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penelopesimpson

Fun and Games with ROH Package Booking

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I have had very courteous responses from Alex Beard, Customer Services and sections of the ROH which have been asked by Customer Services to get back to me. In no case did I feel that any of the issues I raised had been ignored. I have a feeling that one is more likely to receive a 'generalised' response to a long missive, so I have gone for short and sharp on each occasion.

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Capybara, I have also on a couple of occasions received courteous responses from the people you mention.  This time around, however, it is like telephoning a black hole and you can almost hear the anxiety in the voices of the people I've spoke to.  The door is open for them to get back to me; if the policy is one they stand by, I don't understand why they dont just state it and have done with it.

 

I am now pursuing other avenues.

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3 hours ago, Richard LH said:

True, as far as the cheapest Amphi seating is concerned (where discounts are less in any event, either 5, 10% or 12%), but as far as I can make out currently you can pretty much select packages from seats in all the pricing ranges in the Orchestra Stalls or the Stalls Circle (with discounts of 10%, 18% or 20%).

(My disclaimer in joining this discussion is that I am not an opera goer so I am only really looking at options for buying ballet tickets). 

 

Unfortunately that isn't the case for either the ballet or opera packages in the stalls circle. The cheaper tickets in rows B and C in the side blocks of the stalls circle, which are where I usually sit, aren't available as part of a package. The screenshot below is what is available for a randomly selected performance of Swan Lake when booking individual tickets.

Swan Lake Ordinary.jpg

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Whereas this is what is available as part of a package for the same performance. (Sorry for the double post but it won't allow me to attach to screenshots to one post.) Therefore while I'm getting a discount for package booking it's a discount on higher priced tickets than I'd usually buy so I'm actually spending more! In fact, because the cheaper stalls circle tickets aren't included, I've ended up booking the cheapest stalls tickets instead as there's not much price difference between cheapest stalls and not-cheapest stalls circle.

 

Swan Lake Package.jpg

Edited by Dawnstar
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7 hours ago, Richard LH said:

Thanks for pointing out these differences Dawnstar.

 

Something similar applies when booking packages in the Amphitheatre: one gets a discount but on higher priced seats.

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Just to report back a small (positive!) update - 

 

for the student booking today they had kept to their promise to ensure that some tickets were available. A very small number and it doesn’t quite seem to be the: 

they quote on their website (as in the prices were £22!) but I presume they must have kept some these back otherwise friends would certainly have bought these excellent value tickets. There were a very small number of SCS tickets available as well as some (seated) in the upper slips. 

 

This to me is a small glimmer of hope that all is not lost and just perhaps there may be some tickets available tomorrow (although I imagine not considering @penelopesimpson’s conversation with the box office and my very elusive reply from ROH not stating clearly that tickets would be available...)

 

I still intend to go back to ROH with the other unanswered questions above, my plan is to wait and see what happens tomorrow and then ask them after the fact how many tickets were available for the general public to buy on general booking day. That way I’m hoping I may get a clearer answer because I’m not having to predict something but rather get information after the fact. 

 

Also there seems to be a very small number of tickets available on some days - in the higher price ranges but it looks like they haven’t totally sold out yet. (Or they’ve already had returns or ROH has done something about ticket touts in the meantime.) 

Edited by JNC
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Good to hear, JNC. I talked to a few other people yesterday who are pursuing the matter.  I thought it was important to get ROH to admit their new policy before general booking opens because otherwise I think they will just say all the tickets sold out at 0900.  I was always suspicious of the technical hitch that mysteriously hit La Forza tickets at 0900 last time around and which cleared at 0920 to reveal all the tickets had been sold.

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27 minutes ago, penelopesimpson said:

Good to hear, JNC. I talked to a few other people yesterday who are pursuing the matter.  I thought it was important to get ROH to admit their new policy before general booking opens because otherwise I think they will just say all the tickets sold out at 0900.  I was always suspicious of the technical hitch that mysteriously hit La Forza tickets at 0900 last time around and which cleared at 0920 to reveal all the tickets had been sold.

 

Ah I see, that’s a fair point. I think it’s unlikely they will admit to selling out to friends due to the somewhat shady nature of it but for the spring booking season I think they may update their website accordingly to say such a thing could happen, so in a way covering themselves against future complaints. 

 

 

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RE:  'such a thing could happen.'  Well, yes, it could but only if they allow it to by putting all seats on sale to Friends and not holding any back for General Booking. That would mean that all the public could choose from would be the leftovers once Friends had picked at the carcass!  Hardly satisfactory for an organisation in receipt of public subsidy.

 

Re declaring an interest, I can say that Cinderella (me) will be going to the ball as Friends have bought a Fidelio ticket for me.  I'm sticking this with because I think it is not the way for ROH to behave.

Edited by penelopesimpson
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1 hour ago, penelopesimpson said:

RE:  'such a thing could happen.'  Well, yes, it could but only if they allow it to by putting all seats on sale to Friends and not holding any back for General Booking. That would mean that all the public could choose from would be the leftovers once Friends had picked at the carcass!  Hardly satisfactory for an organisation in receipt of public subsidy.

 

Re declaring an interest, I can say that Cinderella (me) will be going to the ball as Friends have bought a Fidelio ticket for me.  I'm sticking this with because I think it is not the way for ROH to behave.

 

Yes quite. I think it shouldn’t be happening anyway but at least if ROH is transparent that that could happen (ie selling out to friends) that at least gives people transparency over what is going on and let’s them make a choice as to whether to become a friend or not and also sets realistic (unfair) expectations of the fact that seats may not be available on general booking day. 

 

But I remain firmly in the camp of seats should always be kept back (and across a range of prices not just the £££ ones) for the general public as that is what is right and fair to do (especially considering the public subsidy). 

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Received from the Arts Council:

 

Dear Penelope,

 

Thank you for getting in touch with your concerns about the ticketing system at the Royal Opera House, and access to popular productions appearing to be limited to Friends of the organisation.

 

As a custodian of public money, we always take concerns about organisations we fund seriously. We have recorded your concerns and made the appropriate member of staff within Arts Council England aware of the situation.

 

I would like to reassure you that we are committed to ensuring that arts and culture is accessible to everybody and believe that everyone should have the opportunity to experience and to be inspired by the arts.

 

Any organisations which receive regular funding from us are monitored and are required to demonstrate how they are sharing their work with as large and wide an audience as possible, including those who are currently least engaged with arts and culture. However, have no oversight over the day-to-day running or decision-making of the organisations we fund.

 

This means we have no say over their ticketing policy or membership systems. We are, therefore, unable to intervene where there are concerns of this nature.

 

I recommend you contact the Royal Opera House directly as they may be able to explain how pricing is established, and how they allocate tickets for productions.

 

Thank you again for taking the time to write to us about this matter.

 

Kind regards,

Natalie Bradbury
Assistant
Investment Centre

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I admire posters’ perseverance on this.

 

When the Forza problems came to light, I tried to ask about the commitment to ensure 20% of tickets were made available for General Public booking.  I therefore asked the following on News and in emails:

 

“Back in 2000 the ROH made some commitments to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee to ensure 20% availability of tickets for all performances and price categories but I’m very unsure what precisely that meant (was it for each performance or an average across a booking period) or whether it is still an objective? I didn’t see any reference to this target in the latest Annual Report. It would be useful to know if there is still a 20% objective and how it is measured.”

 

I’m afraid it’s very much an assumption that 20% of tickets should be made available for each performance.  I’m pretty sure that the ROH will say it has never given such assurances and that the 20% target is an average (which is met).  It’s Ring Cycles, Kaufmann performances etc where so very few tickets are ever made available to the General Public.  But it would be really helpful if the ROH gave a clear statement of what its policy is.  No doubt the Culture Select Committee and the Arts Council will have an interest in the policy and its fairness.  They may ask if other measures should be taken to promote greater access for the most popular performances.  Cinema relays are of course playing a part, albeit that is not the same as attending a live performance in the theatre.

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Thanks @penelopesimpson for the update. It looks like sadly the Arts Council either can’t or won’t do anything about this - from the way I read it as long as ROH can prove an overall engagement and accessibility (which will be easy for them to do with welcome/schools’ performances, the student scheme, cinema relays etc - which I think are all great schemes by the way) it seems they can’t or won’t enforce that ALL individual performances are accessible. 

 

Thanks John - so that’s where the 20% figure came from, I’ll admit I picked it up on here and didn’t know the actual source. 2000 is a long time ago so I doubt that figure still holds, especially considering the response from the Arts Council Penelope posted. 

 

14 minutes ago, JohnS said:

 But it would be really helpful if the ROH gave a clear statement of what its policy is.  

 

This is exactly what I would like to know too and will be asking them when I follow up. 

Edited by JNC

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2 minutes ago, JNC said:

Thanks @penelopesimpson for the update. It looks like sadly the Arts Council either can’t or won’t do anything about this - from the way I read it as long as ROH can prove an overall engagement and accessibility (which will be easy for them to do with welcome/schools’ performances, the student scheme, cinema relays etc - which I think are all great schemes by the way) it seems they can’t or won’t enforce that ALL individual performances are accessible. 

 

No; but it's been noted by the relevant people, so who knows what discussions may take place about this.

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1 minute ago, bridiem said:

 

No; but it's been noted by the relevant people, so who knows what discussions may take place about this.

 

I very much hope so. 

 

If anyone does manage to get a ticket tomorrow it would be interesting to know (or those who try and fail).

 

I will be having a look tomorrow but looking at my schedule it’s looking a bit difficult for me to be online exactly when booking opens...so pretty sure by the time I’m online it will certainly be sold out!

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I think all we can do is keep plugging away. Ultimately I would hope that they will be forced to clearly state their policy which will then evoke the appropriate response.

 

I have to say I am puzzled over all this.  There are six performances of Fidelio which I presume is something over 12,000 seats .  Would it really have been that onerous to hold say 10% back for General Booking?  The very fact that they had to send an email to Friends reminding them that this production was exclusively for their benefit, seems to indicate that a paltry 200 tickets for the peasants each night would not have been especially missed.  I'm still speaking with other people and will report back.

Edited by penelopesimpson
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How many friends actually are there (across all categories including premium etc)? Does anyone actually know? 

 

I’m only curious because if there are say, 1000 friends then that’s 12 tickets on average each, which clearly indicates a ticket cap would have meant friends could still have secured more then enough tickets whilst being fair (I think 10% is too low, 20% is in my opinion the minimum; especially considering nothing will stop friends buying those tickets if they are online for general booking day anyway!). 

 

If there are thousands of friends however it’s easy to see how it sold out (eg if there are say 5000 friends all it takes is for each friend to buy 2-3 tickets which is not implausible by any stretch); then it’s slightly more understandable to how the situation occurred (though not excusable). 

 

A ticket cap would have sorted the issue perfectly all round...

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4 minutes ago, JNC said:

How many friends actually are there (across all categories including premium etc)? Does anyone actually know? 

 

 

I'd say there's well over a thousand at supporting friend level and above (there are about 190 listed as premium 2 and that doesn't include those who have chosen to be anonymous).  And don't forget about the patrons too (there's over 300 individual patrons, before you start counting the corporates).

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Curiouser and curiouser:

 

Dear Penelope Simpson,

 

Many thanks for contacting me in relation to our upcoming production of Fidelio.

 

Fidelio is one of the undoubted highlights of our season featuring Jonas Kaufmann and Lise Davidsen performing under Tony Pappano’s expert baton. With only a short run of six performances, there has inevitably been huge demand for a very limited number of seats. Within this context, we have been mindful of all our valued customers to ensure that we are as fair as possible to those who already support the Royal Opera House while attracting new audiences to experience this wonderful art form. However, it is inevitable that some people will be disappointed.

 

Nevertheless, we have held seats for Fidelio across all dates and price ranges which will be released for public booking tomorrow, and of course there will also be tickets available through our weekly Friday Rush ticketing scheme for each performance during the run. This will ensure members of the public have access to this opera and our other wonderful productions every season at affordable prices. As part of our commitment to ensuring we reach as wide an audience as possible, Fidelio is also one of the highlights of our ROH Live Cinema Season programme and will be broadcast live to 500 cinemas in the United Kingdom on the 17 March 2020 , with in many cases encore viewings as well. Full details can be found here. This ensures that audiences across the country are able to enjoy the production, with additional insights from ‘side stage’ interviews with the performers and behind the scenes viewing of the whole production journey.

 

We are committed to ensuring as many people as possible can experience our productions at the Royal Opera House and are very proud of the fact that last Season, almost 30% of out tickets were sold at £35 or under. This policy will continue. Similarly, more than 35,000 tickets were bought by students at an average of less than per £22 ticket. 

                                                                                                                                                                                

With the recent notoriety of third party ticket agencies, we have written to Viagogo alongside many other ticket sales websites explaining to them that any resale of our tickets is a breach of contract and that we may refuse entry to ticketholders who have purchased tickets above face value. In July this year, in a welcome move Google announced a global suspension of Viagogo’s advertising account in what was described as a “landmark moment” for the ticketing industry. This has had a hugely negative impact on the site. Furthermore, we take action to identify the original purchasers and cancel memberships. Thankfully, it is a very small and declining number of offenders.

 

For those members of the public who are unsuccessful in purchasing a ticket tomorrow, we would also encourage customers to keep an eye on our website for any returned tickets which will be put straight back on sale should any existing ticket holders be unable to attend.

 

I do hope you will be able to come and see the production, whether here or in the cinema.

 

With best wishes

 

Yours sincerely

 

Alex Beard

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Very interesting... So how does Mr Beard's email that tally with the email Dawnstar received? Was the first email incorrect, or has their ticketing policy for this production suddenly been changed? (Has the Arts Council been in touch??). Though if there were less than 100 tickets left at the time of Dawnstar's email, there must in fact be very few tickets being held back now (unless that figure was incorrect, of course). And still no explanation of why no cap was applied if there was obviously going to be such high demand.

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I emailed the ROH yesterday asking about the 20% figure. Today I got back the following, from someone on their Friends team:

 

Thank you for your email and for recently joining our community of Friends. 

 

 

When booking opens for members, which initially becomes available for Patrons, all seats go on sale and nothing is held for lower member levels or the public. 

 

 

Regarding Fidelio, this is one of the undoubted highlights of our Season. Starring Jonas Kaufmann and performed under Tony Pappano's expert baton for a short run over six performances, there is inevitably huge demand for a very limited number of seats. Within this context we have done all we can to ensure that we are as fair as possible to those who support the Royal Opera House while welcoming new audiences. However, unfortunately it is inevitable that some people will be disappointed.

 

There are, however, still tickets available through our weekly Friday Rush ticketing scheme which ensures members of the public have access to our most popular productions every season at affordable prices. We would also encourage customers to keep an eye on our website for any returned tickets which will be put straight back on sale should any existing ticket holders be unable to attend. 

 

Thank you so very much for supporting the Royal Opera House by being a Friend. 

 

 

Given the email @penelopesimpson has had, from Alex Beard, says tickets are being held back & the one I have had says that they aren't, I am now thoroughly confused. Whatever the ROH's policy, they at least need to ensure they are giving consistent replies to questions about it! I am debating whether to reply & tell them this or not...

 

Incidentally, at the moment Fidelio is showing 35 stalls tickets at £275 & £264 for the opening perofrmance & the others when you click on them come up as sold out.

Edited by Dawnstar
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50 minutes ago, penelopesimpson said:

we have held seats for Fidelio across all dates and price ranges which will be released for public booking tomorrow

 

A timely and largely helpful response but the ticket numbers really do need to be quantified - how many seats are available for public booking?

 

Again such an obvious question that should have been addressed in the response.

 

 

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6 minutes ago, Dawnstar said:

I emailed the ROH yesterday asking about the 20% figure. Today I got back the following, from someone on their Friends team:

 

When booking opens for members, which initially becomes available for Patrons, all seats go on sale and nothing is held for lower member levels or the public. 

 

Given the email @penelopesimpson has had, from Alex Beard, says tickets are being held back & the one I have had says that they aren't, I am now thoroughly confused. Whatever the ROH's policy, they at least need to ensure they are giving consistent replies to questions about it! I am debating whether to reply & tell them this or not...

 

Incidentally, at the moment Fidelio is showing 35 stalls tickets at £275 & £264 for the opening perofrmance & the others when you click on them come up as sold out.

 

No wonder you're confused, Dawnstar. They can't both be right...

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8 hours ago, JNC said:

A very small number and it doesn’t quite seem to be the: 

they quote on their website (as in the prices were £22!)

 

Why not, the way they've been raising prices?  Lohengrin last year was £25 for standing, so it's quite conceivable to me that they would charge over the odds for Fidelio.  I'm guessing the prices they quoted are for ballet.

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1 hour ago, penelopesimpson said:

Curiouser and curiouser:

 

We are committed to ensuring as many people as possible can experience our productions at the Royal Opera House and are very proud of the fact that last Season, almost 30% of out tickets were sold at £35 or under. This policy will continue.

 

Presumably that includes all the hundreds of Frankenstein etc. tickets they sold at a tenner a time - nothing to be proud of, if it means their marketing hasn't worked.

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1 hour ago, Dawnstar said:

I emailed the ROH yesterday asking about the 20% figure. Today I got back the following, from someone on their Friends team:

 

Thank you for your email and for recently joining our community of Friends. 

 

 

When booking opens for members, which initially becomes available for Patrons, all seats go on sale and nothing is held for lower member levels or the public. 

 

 

Regarding Fidelio, this is one of the undoubted highlights of our Season. Starring Jonas Kaufmann and performed under Tony Pappano's expert baton for a short run over six performances, there is inevitably huge demand for a very limited number of seats. Within this context we have done all we can to ensure that we are as fair as possible to those who support the Royal Opera House while welcoming new audiences. However, unfortunately it is inevitable that some people will be disappointed.

 

There are, however, still tickets available through our weekly Friday Rush ticketing scheme which ensures members of the public have access to our most popular productions every season at affordable prices. We would also encourage customers to keep an eye on our website for any returned tickets which will be put straight back on sale should any existing ticket holders be unable to attend. 

 

Thank you so very much for supporting the Royal Opera House by being a Friend. 

 

 

Given the email @penelopesimpson has had, from Alex Beard, says tickets are being held back & the one I have had says that they aren't, I am now thoroughly confused. Whatever the ROH's policy, they at least need to ensure they are giving consistent replies to questions about it! I am debating whether to reply & tell them this or not...

 

Incidentally, at the moment Fidelio is showing 35 stalls tickets at £275 & £264 for the opening perofrmance & the others when you click on them come up as sold out.

Can somebody explain the differences between Patrons and lower level members?

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25 minutes ago, Shade said:

I see this made today’s Evening Standard

Can you post a link, Shade as I cant get the Standard here.  I spoke to them at length yesterday.

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Dear Mr. Beard,

 

Thank you for your letter. However, its contents are puzzling.

 

Your Box Office confirmed to me on Friday October 18 that NO tickets would be held back for the General Public. As the person I spoke to was obviously uncomfortable divulging this information, I cannot imagine how he could be mistaken or what motivation he could possibly have for stating a policy that is, according to yourself, incorrect.

Your position that Fidelio tickets would not be available for the general public to purchase was also confirmed to me yesterday, October 22 by a member of your Customer Relations staff.

 

Can they both be wrong?

 

Equally, perhaps you are not aware of an email that was sent to Friends last week, which contained the following information:

 

"For example, with fewer than 100 tickets now remaining across the run, we anticipate that Fidelio will sell out to Friends like you."

 

Perhaps you could clarify the situation for me as I am sure you will understand why I am puzzled.

 

Sincerely,

 

Penelope Simpson

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