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Sold-out Fidelio a problem in London

Royal Opera House members objects of envy

Membership with the Royal Opera House starts at £105 a year.
Membership with the Royal Opera House starts at £105 a year.

The Royal Opera House Covent Garden has a huge problem. They’ve sold out six performances of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio next March and people are angry! The problem appears to be that the vast majority of the tickets were sold to members of the Royal Opera before going on sale to the public.

Membership with the Royal Opera House starts at £105 a year with the “Friend” option. Friends receive several benefits such as a tote bag and access to rehearsals, but they also receive access to purchase tickets before the general public.

According to the Classic FM website, critics of the Royal Opera House claim that the opera house receives significant public funding and therefore the general tax-paying public should have as much access to tickets as the opera house members. That is, of course, a silly argument.

It isn’t as if members of the opera house pay for their memberships in lieu of taxes. They pay for their memberships on top of their taxes, unless the membership fee is a direct tax credit. I’m no expert on British tax law, but it seems obvious that everyone is paying taxes and some are also paying for a membership which gives them early access to purchase tickets. The general tax-paying public is free to pony up the £105 and become a member of the opera house if they really, really want to see Fidelio.

The real question is, why did almost 13,000 seats sell out?

Fidelio is Beethoven’s only opera and these performances occur during Beethoven’s 250th birthday year. Ok. That fact doesn’t seem that compelling.

The lead tenor is Jonas Kaufmann. Ok. Kaufmann is notorious for canceling, so he might not even be in all the performances.

His singing has become inconsistent. The Spectator had this to say about his performance opposite Anna Netrebko at the Royal Opera House in March of 2019, “Kaufmann was the weakest member of the central cast. The patchiness of his voice — especially in quieter passages — was particularly noticeable in such company, for all the obvious sincerity of his performance and his golden ability to knock a high note for six, at least once he’s worked up to it.”

That’s hardly a glowing endorsement.

I’m a bit perplexed on both sides. I’m not sure why this opera sold out five months in advance and I’m not sure why that’s a problem for the general tax-paying public. I think sold out performances of Fidelio is an excellent celebration of Beethoven’s birthday.

Heaven knows the premiere performances, led by Beethoven, didn’t sell out. In fact, the Austrian censors did everything they could to prevent the performances since the word “freedom” was sung on stage. That was a no, no.

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Membership with the Royal Opera House starts at £105 a year.
Membership with the Royal Opera House starts at £105 a year.

The Royal Opera House Covent Garden has a huge problem. They’ve sold out six performances of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio next March and people are angry! The problem appears to be that the vast majority of the tickets were sold to members of the Royal Opera before going on sale to the public.

Membership with the Royal Opera House starts at £105 a year with the “Friend” option. Friends receive several benefits such as a tote bag and access to rehearsals, but they also receive access to purchase tickets before the general public.

According to the Classic FM website, critics of the Royal Opera House claim that the opera house receives significant public funding and therefore the general tax-paying public should have as much access to tickets as the opera house members. That is, of course, a silly argument.

It isn’t as if members of the opera house pay for their memberships in lieu of taxes. They pay for their memberships on top of their taxes, unless the membership fee is a direct tax credit. I’m no expert on British tax law, but it seems obvious that everyone is paying taxes and some are also paying for a membership which gives them early access to purchase tickets. The general tax-paying public is free to pony up the £105 and become a member of the opera house if they really, really want to see Fidelio.

The real question is, why did almost 13,000 seats sell out?

Fidelio is Beethoven’s only opera and these performances occur during Beethoven’s 250th birthday year. Ok. That fact doesn’t seem that compelling.

The lead tenor is Jonas Kaufmann. Ok. Kaufmann is notorious for canceling, so he might not even be in all the performances.

His singing has become inconsistent. The Spectator had this to say about his performance opposite Anna Netrebko at the Royal Opera House in March of 2019, “Kaufmann was the weakest member of the central cast. The patchiness of his voice — especially in quieter passages — was particularly noticeable in such company, for all the obvious sincerity of his performance and his golden ability to knock a high note for six, at least once he’s worked up to it.”

That’s hardly a glowing endorsement.

I’m a bit perplexed on both sides. I’m not sure why this opera sold out five months in advance and I’m not sure why that’s a problem for the general tax-paying public. I think sold out performances of Fidelio is an excellent celebration of Beethoven’s birthday.

Heaven knows the premiere performances, led by Beethoven, didn’t sell out. In fact, the Austrian censors did everything they could to prevent the performances since the word “freedom” was sung on stage. That was a no, no.

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