Culture House Daily

Opera tickets are too cheap

31 March 2014

A revival of Anna Nicole will open the Royal Opera House new season, it was announced today. And students will be able to get in for £1, tweeted Kasper Holten proudly. A quid! So that’s an orchestra, an excellent cast of 17, a chorus, a production team of two or three dozen, two hours of words and music and a very good conductor all for less than one pot noodle.

The news might baffle. The received wisdom is that opera tickets are too high. Far too high. So high that they are the principal (if not sole) reason why the art form has fallen behind the others in the popularity stakes. But the reality has always been quite different. Even for adults, a portion of Royal Opera House tickets has always been dirt cheap. For as long as I can remember, it’s been possible to get in to 95 per cent of Royal Opera productions for £9.

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Just to put that in perspective that’s a tenth of the cost of an England football shirt, a seventh the price of the cheapest seat at a Justin Timberlake gig, a third what it costs to go to a Premiere League football match and about double the price of Curry’s cheapest toaster. And Holten is proud of this? Hooray, opera isn’t even worth a ninetieth the price of a really ugly football shirt! How could this be a cause for celebration?

And what’s been the response from the public to these acts of generosity? Apathy at best. There’s been no groundswell of support. No sudden leap of trade across from Timberlake and toasters to Traviata. On this, as on so much else, the opera establishment has got things quite wrong.  Ticket prices will never be a reason why art forms gain or lose appeal.

People aren’t put off by opera because they can’t afford a ticket. They’re put off by opera because they simply don’t like it. They’ve decided (not unreasonably) that it’s not for them. They get their kicks elsewhere: from football or books or betting. So be it. I see no reason (beyond a selfish one) why we should entice people to this bit of culture over another bit.

But also I see no hope in this race-to-the-bottom tactic. The arts that attract are those that are proud of what they do and honest about how much time and effort goes into it and what it costs. There’s nothing noble in prostrating oneself. There’s no value to be gained in acts of desperation like this. The public can smell fear a mile off. If opera gets to the stage where it is essentially paying people to come see it, it’s the end. The Royal Opera House is now one pot noodle away.

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Show comments
  • bwims

    Not very realistic frontage.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Has that young lady been bowling?

  • mightymark

    The “£9 for 95% of productions” doesn’t of course equate to 95% of the seats. It relates to a small number of very poor and not very comfortable seats. And just worth noting that I imagine the other 5% are presumably for the star acts that many people, especially perhaps those just getting into opera, would very much like to see. The £9 for 95%” line is trotted out form time to time by the Royal Opera itself and it has the same question mark over it when they use it.

  • saffrin

    “Just to put that in perspective that’s a tenth of the cost of an England football
    “Hooray,opera isn’t even worth a ninetieth the price of a really ugly football shirt!”

    Very ugly words from a very ugly man.
    Who let him in?
    Pillock can’t even spell his own name.

    • gerontius

      It’s an anagram isn’t it?
      Dunno what of.

  • Liz

    Is the Spectator’s image editor a h*rny teenage boy or does he just think his audience is?

    • gerontius

      Well Liz, I’m not young by any stretch of the imagination but I find the image quite charming. Though pink isn’t my colour.

  • Grrr8

    Given the difficulty in getting tickets to any ROH production, the referenced apathy must be in the mind of this writer.

    • Wessex Man

      No it’s not, I also object to subsidising this elitist claptrap in this day and age, let them flourish or not in the real world!

      • IainRMuir

        Fine, but we should cut all “claptrap” subsidies, including sport, the Olympics, museums, libraries, treating self inflicted injuries in A&E, NHS no-shows, military bands, the Red Arrows, policing football outside stadiums etc.

        Can’t pick and choose according to what you happen to benefit from or enjoy.

  • MalcolmRedfellow

    Sorry to say this, but for a revival of that particular effort a quid, a whole quid, seems almost fair value.

    • gerontius

      Never come across it though, with apologies to Liz, I might just pop along for a gander.

      • Roisin

        Sauce for the gander.

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