What happens when you give free opera tickets to kids

Following the highly-flagged ENO initiative, Michael Volpe has been in touch with results from Opera Holland Park:

Here are some stats from our 2017 scheme

The average age of the children from the written responses were between 10-13 years old (50%). Roughly 10% were between 14 and 16. There were none under the age of 8.
• Most of the children heard about the scheme through their teacher (23.1%). The next biggest result was from the Royal Borough (17.3%). Other popular answers were: the OHP website, the OHP brochure and family members.
• 70.6% of the children had seen between 1-5 operas before. 21.6% had never been to the opera before.
• For 42% of attendees, it was the first time they had been to OHP
• 55.8% had been to the opera before on the scheme (so coming back!)
• 77.4% of the children found the whole experience & enjoyment factor to be “very enjoyable” (the highest rating)
• 98.1% of the children would visit a production of an opera again in any theatre
• Finally, 96% of the children felt like they understood the opera

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  • The fact that 70% had seen an opera before suggests you may be giving free tickets to families who are coming anyway and can well afford it.

    I’m of the belief that people should always pay something for a ticket, even if its £1. They should have some monetary investment in it and feel it has some worth. Most of the time price is not the factor putting people off, its a simple lack of interest.

    • Hi Will
      This is not true actually.
      One of the most common feedback points we get is from parents telling us, gratefully, that they always wanted to introduce their children to opera but could not afford to take two or three of them at the risk that they would hate it. It is simply not correct to assume these parents can afford it snd as I say elsewhere, we know that there is progression through our schemes. I have met 20 year olds using our Inspire seats (£20) who first attended through the free ticket scheme.

      I even talked to a child, maybe ten years old who was there with her mother. She looked very grumpy and told me she wasn’t interested in seeing the opera – ‘I’m only here because mum wanted to come’. Her mum was a little embarrassed of course, but she said she had always wanted to see an opera but didn’t think she could sfford it. And it turned out there was a group of them who’d ordered the tickets (separately but in the same evening). At the end, the whole group of mums and kids were in their feet whooping and hollering. My view was that if bringing the kid’had also introduced an adult, we had still won.

      You are right inasmuch as we have a problem with interest generally among certain sections of th epopulaton, but we have to start with the access snd go from there. With a ladder of opportunity, you stand a chance.

    • Apologies for the typos in my other reply.
      Here is a sample comment from a parent from the 2017 survey.

      “I just wanted to write and say thank you so much for giving my 13-year-old daughter and myself the opportunity to visit OHP to see Don Giovanni. It was a wonderful production and an incredible setting. We loved that it was set on a cruise ship and our seats were so good that we could see all the action, the orchestra, conductor and the subtitles (a great addition to understanding an opera). How wonderful to see the theatre full too. Opera is not something that we can really afford to see live and my daughter is interested in perhaps pursuing this as her career. So being given the chance to actually see an opera live, and enjoying it so much, has given her something to really think about.”

    • I remember from school days (not exactly last year – if you get my drift) going to a screening in my local Gaumont cinema, of a film which featured Vaughan WIlliams’ Sinfonia Antarctica. We paid one shilling (five pence in today’s currency). Our teacher reasoned just like you Will, that for us to value the occasion we needed to pay SOMETHING to go.

  • I really dislike this attitude that if anything is free then people don’t appreciate it and it is better to charge for something. I’m really happy to read how successful this Holland Park venture is and wish it well.

  • I am all for children attending opera but have on several occasions found myself near a block of seats of from a dozen to almost 30 that had been given over to children either from the same school or who knew each other. In most cases there was no-one in charge.

    For me that is a recipe for disaster to anyone sitting nearby – and probably a lot more. It just needs a couple of kids to be bored or determined they will not enjoy the opera, start chatting to each other and then inevitably it spreads. Having a teacher or other adult with them rarely helps much as there is then a constant shushing. The resultant peace rarely has lasted little more than a minute!

    I have always suspected these blocks of tickets had been handed out free to make up numbers but have no proof of that. But it’s just one reason why I agree with Will and Mark Hildrew’s comments above. If there is no element of payment, there is a clear possibility of disturbance to other patrons. Similarly, I never permitted more than 2 or 3 children to sit in blocks of seats. I would always spread them out.

    • My wife and I attended a concert at Carnegie Hall recently. As soon as we got there it was apparent that blocks of tickets had been given to children from “underserved communities.” When the first piece started, we began to hear whispering and laughter from some of the children and, more alarmingly, their parents. Repeated attempts to “shush” them went ignored and even seemed to egg them on. When the whispering and laughing become intolerable, I appealed to the nearest usher that we be allowed to move to another section. She would only allow us to move to the very back of the balcony, seats far worse than the ones we bought. When I resisted, she offered to warn the offenders but her warnings were ignored as soon as she left and the whispering and laughter continued.

      After the concert, I complained to Carnegie Hall but they just responded with bromides. I would suggest that seats not be sold to the general public in areas where free tickets have been distributed, especially if it’s to children. Or do what the Met does – invite children to dress rehearsals. Due to this incident, and Carnegie Hall’s listless response, I won’t be back anytime soon.

      • That’s a shame – but large groups is different to the system we operate. Firstly, any children under q6 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. If the child is disruptive, they are asked to leave. But this is extremely rare. Plus, our seats are available every night in pairs along two columns either side so no big groups. The groups come to the dress rehearsals or specific schools matinees.

  • wonderful (and the right) idea for creating a new audience…with all that eurotrash going around the operatic world which pushes away a younger audience as they clearly see the absurdity of it all, instead they attend and do enjoy the “musical” scene….most of opera productions in europe aren’t fit for kids

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