Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why I Changed My Mind About Going to the Opera

I previously wrote how I wasn't planning to go to the opera this season since tickets were too expensive. I was resigned to satisfy my opera cravings by either borrowing DVDs from the library or watching Lego performances on YouTube. (I was too cheap to even attend the Metropolitan Opera performances at the movie theater.)

(Act 1, Part 1 of Tosca as performed by Legos here.)

But I got a telemarketing call from the San Diego Opera at work yesterday and I got suckered into buying a ticket to see Tosca.

Just kidding. I did buy a ticket, but I didn't get suckered into it.

What concerned me was that the company offered to sell orchestra level seats at a discount. This type of discounting is unheard of with single performance tickets, so alarms immediately rang in my head.

I asked the caller, "Exactly how cr&ppy are your sales this season?" He seemed taken aback and a bit offended by my question. (In hindsight, I guess I could have been more tactful.) He only offered that the ticket sales are slower than what they were a couple of years ago.

I was quite sad, but not surprised, to hear this since several opera companies (including the legendary Metropolitan Opera) are facing financial crises of their own.

I told him that due to my own financial constraints, I won't be able to afford the orchestra seats even at the steeply discounted price, but that I was willing to buy a ticket in the $50 price range.

That gave me the option to buy a $35 nosebleed seat or a $65 slightly less nosebleeding seat. I opted for the $65 ticket.

You might think this was an unnecessary purchase that I can't afford - - and you'd be right. But I'm a true believer in supporting the local art and music community in good times and in bad. In an economic crisis, art and music institutions are usually the first to get their funding cut by government, private donations and other private endowments. With this credit crisis, ticket sales are clearly adversely affected as well.

In yesterday's post, I questioned the prudence of haggling with a business that I know is hurting. Now, I am struggling with whether attending an opera is truly a frivolous activity that I should cut out of my life.

I've decided that if I'm not going to go further into debt to attend the local symphony and opera, I'm going to continue to do so. This is really the only way I can show my support to artists and musicians who have dedicated their lives to provide culture, education and beautiful entertainment to the public. The alternative is to drive these folks out of business, which would leave a horrible legacy for our future.


Miss M said...

As long as you take it out of your spending elsewhere, then you are not hurting your debt repayment plans. I hope you enjoy the show, the arts are definitely hurting right now.

misskate said...

Just found your blog on Ready to Change's blog roll.
It's TOSCA!!!!
Opera, especially a GOOD live performance, is soul saving. The opera in my town is particularly expensive and really not very good, so I get my student ticket to the Live from the Met in HD and get my fix that way.
You brought up so many good reasons of why you should go in terms of supporting the arts, but it's also important for your psycho-emotional health. Until I started going to the movies to see the NY Met, I had forgotten how much opera transforms my life.
Enjoy the performance!

Sharon Rose said...

Hi there-a good decision made and you need and will enjoy these life experiences too!

MoneyMateKate said...

Don't feel bad - you love the opera! Seriously, if you were being pressured to go and you didn't even like it, then it would be a foolish expense. But that's not the case (as it would be for me), so just enjoy the hell out it!

livingmyrichlife said...

If it's something you truly love to do and you feel that the price is reasonable, then you should most definitely do it. Life is short. We still have to do some of the things we love, even if we have to cut back a little.

San Diego Opera said...


I'll expand a little on what John shared with you over the phone...

Ticket sales are indeed down. They are down across the country. What is really hurting opera companies however (and arts organizations in general) are donations.

For opera, the cost of your ticket only covers half of the cost of the actual production. The rest of cost is covered by donations.

(A silly business model, to lose money on each ticket sold, but it is the only way to keep the cost "affordable").

Over the past few months, invidual donors are now holding onto their money. Companies, who once gave freely to the arts, are withdrawing support, forced to justify their charitable giving to shareholders who might not see a dividend check this year. Then there are the foundations whose endowments lost around 1/3 of their value on average and whose investements are not making any money for the time being. This means there is less money to spread around.

The problem is long term --realistically it will take at least 5 years for endowments to regain their losses. All this time they will not be generating any revenue and once they regain their losses they'll be where they were five years ago while costs continue to rise.

This is why the individual ticket buyer is so important.

Your ticket to TOSCA is sound purchase -- the cast is sounding excellent and the production will be stunning. Thank you for your support.

Feel free to sneak a few beers in -- we'll ignore the clanking bottles. Provided you share of course...

Enjoy the show

Anonymous said...

Go and have fun!

Shtinkykat said...

Miss M: Yep. Only if I won't go into debt (or have to reduce what I pay towards debt), will I attend.

Misskate: Welcome! Always nice to read a comment from a newbie. And I totally agree with your comment about doing stuff that soothes the soul. I'm looking forward to the performance!

$haronRose: People who think the arts are unnecessary don't realize what they're losing until it's gone. Thanks for supporting my decision.

MMK: Yep. I made the decision to attend without any pressure from the caller. I will enjoy the heck out of it! LOL.

livingmyrichlife: Yep. I will eliminate some things from my life and budget but I don't think entertainment will be one of them. Thanks!

Edward: I didn't realize that the tickets only covered half the expense and that the rest are dependent on corporate donors. This gives me some additional ideas for my monthly charity giving. Thanks for giving me the insider scoop of what opera companies are facing in this economic crisis.

MOU: I will! Thanks!

K-money said...

I had not thought about how these types of organizations suffer during downturns. I haven't been to the opera in years, but perhaps I will go this season. Thanks