How to book cheap(er) tickers for the Royal Opera House

I’ve been living in London for 12 years and it took me ages to figure out how to get seats at the Royal Opera House for opera and ballet and how to get those tickets cheap(er).

Granted, there are some performances that anything less than £60 is highly unlikely. However, I go to at least one – two performances a month, ever since I discovered how it can be done.

Diana Damrau as Violetta Valery and Francesco Demuro as Alfredo in La traviata, The Royal Opera © ROH / Catherine Ashmore 2014

The Royal Opera House has a booking system that ‘opens’ up access to groups of customers in turn. For each season, booking opens for each group on a certain date. For example, for the 2014 Summer Season this is how booking opened:

  • Premium 2 Friends: 17 February 2015
  • Premium 1 Friends: 18 February
  • Supporting Friends: 24 February
  • Friends of Covent Garden – Ballet: 3 March
  • Friends of Covent Garden – Opera: 4 March
  • Advance Booking Packages (Friends Booking): 27 February
  • Advance Booking Packages (General Booking): 24 March
  • Group Booking: 17 March
  • ROH Students: 30 March
  • General Booking: 31 March


General Booking is the one you need. Basically I check the listings for the season the previous day and choose what I’d like to watch and when. Then, on the appointed day I sit at my computer at 12.00, debit card at the ready and just book everything in one go.

I’ve paid £17 for a ballet ticket and about £32 for opera. I think those are the cheapest I’ve managed. Obviously I’m up at the Amphitheater (the dreaded Gods) but if you want to watch a number of performances the stalls (at £120 a pop) are a bit pricey. Additionally, most seats (reasonably close to the centre) have an excellent view.

Alexander Campbell and Emma Maguire in In the Night, The Royal Ballet © ROH/Tristram Kenton, 2012

Watching an opera or ballet performance at the Royal Opera House is an experience that I recommend to most of my friends. Apart from the amazing performers and the lovely building, you don’t really know if you like opera or ballet until you have actually watched both live, on stage, while sitting right there in the theatre.

We are talking about an historic building, with a world class orchestra and resident performers, as well as guests. Not to mention the opportunity to watch the posh people eating sandwiches out of tin foil in the corridors during the breaks of the longest operas.


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