knock on a wooden object while saying it to ward off any mishaps.
There is the always popular “break a leg.” You make this statement instead of wishing a theater actor good luck. The origins of this statement are a bit cloudy. Some have said it stems from John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln. When Booth jumped from the balcony onto the stage, it is said that he broke his leg. My favorite origin story of this term has to do with French actress Sarah Bernhardt, who had to have her leg amputated due to a knee injury she suffered during a performance of Sardou’s La Tosca. The rationale being that Bernhardt had an amazing career, and if wished a broken leg, it will bring success!
There is also a belief that opera singers should never see the conductor the day of the performance. He/she is given a separate dressing room. Another is that opera singers should never talk to the director the day of performance. This stems from their wanting to possibly make last minute changes or offering unwanted advice.
Other superstitions include: Don’t wear purple to an Italian opera, no whistling backstage, bad final rehearsals mean a great opening night, no real mirrors or flowers onstage, and never saying the word Tosca.
So, there you have it, a brief glimpse into the scary world of opera and theater superstitions…I have to stop typing and go and find my rabbit’s foot.