Booking Opera tickets can become a pretty hefty process, especially for newbies. What with looking up good theatres, finding the right websites to book from and then the right dates, seats, and what not. So here’s a handy list to get you started.
One key word here is advance planning. And advance in two senses – planning your itinerary and booking your tickets. If you want to watch an opera, you can’t count on it being staged on the exact days of your stay in that particular city. So it helps to check the dates in advance and tweak the order of your cities to match the opera dates. Once you’re done with the planning, it’s good to get the tickets booked too. If you wait too long, they’d either be sold out, or only the costlier ones will remain. The cheaper tickets tend to sell out faster, and while these might not offer a great view of the stage they have very good acoustics (sometimes better than center theater).
I prefer booking directly from the opera houses’ website. They are reliable and their information cannot be faulted. Often they offer the best prices as well. There are many websites which offer the same tickets at higher prices by buying at better rates earlier. They are actually good for last minute planners, as they might have a chance of finding tickets here even if the show is unavailable at the opera house’s website. Just make sure they are authorized dealers before booking from third party sites.
Here is a list of websites you can consult for your opera planning across different cities.
1. Prague – The National Theatre, The Estates Theatre, The New Stage and the State Opera
Prague has a remarkable collection of opera houses. Among these, The Estates theatre is one of the oldest performing theatres in Europe, preserved in its almost original state after having survived World War 2. Though I’d say all of the theatres are in par, and fairly light on the pocket (as compared to other cities).
The booking experience is also very smooth with their official website. While booking do pay attention to the type of show you’re booking for as they stage opera, ballets, musicals, concerts and laterna magica (traditional Czech show involving image projections).
You can find the program schedule here.
2. Vienna – Vienna State Opera
The Vienna State Opera needs no introduction. While it was not so lucky as The Estates Theater in regards to the War, it is no doubt a magnificent building. You can find the schedule for the current season in their website here. The ticket bookings can be done through the same link.
The Vienna State Opera also offers around 40-minute guided tours of their opera house at a reasonable cost of € 7.5 a lot of which focuses on working behind the scenes during an opera performance. So even if you’re travelling with people not much into opera itself, the tour might still be interesting for them. The booking for the tour is done through the ticket office in front of the opera but you can get a rough idea of the schedules from their website here.
Another website viennaconcerts.com lists different concerts in Vienna including performances scheduled in the State Opera (in case you’re not lucky with ticket availability on the official website). It also has a great range of Salzburg events which you can check out if you plan a visit to the society.
3. Paris – Palais Garnier
I believe the Palais Garnier deserves a visit whether or not you’re into opera. With its grand staircase, ornate art and rich history (it was the setting of The Phantom of the Opera), it is not to be missed. So it’s not a wonder that they provide visits to the opera house at specific days priced at € 7-10. You can check the schedules and book the ticket here.
For the opera performance tickets, you can check the schedule and book tickets at their website here. You need to create an account to book tickets through the website, which might be a hassle, but totally worth it in the end.
4. Milan – La Scala
La Scala is one of the most popular opera houses in Europe. It has a chequered history. In the old days it was usual for trading activities to be carried here alongside the opera, which roughened the experience for the average opera lover. Nonetheless, La Scala is connected with many world famous artists which have either debuted here or have graced the theatre’s stage atleast once in their careers. The tickets can be booked at their website here. The theatre also opens for visits and guided tours are available through third party operators.
5. Venice – Teatro la Fenice
There is no theatre which has seen more disputes over each of its reconstructions (the most recent being in 2001) than Teatro La Fenice. Still, it is a spectacular opera house and acclaimed worldwide. Tickets can be booked at their website here. You’ll have to do a calendar search to see what’s on during your visit. They have different types of tours available, the standard one being with an audio guide for €10 per person. There is no advance booking option but you can check out the schedule and types of tours here.