Covent Garden-2017/09/06-UK

Fancy a cheap night at the Royal Opera House? Take your seat on the floor

He’s wild, he’s dangerous, he’s utterly unlike anyone’s idea of a ploddingly solemn and bearded operatic bass. He's also the former boyfriend of mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who was the soloist at the last night of the Proms in 2013.The Royal Opera House is to offer stalls tickets for its most popular productions for as little as £10, rather than the usual £230. The catch? You won’t actually get a seat. Instead, make yourself comfortable on the floor. Oliver Mears, the new artistic director at Covent Garden, is reviving Proms concerts after a gap of 30 years. Stalls seating will be removed, leaving a space for Prommers to stand or sit. Picnic rugs will be welcomed. Tickets will be made Old–fashioned Grace Kelly elegance characterises this much-loved and astonishingly versatile American soprano, with excellent taste in haute couture. With great good taste, she even sang at the Queen's jubilee bash from the window of Buckingham Palace. available on the day of the performance, and for a fraction of the usual cost. It was an idea introduced by the late Sir Colin Davis when he became musical director in the early 1970s, and proved a hit with opera-goers who paid just £3 for the privilege of being yards from the stage. They continued for around 20 years, latterly sponsored by Midland Bank. Mears is bringing them back as part of his grand plan to democratise opera and dispel its elitist reputation. The construction work currently under way at Covent Garden is known as the ‘Open Up’ project, and Mears said: “That’s not just a building project, but a philosophy.” He said of the Proms concerts: “They were a little bit before my time but I’ve heard about them by report and the extraordinary impact they had on people who experienced them, not just people in the audience but in the house as well. “The pricing is one aspect. The great thing about Proms is the opportunity to offer a large number of tickets at a low price. “Also, there are misconceptions about opera – that it is very formal, very stiff. Of course people like to dress up and that could be part of the event of going to the With his noble features and curly black locks, he would have been a perfect model for a Nazarene or Pre-Raphaelite painting of Jesus. This great German tenor has astonishing range, mastering everything from Bizet to Wagner with ease. opera. But no one should feel intimidated by that. “These will be ‘standing’ tickets but in the past people often would sit down on rugs.” He hopes to attract people who have never visited the opera before. The concerts are expected to begin in 2020, the first year that Mr Mears will be given free rein over the programme due to the length of time it takes to plan the repertoire. They will take place over one week in every season, offering a cross-section of opera and ballet. “It could be La Boheme and Swan Lake, three or four productions running in repertoire,” Mr Mears explained. Although prices have yet to be set and a sponsor is being sought, the prices are expected to be “something around the £10 mark”. The model is the BBC Proms, where standing tickets can be bought on the day for as little as £6. “What the Albert Hall has done with the BBC Proms is fantastic, and has brought in an audience of younger people and students,” Mr Mears said. “As you can imagine, it’s quite a complex logistical challenge. We would have to remove all the seats in the stall, which we’ve established would take about 12 hours. “This is not a cheap endeavour because we would of course be removing some of the most expensive seats in the house. But the importance of this project, in terms of becoming the kind of place we want to be – stressing the approachability of the Royal Opera House – trumps that concern.”

Top to bottom: Ildebrando d’Arcangelo, bass; Renee Flemming, soprano; Jonas Kauffman, tenor

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