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Mythbusting: Debunking the idea that trips to the ROH have to cost the earth

In the light of a recent Time Out article, why opera and ballet can be for all.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

28 September 2012 at 4.25pm | 23 Comments

Following a recent article in Time Out which mentioned the high price of coming to the Royal Opera House, we thought we'd take a look at the various ways that you can come to Covent Garden and see world class opera, ballet and music without having to break the bank, dispelling a few myths along the way:

True, opera and ballet can be expensive. This is due to the scale of the task of staging such art forms: the Royal Opera House is a large building, it has a resident ballet company, orchestra and chorus; employs a huge team of essential behind the scenes staff from technical to props to costume departments; and brings the finest international artists to perform in Covent Garden. That said, helped by the support of the Arts Council, Friends of Covent Garden and many other sponsors and philanthropists, it doesn't have to be expensive and it's easier than ever before to find tickets and events to suit tighter budgets.

At the Royal Opera House 40% of tickets to main stage productions are priced at £40 or less, considerably less than Premier League Football tickets can cost and for that price you get a full orchestra and some of the world's top opera singers and ballet dancers. Ticket prices needn’t be expensive with opera seats starting at £4 and ballet at £5. In fact this season 175,000 tickets will be priced at £30 or below.

If you want the best seats in the house, prices can be easy on the wallet too; the top tickets for our upcoming triple bill featuring works by top British choreographic talent - Wayne McGregor, Christopher Wheeldon and Liam Scarlett - are priced at just £37.50 with opera-goers able to get the best seats for The Minotaur for £65. We also heavily subsidize tickets for some groups such as students, who have access to £10 Student Standby tickets, and newcomers who are able to attend our family-friendly Welcome Performances and other events.

For those who prefer their opera and ballet with a side order of popcorn, it's likely that wherever you are in the UK, you'll have a cinema showing live relays of our productions each month. Our Cinema Season starts on 23 October with a live relay of Swan Lake.

Subscribers to the adage that "the best things in life are free" are catered for too. Our annual trio of BP Summer Big Screen events beam opera and ballet live around the country and we also have regular Monday lunchtime recitals, free concerts by the stars of tomorrow - the Jette Parker Young Artists - and the annual Deloitte Ignite Festival of contemporary work. For those online, last Season we broadcast a whole day of behind the scenes access, talks and rehearsals via YouTube as part of Royal Ballet LIVE. So far, over one million have watched footage from the day.

So you see, seeing world class work at the Royal Opera House needn't cost the earth; a visit to the ROH can be cheap or expensive, but it is an experience open to everyone.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

28 September 2012 at 4.25pm

This article has been categorised Off stage and tagged booking, BP Summer Big Screens, cinema, Fool's Paradise, Infra, student standby, The Minotaur, tickets, Time Out, Viscera, Welcome Performances

This article has 23 comments

  1. J Gingell responded on 28 September 2012 at 6:22pm Reply

    I am so glad that you are spelling this out! I am sick to death of people telling me that opera and ballet are elitist, and that seats are ridiculously expensive. It is completely untrue.

    I watch the Royal Ballet most weeks when they perform, and, with side stalls circle seats at around £10- £15, I am paying only 25% to 38% of the price of a premier league football ticket. Sometimes I am even paying more for my tube ticket into Covent Garden and back than I am for a ticket to see a world-class ballet company.!

    When I say I go to Covent Garden for £15, people are astonished. I wish everyone could know that you can watch ballet and opera cheaply - there is so much prejudice about the established arts at the moment. Thank you for these wonderful value seats - and please continue to sell them!

  2. Nicholas M. responded on 28 September 2012 at 6:36pm Reply

    "Opera is an art form that has the power to deeply move and captivate its audience, and despite the popular misconceptions, it is for everyone"

    No, opera most definitely is NOT for everyone.

    Opera requires a degree of focus and concentration and a willingness to subsume oneself in the art form. Opera will never, ever be a medium of wide popularity. Its appreciation and love will always be confined to a relatively narrow segment of the population. Why? Because listening to and assimilating the great masterpieces requires a level of commitment and patience that most people are not prepared to give (or, more likely, interested in giving).

    • Bob Watts responded on 29 September 2012 at 12:01pm

      I have to disagree with you completely. Having sat in the back of a schools matinee at the ROH I am entirely convinced that in the right atmosphere opera is for everyone. These children were young, but from the moment the conductor walked out the majority of them were transfixed. Yeah they weren't taken by that particular Oboe line, or that in joke about the composer but they were following the story and enjoying the music from both orchestra and singers.

      My dad never seen an Opera before I took him to Francesca da Rimini
      at Opera Holland Park and he was absolutely blown away by it. He isn't musical at all, he wouldn't know his Wagner from his Puccini and he probably thinks, "Nessun Dorma," is about football, but when the performance started he followed it fine, he got the story he got the characters and he loved the music. How arrogant to assume that "most people" won't have the concentration to follow an opera.

      Check YouTube for peoples reactions to Opera flashmobs people love it. The challange to the industry is how do you fight the stigma that opera currently has, one you get in the door the art form speaks for itself and can reach everyone.

      Like anything the more you know about Opera the more you get from it but that's not to say that someone can't enjoy it if they are not used to it. The "it's not for the masses" mantra is self perpetuating, people won't come if try don't feel welcome.

      Opera isn't as popular as it could be, but the fault there lies with the Opera establishment, not the people who are not watching.

    • Helen responded on 29 September 2012 at 12:20pm

      If your comment, Nicholas M. is intended to keep the 'plebs' out of 'your' Opera House, well done. This is exactly the elitism problem - it's not the ticket prices, it's the minority of audience members like you.

      It IS an art form for everyone, and we don't need your instructions on how properly to appreciate it.

      I would recommend anyone to go to an opera, and with such affordable ticket prices pretty much anyone can.

  3. I went to see the ballet Nutcracker with my daughter. We sat in the slips for £8 each as that is all we could afford. really enjoyed it although it was impossible to see all the stage.

  4. Susannah responded on 3 October 2012 at 5:51pm Reply

    When I was at the ballet a few months ago in seats costing £10 or £12 (front of amphitheatre, not slips) a woman behind me told her companion that she found it cheaper to go to the ballet than to stay at home. (I don't think people would say that about the opera though.)

  5. David M responded on 6 November 2012 at 1:51pm Reply

    Thank you for spreading the word about what great value ballet and opera tickets are.

    I saw a wonderful mixed programme of contemporary ballet in the main hall last night, which was both exquisitely danced and very moving...all for £11.

    My colleagues at work cannot believe how reasonable the prices are.


    PS Nicholas, scholars of the history of opera tell me it has been, and continues to be, quite a popular art form in Italy. So, far from 'never, ever be[ing] a medium of wide popularity' it has been and is.

  6. I have not yet seen an opera at ROH (though have seen the Barber of Seville at Royal Albert Hall) but I have seen countless ballets, getting hooked a couple of years back when still a student.

    I've sat pretty much everywhere and while certain seats don't afford the best views, it's worth it every time for the brilliant atmosphere and exquisite dancing.

    Though I'm not the target audience anymore for the student standby scheme, it is evident, along with efforts made to attract more families, that ROH takes the issue of encouraging everyone to feel welcome, seriously so, in true end-of-show style, bravo!

  7. patricia responded on 20 November 2012 at 9:25am Reply

    Well said Helen...SO true !
    ( a 'culture pleb' with frugal pockets)

  8. My last opera cost me £8 and my next one is costing me £12. I recently saw the entire Ring Cycle for just £44 for four operas over four nights. A couple of Fridays ago I got a last minuet £10 ticket to see Swan Lake. I think the ROH actually offers one of the best value nights out in London! I recently decided against going to see a West End musical because the cheapest tickets where £45...

  9. Richard G responded on 20 November 2012 at 9:39am Reply

    I certainly don't agree that House prices contribute to elitism in opera. Has anyone tried getting tickets for a Madonna or Kylie concert lately? VIP seats run into the £thousands (a concept unknown to our beloved, proletarian Royal Opera House!!) and I'm sure you'd be hard pressed to get a seat for less that £20...

    I think there is a wider problem in the UK in that audiences of live performance seem increasingly unaware of the right way to behave in auditoria, often regarding their seat as an extension of their living room. I've heard people carrying on conversations during theatre, cinema, and even opera performances with no regard for their fellow patrons. I fear that education is failing to expose younger people to live performance of all kinds and the correct etiquette that goes with it.

  10. Anwen responded on 20 November 2012 at 9:49am Reply

    Its ridiculous that pop acts and other bands get none of the 'its too expensive' press coverage when tickets to those are far more expensive than the majority of opera, ballet, or classical concert tickets.

  11. I totally agree that opera is for everyone. We in India are an audience/market that is just waiting to be tapped. Metropolitan Opera has already begun HD screen performances to much acclaim, and it would be great it Covent Garden ROH did this too, and onto more screens across the country. More and more of us love opera and ballet every day!

  12. PaulC responded on 20 November 2012 at 6:13pm Reply

    I spent a few years in prison as a teenager, love my football, and have the attention span of a 3 year old, but I love the opera and ballet. Seeing the opening 15 minutes of Act III in Die Walkure recently, was really one of the highlights of my life so far - and I was transfixed for almost the entire of Swan Lake, and also loved the recent gala. I'm not speaking for everyone, but opera is for me, and it is very affordable to someone on an average wage. Some people on average and low wages pay £35-40 a month for their phone! Don't complain that you can't afford the ROH if you p*** your money up the wall on a phone. La Scala's prices have gone up 12% this season, and most musicals and other music industries in London are run through investment for profit - this is not the case for ROH - the profit is found in those that go to see it, and what they take away.

  13. Ian Slade responded on 20 November 2012 at 6:49pm Reply

    As someone who attends virtually everything at the ROH, I'm not going to disagree with much published here. However, there is a related issue to the price and that is there availability. I usually use the Stalls Circle Standing places; like other good budget options, they are excellent value but few in number and so sell very quickly. Who does the ROH think is free to wait either online, on the phone or in person for hours on a working day to buy tickets? Is it beyond the wit of human reason to understand that, whilst no option is ideal for everyone, it is surely fairer for the ordinary person to open booking at weekends? Even as a Supporting Friend, waiting times online of an hour and a half are by no means uncommon and so completely unrealistic at work.

    • Ellen West (Head of Creative Studios and Digital Products) responded on 20 November 2012 at 9:48pm

      Dear Ian

      What you refer to sounds like the old system of the ROH waiting room, where periods of high demand were dealt with on the website through people joining an online queue. Now that we have a new ticketing system you should be able to buy tickets in a matter of minutes.

      Best wishes


  14. james byrne responded on 24 July 2013 at 4:12pm Reply

    The ROH IS expensive. Compare it to the cost of going to Opera Bastille for opera and it is irrefutably a lot more expensive. Just go on the Opera Bastille website and see for yourself. I go to Opera in Paris but never to the ROH for that reason - two tickets for £350 (best seats) in ROH while Opera Bastille is €240 for two or approx £200.

    • Ellen West (Head of Creative Studios and Digital Products) responded on 24 July 2013 at 10:35pm

      Hi James

      The ROH pricing structure depends on a number of factors and while we aren't suggesting that all our tickets are available at a low price there are lots of options. Looking at the one opera that Opera Bastille and The Royal Opera have in common this autumn - Elektra - the top price tickets are cheaper at the ROH: £125 as opposed to £154 (180€). There will be some productions that the opposite is true, but it might be worth checking assumptions for the next production you would like to see.

      Best wishes


  15. Simon Gunn responded on 29 November 2014 at 9:39pm Reply

    ROH is very expensive. I have never been before but am looking to book tickets for the Opera first time for a performance in Feb and thought I could get a half decent seat for £100. Not a chance !
    It appears the Time Out article was absolutely right.

    • Ellen West (Head of Creative Studios and Digital Products) responded on 30 November 2014 at 9:55am

      Dear Simon

      There are lots of options!

      Firstly, it depends what you want to see. In February you could watch Der fliegende Holländer from £38 or Die Zauberflöte from £28:

      Secondly, booking ahead gives you access to the best prices. Our Spring Season opens for General Booking at 10am on 27 January and that is a good point at which to select your tickets. Here's an overview of the pricing - as you can see, they start in single figures:

      Thirdly, if you have set your heart on a particular performance, we have 67 day tickets on offer for each performance, available from 10am on the day - all of these are under £55. If the performance is very popular you will need to queue in advance to be sure of getting a ticket. Returns are also a good option

      This may seem complicated, but we try very hard to reconcile access with the high demand for our performances. Hope that helps - don't be put off!

      Best wishes


  16. Robert Garbolinski responded on 19 March 2015 at 8:17am Reply

    Check the prices in Munich for each part of Der Ring des Nibelungen - Stalls seats at 598 euros for each music - drama = 2392 euros to see the whole thing!

  17. Mozart responded on 28 December 2015 at 12:06am Reply

    The arts are transformed more and more in a culture availabile for high status individuals by usage of high prices. It s silly to forbid the child access to opera only because parents cannot pay for entrance. The society is to lose the opportunity to transfer its knowledge to the mentioned child and please feel no excuse when the same child as adult will follow its means in an Machiavellian way and will give no importance to elevate culture...

  18. Will G responded on 4 May 2016 at 12:34pm Reply

    I visited for the first time on Monday and bought a £12 ticket to Tannhauser in the Upper Slips. The seats are basic but as most people lean on the rail it was actually very comfortable. I've sat through 3hour films at the cinema and felt much more uncomfortable. I'd buy again in a flash. In fact, I have. £18 ticket standing in the Stalls Circle tomorrow. This is amazing value.

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