Der Ring, der nie gelungen: Comparing ticket prices

Shit, how are we going to pay for this thing?

I’m going to be standing for the Met’s Ring cycle starting on Thursday. This is due to the ticket prices, which are extremely high. The cheapest seats are in the Family Circle, where a full cycle runs $380 ($95 per opera). For reference, these seats usually top out at $45 per opera and resemble being three blocks away from the stage (though the acoustics are fantastic; I will be standing up there, actually).

I wondered how this compared to other opera houses, so I did some research. It turns out that the Met is indeed really, really expensive. Maybe that’s due to the $17 million production costs, as well as the phenomenon of “state subsidies” making things more reasonable elsewhere. Since there are a lot of big time Rings coming up in the anniversary year, I looked up some prices for tickets, noting three sections in each house (front orchestra AKA stalls or Parkett, somewhere in the middle of the price range, and the cheapest non-restricted view seats). The first table puts all the prices into dollars, the second has the same data but in euros. There are links to the production information at the end of this post–the Berlin house is Unter den Linden, and Paris is at the Bastille:

Edited to note: The Paris prices are for the subscription cycles, spread out over a few weeks. There’s also one condensed within-a-week cycle, and it costs quite a bit more, with prices between those of Munich and Milan. But it does include lots of booze!

A seat in the Dress Circle at the Met–hardly prime real estate–will cost you more than center orchestra in Paris, Berlin, or Munich. And the most expensive seats at Frankfurt’s cycle–conducted by Bayreuth regular Sebastian Weigle with a well-reviewed production by Vera Nemirova, first-class Siegfried Lance Ryan, and up-and-coming Amber Wagner as Sieglinde–will only cost a bit more than the Met’s Family Circle. (I didn’t even count the Met’s “premium” $2,600 seats as the top price, since they are comparatively few in number.)

Fellow blogger Intermezzo recently compared Ring prices between the ROH and Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den
Linden, finding the cost in Berlin much less even including a flight from London and a hotel, which gives you an idea of the disparities here. But the Met’s even making London look a little bit reasonable.

Keep in mind that these opera houses vary greatly in size: the Met seats 3800, the Schiller Theater (Berlin) only 990, and the rest in varying intervals in between. So that back row in Berlin is a lot closer than the Met’s midrange Dress Circle.

The singers, however, are not so different, with lots of repeat offenders between cities. The champion has to be baritone Iain Paterson, who is singing Günther and Fasolt in cycles in New York, Berlin, Milan, Paris, and Munich. You can even seen the same production and conductor in Berlin and Milan–if you’re willing to compromise on weather and food go to Berlin, you will save a great deal of money.

Considering the dismal reviews the Met’s Ring has been getting (here are mine, and here’s Alex Ross’s), New Yorkers might be feeling a little ripped off.

All prices are taken from opera house websites for Ring cycles in the 2011/12 (New York, Frankfurt) or 2012/13 (ROH, Berlin, Munich, Milan, Paris) seasons. Currency conversion rates: 1 dollar = .61 GBP = .75 Euro.

Rings in Europe and the US:*
Metropolitan Opera, New York (c. Fabio Luisi and others,** dir. Robert Lepage)
Royal Opera House, London (c. Antonio Pappano, dir. Keith Warner)
Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin (c. Daniel Barenboim, dir. Guy Cassiers)
Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich (c. Kent Nagano, dir. Andreas Kriegenburg)
Teatro alla Scala, Milan (c. Daniel Barenboim, dir. Guy Cassiers)
Opéra National de Paris, Paris (c. Philippe Jordan, dir. Günther Krämer)
Oper Frankfurt (c. Sebastian Weigle, dir. Vera Nemirova)

*I would have included another American company but I could not locate any data for San Francisco’s recent cycle and Seattle’s 2013 cycle isn’t on sale yet. If you have any information, please email me and I would be happy to update.

**James Levine’s assistants will be conducting the final two parts of Cycle 3. I hope it isn’t insulting their skills to say that I think it is ridiculous the Met doesn’t have a single major international conductor handling all four parts of the cycle. When you charge these kinds of prices, your audience can get cranky like this.

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  1. Why is it that the prices that I'm finding on the Paris website are significantly more expensive than those listed here? The cheapest, Cat. 4, is 530 euros, which even with the 20% subscriber discount is much more than 252 euros. Am I missing something?

  2. Oh god I'm such an idiot, I didn't realize it's because Cat. 5-8 are sold out already. Forget I said anything. And thank you for this comparison! Really illuminating.

  3. Fascinating and dismaying. I did discover tonight that the partial view Family Circle boxes at the Met aren't too bad (splurged for the $45 because was offered a complimentary ticket for Siegfried, which also may say worrisome things about paying for the cursed thing.)

  4. This is an outrage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Also, while the casts are similar they are not quite the same with the no Terfel or Jonas at the Met next season and Pape, Terfel and Stemme interspersed throughout Europe. Further the Met prices have exploded in the last 3 or 4 years while the increases in Europe have been modest and in some cases non existent.

    There is alos Vienna at about Euro 930 for the most expensive seats.

  5. It says a huge amount about the benefits of public subsidy in these situations… though I'm glad that cheap seats at my local compare well across the Globe.

  6. But on the other hand it is not too difficult to get a ticket to most performanes at the Met even shorty before while for example in Vienna or Munich it is almost impossible when the cast is really good.

    I´ve been trying to see Netrebko or Dessay in Vienna for last few years without any success (though in great advance) but at the Met I got very nice tickets for good price a few days prior to the show…


  7. Bringing this up this late is probably inappropriate, but I was reading through your blog and found this post. At the time you wrote it, the Melbourne Ring probably didn't yet have prices (Certainly it had them by June), but they are even more expensive than any listed here.

    The cheapest tickets were $1000 AUD (When they went on sale, that figure in USD would have been slightly higher), the most expensive were twice that.