Why opera tickets are perceived as expensive
Don Pasquale; Glyndebourne Touring Opera at Theatre Royal, Norwich - £8 to £53
Don Pasquale; same Glyndebourne Touring Opera production via Guardian live stream - Free
Don Pasquale; Metropolitan Opera New York stream - Free trial then $4.99 rental
Don Pasquale: Wiener Staarsoper stream - Free trial then €14 rental
The conclusion that opera tickets are not expensive when compared with other live events may well be correct. Cognoscenti know that live opera can never match recorded recorded opera. But opera's new audience does not know this, and neophytes perceive streamed music as a viable alternative to live performances. All the major opera companies fuel this misapprehension by heavily promoting streaming. So, given the significant differential in price between streamed services and opera tickets, it is hardly surprising that new audiences view opera tickets as expensive.
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Yet Classical music is still seen as a luxury for the white collar crowd rather than wholesome blue collar entertainment like a baseball game would be. Why? The reason is simple: this is what people have been told for decades and they still believe it. Whenever an opera or classical music performance shows up in any sort of media it's always a formal black tie sort of event in a fancy venue full of rich people. Done and done.
The assumption that streaming is an adequate substitute for live performance seems to be received wisdom at the Arts Council. Consequently funded organisations are leant upon, heavily, to divert scarce resources into schemes such as these - schemes which are costly, and which, as many people within these organisations (in my experience) are well aware, misrepresent their work while doing nothing to build the "new audience". They don't need telling that watching a screening in a cinema of on a laptop in no way "increases access" to a live artform. But he who pays the piper...
In this context, organisations that tell these inconvenient truths - such as ETO's research, published last year
(http://www.theguardian.com/music/tomserviceblog/2014/may/30/opera-in-cinemas-creating-new-audiences ) - are being fairly brave. It's telling that this even in the light of research such as this, the Arts Council digital bandwagon keeps rolling. It's perceived to be necessary. No-one knows why, but it is. And few organisations are in a position to speak truth to that particular power.