All but two of the Mariinsky Ballet performances at the Metropolitan Opera House are selling dismally because of the outrageous prices. According to the folks at the David Rubenstein Atrium, at this time, there will be no discounted tickets on the day of the performance because the Metropolitan Opera, which is co-producing the Mariinsky's visit with the Lincoln Center Festival, refuses to participate in the Rubenstein program.
The Met Opera, which has fixed the pricing for the performances, is clearly conveying that ballet is an elitist art form intended only for rich audiences.
The ticket prices, as Haglund reported here in his comparative analysis, are ridiculous - especially those prices for seats in marginal viewing sections such as the family circle, balcony, and side boxes.
Haglund has decided to boycott the Mariinsky performances because of the Metropolitan Opera's outrageous pricing policy. He will save his money toward a trip or three to Washington DC in a few short months when the Mariinsky brings a beautiful classical repertory program to the stage and the Kennedy Center offers tickets at reasonable prices.
The Unofficial Information Exchange (UIEX) received a tip from a quasi-sort-of-official-anonymous-perhaps-reliable source that NYCB's popular Fourth Ring Society, which allows one to join for an initial payment of $20-25 and thereafter entitles the member to $15 (now $17 with the facility fee) Fourth Ring tickets, will not be continued after this June and that NYCB may even close off portions of the Fourth Ring to sales if the rest of the house isn't selling well.
If this is true, NYCB is clearly over-estimating the loyalty of its low-end customer base if it thinks it can squeeze people into buying more expensive third ring and lower seats by denying them the cheaper options to which they are accustomed.
The Fourth Ring Society page is still up on the NYCB website. Haglund will regularly check to see if it disappears.
If this sorry news is true, what a bad idea in a bad economy. NYCB will be acting like it is the only one affected by the crummy economy. Does the company really think that the people in the crummy, cheap seats aren't being affected by the crummy economy as severely as NYCB?
Here's how the fallout from the decision will go:
People will push back by attending the ballet less frequently.
People will push back by attending only those performances of ballets which they are sure they will like and will avoid risking money on new, untried ballets which they haven't seen.
People will become accustomed to and comfortable with attending NYCB less frequently, substituting other activites in its place.
Those Fourth Ring Society members who also are the lowest rung of donors will keep their $90 contributions to themselves this year.
It's not smart to treat your low-end customer base like you think you can grab a little more out of its wallet by twisting its arm behind its back. Fewer customers will cry "Uncle" and hand over the money to the NYCB bandits than won't.
Mariinsky Ballet tickets went on sale last week for the company’s eight performances during the Lincoln Center Festival in July, but the demand so far has been soft. There have been no long lines – unlike what is seen when ABT and Met Opera single tickets initially go on sale. The Mariinsky may have finally stumbled upon the tipping point for prices which New Yorkers are willing to pay to see a less than classic program. By pricing its tickets far above those demanded by ABT and the Met Opera – in some cases as much as 100-150% more – the Mariinsky is betting on the non-traditional ballet audience of operatic wealth or neighborhoods rich with Russian heritage to splurge on a night at the ballet to see a non-classical program which is not likely to display the company’s unique, traditional strengths. Maybe it’s a good bet; maybe it’s not. The amount that will have to be spent on advertising to fill the seats could easily exceed any gains delivered through the over-pricing.
NYCB equiv. **
red= Mariinsky price > both ABT & Met Opera weeknights
135 first ring
115 - 195
100 second ring
Grand Tier Box partial view
65 third ring
Dress Circle Box partial view
55/35/20 fourth ring
Balcony Box partial view
Family Circle Fr.
Family Circle Re.
Family Circle Box partial (almost no) view
No price avail
* Here's what the press release said about Mariinsky pricing: "Tickets: $225, 125, 95, 80, 50, 40, 30, 20"
** Not a true comparison of price value since the theater is so much smaller than the Met and the sight lines in every section are superior.
Those of us who have trouble remembering the words to The Star Spangled Banner perhaps should embrace an anthem with shorter lines — perhaps one written for a country that devotes big bucks to support dance education.
Modern manufacturing technology allows the mass production of throwaway monthly contact lenses with a retail price of $20 per pair. Millions of people insert these things in their eyes and rely on them for sight without incurring bruises, callouses, or blisters.
Modern manufacturing technology allows the mass production of the most complex printed circuit boards imaginable for under $10 each.
Modern manufacturing technology allows the mass production of the most reliable, beautiful, fully loaded, sexy, environmentally friendly, smell good Mercedes Benz for $40,000.
So why, pound for pound, do pointe shoes (@$60-80 pr) cost so much more than a Mercedes Benz?
“Think of the production of pointe shoes as complex as making heart valves,” sneer the manufacturers while twirling their mustaches. News flash: heart valves are mass produced faster and more cheaply.
The pointe shoe companies - all of them - have conspired to hold the ballet profession hostage to the notion that 21st century manufacturing technology cannot mass produce a pointe shoe that will function as well and be as aesthetically pleasing as a handmade shoe. They do not have the resources to spend on R&D or on new innovative processes for mass manufacturing shoes.To stay in business, they must promote the old way as the only way.
Let's give credit to the Gaynor Mindon folks for using modern materials, but the production is still by hand, and the resulting shape of the foot while wearing their shoe is not always pleasing.
Dancers seemingly have been given unlimited leeway by artistic directors to abandon the traditionally tapered shoe in favor of a more costly, fully custom-made, more comfortable, pirouette-inducing, brick-like platform. Sadly, no longer does the function of the pointe shoe include extending the visual line of the leg. Today, it’s all about comfort and pirouettes.
Here’s one path to the solution:
Each ballet company in this country should recruit a manufacturing scientist for its board of directors. All of these scientists should form a consortium for the purpose of finding a way to manufacture - perhaps even build in-house - a pointe shoe with Mercedes Benz sleek and sex appeal and contact lense quality fit at circuit board prices.
Marginal Utility Theory as it Pertains to Performing Pirouettes
Where the choreography calls for a triple pirouette, the incremental intensity of the dancer’s joy in performing 4, 5 or more revolutions will increase at a lesser rate than the incremental intensity of the dancer's pain if he performs only 2 revolutions or 1 or falls on his buttsy.