Exclusive: the world's most sold-out opera house

Exclusive: the world's most sold-out opera house


norman lebrecht

August 23, 2011

Summer’s ending and everyone’s totting up their totals. I looked onto a friend’s screen the other day and saw a statistic so breathtaking she had to sit me down and make me a cup of tea.

When is an opera house full or sold-out? Usually when there’s just one or two hundred tickets left for sale. But what about a whole season – when is that ever sold out?

Glyndebourne ends in a week or so and the final tallies are being made. The four-month summer festival, unsupported by public funds, needs to sell 92 percent of tickets to break even. Recently it has been running along very nicely at 97 or thereabouts.

Many of the tickets are priced at £190 (same in Euros, or $350). That’s steep. Some £30 tickets are reserved for under-30s and £10 for standing room at the top balcony.

This summer, Glyndebourne has sold – wait for it – 99.18 percent of all seats to all shows*, including the less-obvious Rinaldo and Turn of the Screw that rarely sell out at major opera houses.

Put another way, Glyndebourne has been sold out all summer.

Beat that, anyone.

* Actually slightly higher by the last performance, five days later.  See here.


  • Tali C. says:

    Well, I presume Bayreuth is actually faring better, but these numbers are amazing.

  • The Lyric Opera of Chicago used to sell at 105% or so. People would return tickets and those would get sold.

    • Suzanne says:

      Marc, I agree with you, Chicago’s specs are amazing, although for the 2010-2011 season they “only” sold 91% of capacity (68 performances of 8 productions which included the not terribly well known “Hercules”). They have operated in the black for 23 of the past 24 years! Given the state of the economy, I think that the folks running that house should run the country!

      • But we should remember that Chicago only has a five month season. For opera performances per year by city, Chicago is in only the paltry 66th position. America only has three cities even in the top 100 for number of performances per year — though that will simply fly by Americans who simply can’t imagine that they are quite inferior in certain areas. For documentation see the website of Operabase.

  • David says:

    The photograph says it all!

  • Richard Hertz says:

    I thought the New York City Opera was the world’s most sold-out opera house – you can’t even get a ticket these days!

    • The NYCO is no longer an opera house. It is a pick-up ensemble that plays in rental facilities around town.

      • Richard Hertz says:

        I heard from an inside source that this whole thing is just a way to get out of the Koch building, as the management can’t stand the Koch brothers politics.

        • Gosh, I would so love it if that were true.

          My take is that the big hidden agenda that has totally by-passed the media reports is that George Steele isn’t just changing the size of the NYCO and moving it to more flexible quarters. His real purpose from the outset has been to change its mission to an organization that focuses on rare and contemporary opera. Though dire, the financial problems were more of a cover for his changes than a compelling motive. The financial problems could have been resolved in a city that rich, but instead they were used as a cover for creative destruction and reinvention. (I know that is an astounding statement, but it is what is happening. That is among the reasons why the unions are so angry, and why the GMD quit.) This vision has been possible for Steele because he is also a highly trained conductor with a highly refined specialty in contemporary music.