Situated in Covent Garden and home to two of the most famous opera and ballet companies in the world, it’s a shame that many believe it to be a posh place where only old people go. I first attended the Royal Opera House when I was thirteen, and it has been a big part of my life ever since. I grew up watching videos of ballet stars performing but watching it live and being in such a grand place is a completely different experience. The building was originally built in 1732, however most of what is seen nowadays was built in the 1990s. Before then, guests would have had to enter through a different entrance if they had cheaper seats in the amphitheatre. Now, people enter together, whether they’re in suit and tie or jeans, to be settled in one of over 2,200 places to watch a fantastic performance.
So how did I end up working for the one of the leading companies in the arts sector? Well when I first heard of the Student Ambassador scheme, I never actually thought I’d get a place on it. I hadn’t danced for a number of years and had never seen an opera, and yet something I said at the interview managed to work.
The Student Ambassador scheme was new last season; devotion to student interest is clearly a priority for the Royal Opera House. With the average age of visitors at over 55, it is crucial to bring in new people, particularly students. That is where the Student Ambassadors come into play. We have meetings where we discuss the new ways to involve students with productions on the various stages and with the Royal Opera House Live Cinema Season. The general conclusion of our last meeting was that the cheaper something is, the more likely a student will go and see it.
It’s not all boring meetings. As we are all either part of team-ballet or team-opera, there are treats for us all. So far, I have wandered around the backstage of the Royal Opera House (including standing on the main stage), listened to a speech from Kasper Holten, Director of The Royal Opera, and witnessed a rehearsal for The Royal Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. So far, I’ve been to two Student Amphitheatre performances – a ballet, Don Quixote, and my first ever opera, Wozzeck.
The Student amphitheatre performances are just one way in which students have the opportunity to see a ballet or opera. These are specified performances in which the entire amphitheatre is reserved for students, at prices between £2 and £20. There are also allocations of 20 tickets for every single main stage performance that students can buy before the general public. Finally, if you, are willing to drop anything to go see something, then there are also £10 standby tickets (which is where the name for the Student Standby Scheme comes from!), which is for any unsold seats up to 24 hours before a performance. If it’s difficult to get down to London, then you can always see a live cinema screening, where you can even see what goes on backstage in the interval breaks.
So there you have it. Ballet and opera is for normal people too. It’s not all elitist, and it’s definitely not all about fat people singing, or men in tights and women in tutus. Though trust me, the man in tights isn’t such a bad look. You never know, the rousing music and drama might be something for you.
Sign up for free at www.roh.org.uk/studentstandby to get access to great low price tickets at the Royal Opera House. To find live opera or ballet in a cinema near you visit www.roh.org.uk/cinema