I’ve always been happy to splash out on attending all sorts of events – £80 on tickets for run-of-the-mill Premiership football matches; £120 for the ghastly experience of watching rugby in Twickenham’s concrete jungle; £60 to attend a concert by ancient rockers who’ve seen better days. As an English teacher, I’m also an avid theatre-goer – despite the fact that the last time I went to the theatre, to see a woke version of Henry V full of gratuitous swearing and cheap jibes at Brexit, it cost £55 for a restricted view.
But I’d always avoided opera, put off by its somewhat elitist image. And I’m not the only one – a survey for Classic FM revealed that many of us have never considered going, dismissing it as ‘too posh’ or too expensive.
Now, though, I’ve seen the light. I’ve learned that opera is better value than most other cultural and sporting activities – and much more of a spectacle. Recently I went to the last night of Verdi’s Aida at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden – a genuinely world-class venue. The posters on the London Underground promised this would be ‘an outstanding new take on Verdi’, and I thought: why not try it? My ticket cost £11. The experience was priceless.
For a start, I defy anyone to step into the Royal Opera House for the first time without feeling awestruck by the setting. It’s magnificent – a superb blend of old and new. And whether you’re paying £11 for the cheapest ticket, as I was, or £1,000 for a box, it’s the same stunning entrance for everyone. The vast Paul Hamlyn Hall, reopened in 2018 and full of glittering glass and light, is jaw-dropping in its impact. As one helpful attendant said to me: ‘You’d never believe it used to be a fruit and veg market.’