Covent Garden has a ticketing problem

Covent Garden has a ticketing problem


norman lebrecht

May 07, 2021

We are seeing dozens of complaints about this sort of thing.

It has been running for days. Someone must surely be able to fix it.


  • Yev says:

    it is not a bug but done on purpose. i contacted ROH and they said they released a very small number of single seats which sold out quickly. others were sold only in groups and you cannot buy one seat.

    • Paul Dawson says:

      Is this deliberate discrimination against single opera-lovers?

      • Wurtfangler says:

        Indeed – how dare there be single people out there wanting to enjoy themselves. Go out and be normal and get a partner!

        I had a similar issue when I tried to book at the Bridge Theatre last summer. Eventually I was able to find a date (of the calendar variety) where a single ticket was available.

        If you are not in a ‘hard-working family’ you are a second-class citizen these days.

      • Yev says:

        it is a revenue increasing strategy. when i complained, ROH responded “Hello, we are only able to operate a socially distanced seating plan. Unfortunately this means that we are only able to sell at 40% of our normal capacity. This has meant that we are only able to offer a small number of single seats for performances (which have sold very quickly)”

      • Yev says:

        it is a revenue maximizing strategy. ROH responded to my complaint: “Hello, we are only able to operate a socially distanced seating plan. Unfortunately this means that we are only able to sell at 40% of our normal capacity. This has meant that we are only able to offer a small number of single seats for performances (which have sold very quickly)”

      • Una says:

        It happened at Opera North too. I wanted to get 1 ticket for Fidelio in June in Leeds Town Hall where the seats are moveable. Also for an orchestral concert before Christmas. The booking period was only a week. Online I had no option but to have bought four seats in a prescribed bubble x £30 seats together. I also struggled to get through by phone, which to be fair is unusual.
        The team at Opera North, mostbfvwhom I know, are terrific even during the pandemic. But luckily as I’m a season ticket holder and within 24 hours before going on sale to the public, I got a seat on my own for £30 – dfpuble thd twice I would normally pay. But I realy felt as if I were being descriminated against for being on my own, and given some cock and bull story as to why there needed to be seats in 2, 3 and 4 to accommodate certain types of people – disabled with their carers, families with children, and then the social distancing strategy, but not for 1 person. They had been limited and sold out in hours.

    • V.Lind says:

      That is absolutely outrageous.

  • V.Lind says:

    That problem probably originates with an outside firm, one that does the ticketing with its own software. It may or may not have a ready solution to this lunacy.

    • Data geek says:

      The CRM that ROH operates on has various options for seating set-up. The software is a world-leader and I very much doubt this is their issue (or you’d see it in concert halls worldwide). This is a choice the house has made to maximise capacity, and they should probably have thought through the messaging that comes up once the single seats are gone (which is editable). I expect if you increase your order to 2, instead of 1, that message goes away. It certainly did when I tested it earlier.

      • Paul Dawson says:

        Wow! I was simply being flippant in my comment above. The idiotic “…1 tickets together” made me assume that this was a software error.

        Your comment suggests that this institutionalised segregation.

        I’ve become used to being given the worst table in the restaurant, or denied access altogether.

        But for an organisation funded so heavily by the taxpayer to pick and choose their clientele according to relationship status is an utter disgrace,.

  • Thinking aloud says:

    I have also had this problem not just with the current booking period, but also in the past.
    Who really wants to buy two tickets for £200+ if you really only want one.
    Come on Covent Garden you should be able to do better than this. There are plenty of single opera goers.

    • Una says:

      It’s not just Covent Garden. They get sold out anyhow even on 100% sales and often unaffordable for the majority. Bit it’s the whole perceived discriminationary attitude.

  • Patrick says:

    Similar problem with the Philharmonia’s website last week trying to book tickets – no single seats available at all

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Same thing happened to me recently also at the Bridge. I was clicking on where I normally sit but as it was a block of four and I wanted one , it wouldn’t let me. I just moved along. It’s because of reduced seating due to precautions being taken for Covid 19.

  • David says:

    I have given up trying to get any tickets to shows at present.

    I understand venues want to maximise revenue at this most difficult od times and are putting groups together and then leaving gaps, while allocating almost zero tickets for individual patrons.

    It has made me feel a bit Johnny No Mates. But if they do not want my money, fine. I just won’t bother. Not that they are going to care about just me not coming, but I will keep my money. And I would say, before the pandemic, I would spend at least a couple of grand a year on concerts, the opera and ballet.

    But from what I have seen of various sites I looked at over the last couple of weeks, there is not a mad rush for people to go back yet.

    I would be lying if it did not hurt slightly, as going back to shows was one of the things I was most looking forward to going back to. Especially to the opera house, which I have been going to for nearly 40 years.

    • Elizabeth Owen says:

      I think you have to put yourself in their place. There is a terrible disease killing people all over the world. Theatres want to open but must take precautions against the disease. Imagine what would happen if there was an outbreak which originated at a theatre performance, would people be able to sue and accuse theatres of not taking sufficient precautions?

    • SVM says:

      If you are a Friend of the Wigmore Hall, you could try for their ticket ballot (although you would be too late for the latest one, which closed yesterday) — my anecdotal experience of going to some of the Wigmore Hall’s concerts during autumn/winter 2020 suggests that there are plenty of single seats to be had (probably helped by the fact that you do not get to choose where you sit, which means that the management can allocate seats in a distanced yet efficient manner after receiving ticket requests).

      Good luck from a fellow lone concertgoer.

  • Norbert says:

    Oh…so i suppose the online calendar they published a few weeks ago, with mis-aligned days/dates was “deliberate” too….I mean literally…they couldn’t even read a calendar correctly.

  • Siegfried says:

    This problem existed in the one-off performances late in 2020 and patrons had to buy two seats to use just one. ENO have said 22% sales are single seats and their shows pre-Christmas, sadly cancelled, increased the number of single seats to support loyal patrons. At Holland Park and Grange Park they go out of their way to accommodate customers. The situation is simple; it is difficult to find another arts organisation more unfriendly than Covent Garden.

  • Ellie says:

    Glyndebourne the same – all tickets to be bought as pairs. Admittedly it’s rare to go there as a single – I’ve got looks of pity from audience members when I’ve gone alone despite the fact I’m quite happy reading a book in the interval rather than being seen quaffing the fizz. But the complete lack of choice was really disappointing. If it was all sold out fair enough, but to not be allowed to book available seats … it’s a real shame.

    Working in an arts organisation I totally get when revenue is at 50%, to cut it in half again for the singletons is really hard to do. But the balance is clearly wrong.

  • Vaquero357 says:

    And jacked up ticket prices, too! Got a brochure in the mail from the Minnesota Orchestra this week. They’ll be doing “limited seating” in-person audience concerts in June….. And tickets for the first one on Friday June 11 will be $119 to $128….. Um yeah, sure, for ca. 65 minutes of music.

    If I’m willing to go to a Saturday matinee – what? COVID is more dangerous at night so we all have to stay home on Sat. night? Er, anyway, if I’m willing to go Saturday afternoon, tix are only $99 to $119. Still NO.

    I’m now fully vax’d and ready to go to live performances again, but NOT for doubled ticket prices and half-programs!

  • Will says:

    Give them a break! Seating has to be distanced, so they have pre-allocated seats as singles, pairs etc. All that has happened is that the singles have sold out. If they made more singles available you’d have fewer pairs and everyone would be saying how outrageous it is that they don’t have enough pairs of seats.

    All arts companies are struggling with doing distanced seating and when operating on such hugely reduced capacities you really can’t blame them for trying to maximise revenue (which basically means losing slightly less money, no one is making a killing here)

  • Former Donor says:

    This has been happening across the U.K. in concert halls well before Covid-19. It’s a system biased against single ticket purchaser, although sometimes it often happens if you want to buy 2 seats but leave a single seat nearby which halls ban online. The whole online experience is depressing. Frankly I’ve given up and would rather sit at home in comfort (and now safety) with a glass of something fabulous and listen without the hamsters eating and drinking (especially with many managements now allowing food and drinks) and coughing and chatting. But that’s a whole other topic. Good luck to ticket purchasers everywhere.

  • Ernest says:

    I had the same experience with Glyndebourne 🙁