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Thursday, January 28, 1999 Published at 12:16 GMT


Royal Opera House promises cheap seats

The Royal Opera House is due to open again at the end of November

Ordinary people will soon be able to go to the opera in Covent Garden - and not have to take out a bank loan to buy the tickets.

The chief executive of the Royal Opera House, Michael Kaiser, has promised that the seats will be much cheaper when the institution re-opens later this year. Price cuts are promised even at peak times - with tickets for the new matinee performances as low as £6.

Massive revamp

Michael Kaiser: It's a fresh start for the Royal Opera House
The past few years have been troubled ones for the cash-strapped Covent Garden institution. It has been accused of mismanagement and had a succession of chief executives who have resigned. Mr Kaiser is the fourth to be appointed to the post in two years.

The ROH was shut down last summer and since then a massive refurbishment programme has been underway, involving £78m of National Lottery money, at a total cost of £218m. Last year it was also given an extra £5.5m over two years in government subsidy. In return the ROH had to promise lower ticket prices and greater public access.

'Something unique'

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Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme Mr Kaiser said: "For the majority of the opera performances the top price will be £100 on Monday through Thursday.

"But we've done something unique and that is lower the top prices and all prices on Friday and Saturday evenings when most people want to come to the Opera.

"Fifty per cent of the house on Friday and Saturday night will now cost less than £40. There is a very substantial portion of the house that will be at much more moderate prices," he said.

He promised that the Opera House will now have matinee productions of its main operas for the first time with a top price of £65 and a bottom price of £6.

He also said that much of the programming in the ROH's new smaller theatre will be free, paid for out of the government subsidy.

Philip Headly, the artistic director of the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, has been very critical of the money that has gone to the ROH in the past. He says he hopes that the changes are a sign of better things to come.

But he warned: "They have had a notoriously elitist board. The leopard has to change its spots and take this plan absolutely to heart."

New programme of events

[ image: Chief executive Michael Kaiser is determined to get the ROH back on its feet]
Chief executive Michael Kaiser is determined to get the ROH back on its feet
As well as revealing its new ticket prices the ROH, which is also home to the Royal Ballet, has unveiled a programme of events for its opening season.

There will be a special opening show on 1 December featuring The Royal Ballet, The Royal Opera and Placido Domingo, among many others.

The ROH will open its opera season with Verdi's Falstaff on 6 December and other events include a celebration of international choreography and a new free lunchtime chamber music series.

The ROH has also expanded a number of educational projects offering children opportunities to write opera, see behind the scenes, as well as participate in the creation of a children's opera for the year 2000.

Tourists will soon be able to have a look at the ROH from the inside too, as it opens to visitors for the first time during the day with tours and exhibitions provided.

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