Covent Garden patrons in uproar over patronising message

Covent Garden patrons in uproar over patronising message


norman lebrecht

August 22, 2021

Angry Royal Opera House subscribers have shared with us a message from the Head of Membership and Fundraising which they regard as inappropriate and insulting.

The message reads (in part) as follows:

Dear Mr [  ]

Welcome to your fortnightly Friends’ e-newsletter.

It’s been lovely to hear from so many of you over the last few weeks and to know how much you’re looking forward to returning to us this autumn…

As a Friend of the Royal Opera House, we are so grateful for your support and kindness. Please help us to make the Royal Opera House a space where everyone feels welcome.

Please treat each other and our staff with kindness and respect. We do not tolerate abusive or discriminatory behaviour.

If you experience or witness abusive or discriminatory behaviour at the Royal Opera House, let any member of staff know and we will take action….

Marina Jones (Head of Membership and Fundraising Campaigns) and The Royal Opera House Friends Team.

One veteran Friend tells In the 47 years of my attendance I have never seen any incidences of disrespect by the audience to anyone.



  • Leo Doherty says:

    There was a serious altercation in the stalls that went to court as I recall before covid but it doesn’t justify a supermarket style loudhailer telling the Garden’s patrons how to behave. It’s clumsily drafted because it comes across as though they are targetting the friends rather than making a general point.

  • Player says:

    The staff are clearly worried about having to interact with the bill payers once again… also concerned that not all customers have had the right training etc, including use of pronouns, double masking, not asking for the “Gents” and other micro-aggressions.

  • Akutagawa says:

    In my 30+ years of going to Covent Garden, I’ve witnessed plenty of abusive and discriminatory behaviour. Unfortunately most of it has been by the staff. The ticket office in particular was an absolute viper’s nest of condescension and snobbery. I still vividly recall the snort of contempt a few years back when I told one of the box office staff what deeply unfashionable London postcode I was living in at the time. It has gotten better recently, but only because most things can now be done online and that particular generation of truly nasty queens (the “gay cliques” that you referred to in a previous post) has now moved on or retired.

    (In fairness, I have also encountered senior Tory politicians behaving like dicks at Covent Garden, but that’s just an occupational hazard of concert going in London.)

    • Allen says:

      “Tory politicians behaving like dicks at Covent Garden”

      Really, how many? The odds of turning up at Covent Garden and seeing any MP are pretty remote.

    • MJA says:

      I can really do without your language in relation to “queens” and “gay cliques”, Akutagawa. Reading this, then sadly it should become clear after all why Marina Jones had to write her letter.

      • Akutagawa says:

        MJA – the reference to “gay cliques” was a direct quote from Mr Lebrecht’s article of the previous day. And as for my use of the word queen, I’d be grateful as a gay man if you didn’t attempt to police the vocabulary I use in talking about my own community.

        Best wishes from an opera
        queen 🙂

    • Prommer says:

      The queeny cliques of yesteryear may have moved on, but they have been replaced by their ‘sons’ and heirs – the (male) trans activists who like to tell everyone what to do, think, say and feel.

  • Sanity says:

    These are the Friends of Covent Garden, notorious for their rudeness at Dress Rehearsals.

    I remember, when I was working at the Garden, a frustrated Commissionaire saying to get another ranter, ‘With Friends like you, who needs enemies?!’

  • Jim C. says:

    Yeah, it is unctuous. And what are they going to do if it is *reported*, what ever it is. Put the offending patrons in stocks?

  • Rose M says:

    It would be great if they operated with the same dogma in House.

    The ROH used covid to get rid of long serving staff members and transition to new, lower paid, inexperienced staff. Former staff who’s lives were devoted to the House and the Art were just chucked out on the streets, and had no assistance during the pandemic.

    ROH should be ashamed of themselves for e-bashing patrons, especially when they can’t follow their own advice.

    The House’s latest, cruel, cold incarnation absolutely disgusts me.

  • Maria says:

    Staff are often verbally abused in there and treated as servants, by demanding and posh audience.

    • MinuteWaltz says:

      So hang on, the abuse comes exclusively from ‘posh’ people? How do you know this exactly? Do you run background checks on everyone who steps through the doors of the ROH?

  • John Borstlap says:

    It seems that henceforward fisticuffs and strangle attempts among the audience are no longer allowed. Where’s the fun gone in the opera world?

  • Easily Offended... Berkshire Hunt says:

    I’ve never been so offended in my life!

  • Mock Mahler says:

    For those offended by this communication, I recommend perusal of a few days of commentary on Slipped Disc.

  • Rose says:

    Oh, the old “I’ve never seen it so it’s never happened.”

    If only.

    • Allen says:

      As opposed to the “I assume it happens because I have an axe to grind” type of comment?

      • fcg says:

        Not really, more like “I assume it happens because the ROH has asked patrons to bring it to their attention if they see it.”

  • Paul Dawson says:

    This inevitably brings to mind the Matthew Feargrieve/Ulrich Engler incident – googling will provide many reports.

    What I’m not clear on, though, is why Engler (but not, apparently, Feargrieve) has been banned from the house. Is moving to an unoccupied seat verboten?

  • quadruple multiplier good says:

    I would like to take the opportunity to use this platform to tell all users here, please be good and don’t be bad- if you are bad the the world is less good, which would be bad – I learned this on a human relations and advice training workshop weekend week and since then I have never been bad- I thought I would share.

  • Robin Smith says:

    That message sounds remarkably similar to the message given out at the beginning of all EFL (English Football League) games this season. I assume it’s guidance from on high and is at least partly driven by the organisation’s legal duty to show it is doing something about these things.

  • JoshW says:

    “I have never seen a single incidence of disrespect in 47 years.” “Because it hasn’t happened to me it can’t be a reality.” I think that tells all that we need to know about this person. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this letter and if you’re offended it’s 10 to 1 odds that you are one of the reasons this communication had to be written in the first place. Please stay at home.

  • Emil says:

    I was just reading comments on the “pussification” (yes, that was the term used) of young people on the “Romeo and Juliet” post. Meanwhile a 47-year Friend of ROH has a meltdown over a courtesy email.
    Sure, young people are the problem, not the ones triggered by an email reminding them staff are human beings.

  • Tom Phillips says:

    “In the 47 years of my attendance I have never seen any incidences of disrespect by the audience to anyone.” Hardly means it does not occur. Especially in more recent times.

  • david hilton says:

    “If you experience or witness . . . discriminatory behaviour at the Royal Opera House, let any member of staff know and we will take action.” Dear Sirs/Madams/Others, at last night’s performance of Tosca I witnessed repeated acts of discriminatory behaviour at the Royal Opera House. First the fellow next to me failed to applaud after “Vissi d’arte”, even though it had been beautifully sung and roundly applauded by everyone else! Yet this exercise of discrimination — his willful failure to agree with everyone else in the audience — went totally unremarked,, and unpunished, at the time. And later, in Act 3, when the tenor’s voice cracked and absolutely gave out in “E lucevan le stelle”, the same individual stood and yelled “Bravo”. Once again engaging in discriminatory behaviour! Who does he think he is, to have his own thoughts and to express them publicly? Please take action as you have promised to do when people show discrimination. Yours indiscriminately, A Friend of Covent Garden

  • BRUCEB says:

    “One veteran Friend tells In the 47 years of my attendance I have never seen any incidences of disrespect by the audience to anyone.”

    And as we all know: if you didn’t see it, then it didn’t happen.

  • Tom Clowes says:

    Just because White folks don’t experience anti-Blackness doesn’t mean anti-Blackness doesn’t exist. Just because patrons don’t experience abusive behavior towards staff doesn’t mean staff doesn’t receive abusive behavior.

  • Tom Clowes says:

    A hit dog will holler.

  • Musikmann3.0 says:

    Given the number of problems that have a occurred as humans come back together in indoor congregate settings, the ROH is entirely within reason sending this out. Get over yourselves….

  • David K. Nelson says:

    I cannot speak to ROH patrons (or Met patrons either for that matter), but at least here in the USA there is clearly a flashpoint over the wearing of masks, whether it is voluntary or in compliance with a request or mandate. Although vaccinated I wear my mask in the food store and other stores and get glared at by some fellow shoppers. Curiously they might be coming from two extremes of points of view: assuming I am unvaccinated and thus an ignorant jerk, or they might be assuming I want everyone to be masked at all times and take offense at that.

    Or just possibly my fly is open and it has nothing to do with the damned mask.

    I have to think that the mask wars are behind the message here.