I am afraid I just had to post here to correct several of the inaccuracies contained within Kate's post near the start of this thread. Whilst I agree with posters about prices at the ROH being too high (that is a whole debate in itself), I do not see the need to "beat up" the ROH unjustifiably. Especially when it comes from someone who admits that they never actually attend anyway - I am afraid most of this impression is myth, not general reality.
a) There seems to be the suggestion that all tickets go to the Friends, and that this is some kind of exclusive club for rich people to use their masses of cash to get a priority. Can I correct the impression that you need to be mega rich to be a Friend. It costs £78 per year, that's £6.50 per month! I think we would all agree that £6.50 a month is nothing, that virtually anyone that wanted to be a Friend could afford to do so. I am not rich, neither are any of the people I know who are Friends. There are 20,000 of them, and these are simply people that love the art forms, wish to support them whilst at the same time earning themselves a priority booking. But even then you go into a ballot and you do not always get what you ask for as a Friend if demand is higher than supply. It saddens me when people moan about the Friends and say close them down. Kate says it unfairly favours members but how is that? Anyone that wants to join is free to (there is no limit to membership and it is not by nomination), almost everyone could afford £6.50 a month (many people I know are pensioners on very modest incomes yet they still afford to be a Friend). So I have to say to people that say the Friends is unfair that this is nonsense. Instead of moaning at the Friends why not simply join it yourself and enjoy the benefit like the rest of us. Most theatres have a Friends programme, there is absolutely nothing any different about the ROH.
b) Kate suggests ALL the tickets go to Friends, and that very often nothing is left. That is not the case strictly speaking. The ROH is actually forced under the terms of its public subsidy to keep 20% of seats back for public booking, and this it does every booking period across all price ranges - 20% is actually frozen out from the friends. So there is always at least 20% of seats on the first day of public booking, but for the vast majority of performances there is a lot more than that, as the Friends do not normally take the full 80% for routine repertory performances (only for special things i.e. Domingo singing etc, would all 80% of Friends and Trust tickets be gone). Of course how long that 20% + supply lasts after public booking opens is down to popular demand.
c) So if organised enough to note the public date in their diary and booking within a few days of that opening, anyone has access to well over 20% of seats per night, and for most performances would easily find tickets available. But is anyone feels that being limited to this 20% + does not give them enough choice, they are perfectly free to join the Friends for £6.50 per month like the rest of us!
d) Of course the root cause of such attitudes I know is ticket prices. Very often what you will find left as a routine are expensive stalls tickets, whereas you have to be in on the first day to get stalls circle standing. The cheap seats go early, as there are far less of them than the expensive ones. But there are low prices starting at £5 to £8 for ballet - you just have to be more organised to get these cheaper ones. If you can afford to pay for stalls seats you can hang around without too much of a panic very often.
e) The picture painted of general difficulties buying tickets is not accurate. On an average day you can buy tickets on line instantly - there is no need to wait. Try it now - you will find it easy and immediate. The only time you have to wait in a long line (either on the internet, or in person) is on the FIRST days of the 4 booking periods, both Friends date and Public date. So to me its no big deal if 4 days a year you have to be a bit patient. I did it a few weeks ago on-line on the first day and the system worked fine, I simply left it logged on and waited for about 45 minutes until it let me in, it was hassle free, just have to be a bit patient. Any other day apart from these FIRST days, you can log on an buy immediately. Its true when they trialed the new system it did not work the first time and caused all those horror stories, but that was a one off, now fixed.
f) I despair when people complain that on these first days of booking there is high demand which means they have to wait. I say its great news that there is high demand, as it means the art forms are alive and kicking, and popular! What would you rather, booking open and on the first day no one shows up? Then for sure the art forms would be dead. It's great that people are swamping the ROH on the first day, this means the art forms are popular and demand is high - isn't that good news for us all? We just have to learn to be patient on those 4 or 5 days a year. On any other day it is very easy to book.
g) I agree it is a pain to have to book 8 months in advance, but to be honest I find that better to have schedules and casting well in advance for planning, rather than like say in Paris where they publish the ballet casting so late that by the time you get it all cheap travel to Paris is sold out. Better to have the info in advance. Most opera houses take bookings the same as the ROH - for example booking in Paris for the Bolshoi opened at the start of Sept for mid Jan performances, so 4 months in advance. The public date for the ROH for each period is the same, about 4 months prior. Interesting idea kate had about holding some back a month / 2 weeks before, but quite honestly why do that when they have day seats? The whole reason they hold the day seats is for people like Kate who want to decide at the last moment. So the ROH does do something for people like that, and yet you still give them a kicking?! You do not have to wait in line for hours to get day seats (again unless it is something like Domingo, or with big singers), frankly most routine ballet performances you can just pitch up at 10am and get the day seat. If the theatre were to have this other booking date 1 month or 2 weeks in advance you would still complain that you have difficulty getting through that day etc. The effect is the same whatever the date is.
h) There is a suggstion that there should be a subscription series like NYCB etc - there actually already is one, I get it sent to me every booking period. It is open to the public and it operates in exactly the way Kate suggests.
I) More booking periods won't work - 4 in a year is enough. If you make it 10 you will only have the same effect 10 times a year instead of 4, as all of us will still be trying to get through on that first day. Most regulars at the ROH go to virtually everything, so the effect would be to have the same volume of people logging on, calling etc.
In short I think many of the incorrect perceptions Kate has are as a result of unsubstantiated myth - Kate herself explained that she has actually never been to the ROH, yet still formed these opinions. If she picked up the phone or logged on on any average day she would see its child's play to book a ticket. But yes on opening days for high demand stuff it is manic and does cause a delay. Kate compares this to Scotland (lower prices, ease of booking, no waits etc) - well of course! The ROH could never be like this because the demand it faces is far higher than any theatre in Scotland putting on opera or ballet. The ROH is the national opera house of the UK, and one of the famous opera houses of the world. So of course far more people are going to be trying to get in. Demand if higher, the theatre only has 2000 seats so for popular things they will sell out. But a lot of performances in fact do not sell out, partly as prices are far too high, so there is always a chance to go if you want to - the problem is not so much access to tickets but access to the £ to pay for them!
So the real problem at the ROH is simply the £ of tickets, not so much the booking practices of Friends scheme etc.