Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport First Special Report

Appendix 3



The Arts Council of England welcomes the Select Committee's decision to commission a report on the response to their recommendations on the Royal Opera House (ROH) from their 1997 inquiry. The Arts Council has been working closely with the ROH since the opening of the new House in December 1999 to ensure that excellence, education and access are at the heart of its culture and its operation.

We feel that considerable progress has been made in terms of access and were encouraged to learn that 45 per cent of people attending performances in the main auditorium during the opening season were new to the Royal Opera House's database. The proportion of new attenders for performances varies depending on the repertoire. Popular repertoire, such as Swan Lake or The Nutcracker, attracts proportionately significantly larger numbers of new database records than other work, at 51 per cent and 60 per cent respectively. Up to 71 per cent of attenders at performances in the Linbury Studio Theatre appear to be first time attenders to the ROH.

Overall (excluding daytime opening visitor figures) the organisation estimates that it has attracted over 180,000 new attenders since it opened last year. Outreach and education work has also been strengthened, and the creation of the Linbury and the Clore studios has opened the work of the ROH to a new audience, and enabled the ROH to welcome a wider range of artists into its building.

Select Committee Inquiry Response

The Arts Council's detailed response to the questions raised by Mr Colin Lee in his letter to Peter Hewitt, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of England, dated 15 August 2000 are as follows.

    1.  What has been the subsidy for the Education Department of the Royal Opera House in each year from 1998-99 onwards and is it separately identified?

The Royal Opera House will receive an annual subsidy of £20 million from the Arts Council of England for this year, 2000/01, the first full year since the new House opened in December 1999. The Education and Access expenditure for the 2000/2001 season at the ROH will be £1,078,000.

The Arts Council firmly believes that education is a central function of any arts organisation, and our organisational aim is 'to promote access, education and excellence in the arts through partnership'. We believe that education must be at the heart of an organisation and owned by that organisation. Ringfenced funding can lead to ringfenced thinking and we do not believe that hypothecating subsidy would necessarily lead to an improvement in education provision. That said, the Arts Council does place educational requirements on its funded organisations, through the funding agreements. Details of the education requirements contained within the Arts Council/Royal Opera House funding agreement are given below in answer to question 2.

    2.  If not, what information and undertakings does the Arts Council of England seek from the Royal Opera House on the annual budget of its Education Department?

The Arts Council is in receipt of the Royal Opera House's annual budget which reveals the detail of the annual project and overhead costs of the ROH Education Department and its activities.

The ROH presented the Arts Council with its Strategic Plan in January 2000. A meeting was held that month which included a full discussion with the Director of Education. Annual Reviews are held of the work of the Royal Ballet, the Royal Opera and the Education Department.

The Arts Council and ROH have a funding agreement which governs the relationship between the two organisations. With regard to education and access the funding agreement for 1999-2000 stated:

"Education and Access:

  • To develop new and enhanced access and education programming including outreach, in-reach, continuing education, staff development and leadership activities, and to maintain sufficient resources fully to service ROH's expanded education brief;

  • To furnish clear policy directions and strategies for the programming of all the spaces within the new House and to describe how any possible tensions between the demands of artistic and educational programmes in those spaces may be resolved. As part of this planning process the ROH Director of Education is asked to produce a strategic overview of the role of education within the new House and examine and report on education opportunities in all the physical spaces offered by the new building;

  • To furnish plans for Broadcast access showing the integration of access, audience, broadcast and external relations."

We have repeated these targets in the funding agreement for 2000-2001. We have requested a further report from the ROH Director of Education in December 2000, and we will hold a review of the Education Department's work before the end of the year.

    3.  What information has the Arts Council of England sought and obtained from the Royal Opera House on trends in the representation of State schools at school matinees?

The work of the ROH's education department is not restricted to school matinee performances, although 6,300 children attended the first season of schools matinees sponsored by BP, with tickets priced at £6. A full list of the projects undertaken during the inaugural season of the new House in 1999/2000 is enclosed in Annex 1. These projects range from the Write an Opera Project, designed to introduce primary school teachers and their students to a structured process, enabling them to create and perform original opera, to Chance to Dance, which enables 150 children aged 7-11, from 50 schools in Lambeth, Southwark and Hammersmith and Fulham, to attend weekly classes. The project is in its tenth year and this year a second Chance to Dance student joins the Royal Ballet School.

The number of UK schools taking part in ROH education department projects in 1999/2000 was 288. Of these 260 were from the state primary, secondary, sixth form and home education sector. 22 schools were from the independent sector and 6 were from the vocational dance sector. These figures closely reflect the state/independent sector pupil ratio of 93:7. The ROH actively discriminates in favour of state schools as audiences and participants for its work. They also favour state schools from boroughs in particular need and with particular social or economic disadvantages.

    4.  What conditions relating to the matters referred to in the previous questions are included in the Funding Agreement between the Arts Council of England and the Royal Opera House?

Schedule 2 Section 1 of the new agreement requires the ROH to provide the Arts Council with details of expenditure on education and outreach work. It also requires the ROH to submit a completed Annual Statistical Survey Form for 2000/2001 (which provides ACE with information on education activities and education programme costs, amongst other things) and a self-assessment paper for 2000/2001. The self-assessment form provides the basis for the Arts Council's annual review of the organisation and includes assessment of its education work. This procedure is in line with all other organisations that we fund.

The Funding Agreement for 2000-2001 also states that 'The Arts Council has already received a full report on ROH's progress in meeting the recommendations of the Eyre Report. We will continue to monitor that progress and review it in March 200l.'

    5.  What is the Arts Council of England's assessment of the progress achieved in terms of seat prices and the wider availability of tickets?

The opening of the new building in December 1999 saw the implementation of a revised policy on ticket pricing. This reduced prices for most seats and also ensured that a proportion of all seats at all prices were available for direct sale to members of the general public through the Box Office. Special lower price schedules were introduced for performances on Friday and Saturday evenings and further reductions were made for matinees.

To provide the general public with another alternative to the usual methods of booking tickets and to alleviate pressure on the Box Office at the start of telephone booking, a public postal booking period was introduced in September 2000. To publicise this public postal booking service, a high-profile advertisement campaign has been run making it very clear that tickets for ROH productions are on sale to the general public at a wide range of prices. Although no detailed analysis of the public response has yet been completed, early indications suggest that the majority of the 5,500 successful applications (of a total of 9,000) were from first time attendees and those not already on any ROH patrons database.

An undertaking was made by the ROH that a guaranteed minimum of 20 per cent of tickets, at each price range and for every section of the theatre, at performances in the first season were to be made available for sale to the general public through the Box Office when public booking opened for each booking period. However in the event, 50 per cent of its tickets on the main stage were made available to the general public through the Box Office during the first season.

Analysis of seat prices

Below is an analysis of seat prices for both Royal Opera and Royal Ballet performances.

  • Royal Opera prices during the opening season:

Over 50 per cent of the tickets cost:

£30 or less for matinees

£40 or less on Friday and Saturday evenings for price category A productions (including Gawain, Otello and La Bohème)

£45 or less from Monday to Thursday for price category A

The cheapest tickets available for the Royal Opera cost just £6.

  • Royal Ballet prices during the opening season:

Over 50 per cent of the tickets cost:

£18 or less for matinees

£22 or less for mixed programmes (different pieces performed in one programme) on Friday and Saturday evenings

£25 or less for mixed programmes on Monday to Thursday evenings

£25 or less for full-length ballets on Friday and Saturday evenings

£30 or less for full-length ballets on Monday to Thursday evenings

The cheapest tickets available for the Royal Ballet cost just £2.

Pricing for the second season 2000/2001

Following a comprehensive review of the pricing structure, the Royal Opera House has modified the prices and price bands for performances by both the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet for the 2000/2001 season. The objective of this re-pricing was to offer a wider choice of seat prices in all areas of the auditorium and reflect the observations of audience members and staff from the first season. The new pricing structure came into place for the first performance of the 2000/2001 season in September 2000. The aims of the new structure include:

  • The price of tickets in the Stalls Circle and Amphitheatre and Balcony Boxes has been reduced. For premium operas, the seats in the Stalls Circle and Amphitheatre will be reduced in price by up to 54 per cent.

  • The productions classified as top priced premium operas have been reduced in number. In the first season in the re-developed house there were four premium operas, for 2000/2001 there are two—Wagner's Tristan and Isolde and Verdi's Otello.

The new pricing structure means that:

  • For the 2000/2001 season, at least 54 per cent of the seats, at all performances by the Royal Ballet, will cost £39 or less.

  • Almost 900 seats for ballet matinees cost less than £17.

  • Almost 500 seats at all Royal Ballet performances cost £11 or less.

  • More than 480 seats for any performance of standard opera cost £20 or less.

  • Almost 400 seats for any performance of standard opera cost £12 or less.

  • Over half the seats for all opera performances cost under £50.

  • In the season as a whole there are over 200,000 seats for sale in the main auditorium at £35 or less for performances by the Royal Ballet or Royal Opera.

Analysis of the wider availability of tickets

Below is an analysis of the wider availability of tickets for the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet.

  • The numbers of tickets sold through the Box Office to the general public have improved from 50 per cent for the first season to 57 per cent for the current season.

  • tickets were ordered online from the 149,160 people who made a 'quality' visit to the web-site.

  • tickets for the second season were sold as a result of the new public postal booking service.

    6.  What is the Arts Council of England's assessment of the progress achieved with regard to a culture of accessibility, not exclusivity, at the Royal Opera House and in the financial planning of the Royal Opera House since 1998 and since re-opening in particular?

The Arts Council of England is confident that the opening of the new Royal Opera House signals a distinct new chapter in the company's history. Since opening in December 1999, the new ROH has welcomed 196,529 daytime visitors to the building (not including backstage tour visitors, those attending performances, or those going to the building to buy tickets). The new building is open during the day enabling visitors to the Covent Garden piazza access to the House. The ROH is currently considering extending its opening hours further.

The creation of the Linbury Studio Theatre and the Clore Studio Upstairs has had a positive effect in opening the Royal Opera House to many more people. Between the beginning of December 1999 and mid-August 2000 the ROH presented 249 performances on the main stage, a further 233 events in the Linbury Studio Theatre and an additional 59 events in the Clore Studio. In addition, the ROH ran 507 backstage tours to a total of 12,600 people and a further 16,961 people attended a free concert or other event in the Linbury Studio Theatre.

Further facts and figures:

  • per cent of people attending performances in the Linbury Studio Theatre during the opening season had never been to the Royal Opera House before.

  • tickets were sold for main stage performances and a further 39,640 seats were sold for events in the Linbury Studio.

  • people attended the free lunchtime recitals in the Linbury Studio.

  • first-time attendees came to performances during Hamlyn Week (where performances subsidised by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation target various groups eg members of a particular trade union, retail workers etc) paying between £1 and £9.50 for a ticket.

  • TV audiences of 12 million watched the series of programmes broadcast during the opening period.

  • The live broadcasts to the Covent Garden piazza of Tosca on 12 September and Les Contes D'Hoffman on 29 September were both well-attended and well received. 4,500 attended the screening of Tosca and 2,500 braved wet conditions to view Les Contes D'Hoffman. Three broadcasts per year are planned for the three years 2000-2003.

  • The ROH sold 6,940 tickets to the 1,695 patrons on their disability access database.

The Arts Council is pleased with the progress made in this area. All the above has led to a change in the culture of the ROH. While the main bar in the Vilar Hall may still feel 'formal', the upstairs Amphitheatre Bar is lively, casual and houses a much more varied audience. The events in the Linbury and Clore studio theatres attract an even wider range of audiences, a number of whom buy tickets on the day. A wide range of companies have worked in these spaces, including Escape Artists (a theatre group of ex-prisoners) and young experimental choreographers.

The broadcasting deal with the BBC has also made the ROH more accessible to audiences. Care has been taken with the presentation of live relays to ensure that they are less formal and more engaging in their tone. A live ballet was broadcast for the first time in many years, and the opening night broadcast was heavily trailed on BBC One and Two, and programming included a quiz and behind the scenes shorts as well as the opening programme itself.


Much has happened since the Select Committee conducted its inquiry into the Royal Opera House in 1997. The new Royal Opera House opened in early December 1999, on budget and on time. Considerable steps have been made by both the Arts Council of England and the Royal Opera House itself to bring about change at the House. The appointment of Michael Kaiser has done much to improve both the financial health of the ROH and its public perception. The challenge for the ROH now is to replace Michael Kaiser with an equally inspirational Executive Director. Sir Colin Southgate's proposed changes to the Board structures are expected to streamline and improve the governance of the ROH.

The Arts Council of England is satisfied with the education work currently being conducted by the Royal Opera House. In the opening season (December 1999 to August 2000) 109,936 children, young people and adults participated in activities organised by the ROH Education Department.

We are also pleased that the Royal Opera House is making genuine progress in its quest to drive down ticket prices. Producing world class opera and ballet is not cheap but the ROH is maximising other revenue sources, such as sponsorship, in order to offer lower prices.

The ROH's new ticketing policy and other measures appear to be having a positive effect on the wider availability of tickets and broadening the audience base. The number of tickets available to those not already affiliated to the ROH in some way (either as Friends of Covent Garden, or members of the ROH Trust etc) has risen from around 50 per cent for the first season to 57 per cent for the current season. Web-site bookings and the House's vigorous attempts to maximise the new postal booking service should help to improve this situation further.

The Arts Council of England is confident that the ROH has a bright future in its new home. We are also convinced that it is taking seriously its responsibilities as a publicly subsidised organisation. The Arts Council would be happy to further assist the Committee in any way the members see fit.

  Annex 1


Projects undertaken during the inaugural season of the new House in 1999/2000 included:

Write an Opera Project

Designed to introduce primary school teachers and their students to a structured process, enabling them to create and perform original operas. Week-long courses and in-school support from ROH artists and staff. Courses are held 3-4 times a year in Britain and other European countries. Write an Opera is supported by Smithkline Beecham and The Friends of Covent Garden.

Chance to Dance

A scholarship project for talented children aged 7-12 with no access to formal dance training. An intensive annual programme of lecture demonstrations and auditions in London primary schools, each September-November reaches 1,500. Weekly classes for 150 children, Monday to Friday in four community venues: Lambeth, Southwark, Hammersmith (Fulham and White City), plus a programme of activities for their families and schools. Chance to Dance is supported by John Lyon's Charity, Kobler Trust, The Mercer's Company and The Woo Charitable Foundation, with additional support from the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, and the London Borough of Lambeth. The project is also supported by The Friends of Covent Garden.

Introductory Lecture/Demonstration Programme

Hour-long 'introduction to the Royal Opera House' lecture/demonstrations featuring artists from The Royal Opera, in schools and community venues. Three programmes planned for audiences aged from four to adult.

Monday Moves

Weekly dance classes in The Royal Ballet's studios for visually impaired adults. Includes creative work, skills building and performance opportunities.

Pre-performance talks

Free, half-hour, introductory talks in the auditorium, an hour before selected performances. Demand for these events proved to be so popular in the first season that the capacity for the second season will be increased.

Backstage Tours

Opportunities to see behind the scenes, visiting a variety of studio and workshop spaces. Three per day (Monday to Saturday).

Insight /study days and evenings

Aiming to provide deeper understanding and enhance enjoyment of Royal Opera House productions. Including talks, panel discussions, rehearsals or coaching sessions and lecture demonstrations. The majority of productions throughout the year have related all day events or evenings. Held in the Linbury Studio Theatre or Clore Studio Upstairs for up to 350 people.

Lunchtime Recitals

Free, weekly lunchtime concert series in the Linbury Studio Theatre by members of the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and the Royal Opera Chorus.

The Royal Ballet at Work

Opportunities to watch The Royal Ballet's daily class. Once a month in the Clore Studio Upstairs for 150+. Introduced and supported by printed information sheets.

Exploring Opera/Exploring Ballet Weekends

A chance to explore a particular opera or ballet production in more depth, including a chance to work with staff and artists from the production.

Family Days

Theme based days for adults and children from 3-16. Music making, singing, dance, drama and design.

Royal Opera House Web-Site

Extensive information about the building, the Companies, and the art forms of opera and ballet. Continuously updated with insights into current productions, profiles of staff and artists and newsletters for teachers and students. Sponsored in 1999/2000 by Cable and Wireless.

Publications and Schools' Study Packs

Ranging from material for the very young, to in depth articles for adults. Includes free leaflets giving insights into lesser known operas and ballets. The newsletter 'Voice and Vision' reaches 6,000 teachers, three times per year.


In collaboration with Birkbeck College, University of London. Invitation to Opera and The Opera House (two levels) Certificate Courses. Weekly Thursday 'evening classes' in the Chorus Rehearsal Room and Clore Studio.

Artist training courses

Regular training for Royal Opera House artists to enhance their individual creativity and in preparation for work within education projects. Includes opportunities for degree level study for Royal Ballet dancers and for orchestra players to work towards Master of Arts degrees.

Behind the Scenes Week for young people

Annual, week-long courses for young people aged 18-25 considering a career in the arts. Experience of a broad range of Royal Opera House activities including backstage tours, opportunities to watch rehearsals, marketing and technical activities and an arts administration project. Supported by the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation.

The Piazzolla Tango Nuevo Project

Performances in concert halls, colleges and schools. Created and led by Soloists of the Royal Opera House Orchestra and Royal Ballet dancers, featuring the music of Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla.

Blueprint 2000

A large-scale creative project led towards an initial run of performances in the Linbury Studio Theatre. The piece will then tour as part of a substantial programme of lecture demonstrations, workshops and performances. Supported by Sir Peter Michael CBE and the D'Oyly Carte Charitable Trust.

Fleeting Opera

Part of the London 'String of Pearls Millennium Festival'. Waterborne performances of a specially devised piece by Royal Opera House singers, dancers and musicians. Collaboration with artist Max Couper, the Couper Collection and composer Trevor Wishart. Performances were undertaken on barges on the Thames, in July 2000.

Paul Hamlyn Week 2000

A week of opera and ballet performances with tickets at greatly reduced prices for people attending the Royal Opera House for the first time. Facilitated by education activities and pre-performance talks. Mailing of Hamlyn Week priority lists and target catchment areas began in mid-September 1999 and closed in early December.

Organisations, such as the City Parochial Foundation, Church Urban Fund, The Baring Foundation, J Paul Getty Charitable Trust and the Bridge House Estates Trust Fund, were contacted. Many of the people and groups who receive financial assistance from these charities took up the invitation to apply to bring a group to Hamlyn Week. From the Trade Union movement members of the GMB, CWU, and Fire Brigade were all invited to apply. When the Fire Brigade was last approached it picked up 230 tickets. For the 2000 Week this was increased to 750 tickets (including a branch from Aberdeenshire.)

The main union targeted for 2000, the Civil Service member based PCS, applied for a staggering total of 5,200 tickets. With applications from Aberystwyth, Glasgow, Cardiff, Norwich, Chester, Sunderland and Plymouth as a few geographic examples. By January 2000 the five performances in the Week—La Bohème, Coppélia and Ashton Revisited were sold out.

November 2000

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