I, or more often the lemur, frequently get asked how to get cheap tickets for the opera in Toronto. In practice this means the Canadian Opera Company because everyone else sells through some sort of ticket selling operation and the answer to the question is try TOTix and hope to get lucky. Occasionally TOTix will work for the COC too but usually only for the less desirable seats like the back of Ring 5 or the rear of the orchestra. There are better strategies for COC than TOTix most of the time and so here’s a quick and dirty guide to saving money on COC tickets.
First a word on the Four Seasons Centre which is the home of the Canadian Opera Company. It’s a gorgeous theatre and really there are no bad seats. It’s not a huge house either at 2100 seats so even the cheapest seats are much closer to the stage than in huge theatres like the Metropolitan Opera or the Coliseum in London.
The layout is a typical opera house horseshoe so there are seats in rows at Orchestra level and then a series of horseshoes or Rings that wrap around the Orchestra seats at ever higher levels. The acoustics, good everywhere, are probably best in the Rings and not so good very close to the orchestra pit. Site lines are good from everywhere except maybe the extreme ends of the Rings and one can’t see the surtitles from the very back of the Orchestra Ring. The big issue that determines price is really the view. The prime real estate is Ring 2 where single seats sell for around $350 rack rate dropping to $50 for half way back in Ring 5. Ring 5 is a relatively long way from the stage but nowhere near as far away as in a bigger house. The sound is great but opera glasses or binoculars are strongly recommended. The best value for money are probably Rings 3 and 4 and the Orchestra Ring provided you can get something reasonably central and not too many rows back.
So, the listed single ticket price ranges from $50 to around $350 but there’s really no reason to pay that. Here are some strategies for paying much, much less.
The best strategy is to be under 30! If you are you can buy tickets in section 5B for $22. For $35 you get a guarantee of a seat in 5B and a day of performance upgrade to best available. This is a really good deal. Alternatively, under 30s get about an additional 10% off subscription prices (see below).
Well most of us aren’t under 30 so what then? If you intend to see more than three productions in a season (there are six productions per year) a subscription is a decent option. It’s not the absolutely cheapest route but the savings are pretty good. There are now three basic options. There are select season subscriptions which save up to about 30% (the more expensive the seats the smaller the discount) compared to single ticket prices plus you can pick your dates and you get the best seats in each section. You could be paying less than half what the person in the row in front of you paid! Select subscriptions for all six productions run from $301 in section 5A to $2086 in 2A. Besides a subscription for a particular day of the week there are also options of all the opening nights and, new for 2015/16 a “weekend back-to,back” package which allows one to see all six operas on three weekends. It looks very handy for people from out of town. There are also “value subscriptions”. These are much cheaper with 40-60% discounts but, while one can still pick which night one goes the seats are allocated after the select subscribers. Weekday prices run from $199 in Ring 5 to $817 in the Grand Ring (extreme sides by the look of it). Weekends are slightly more expensive, running from $199 to $916. There’s also a sweet $349 deal (weekdays only) that guarantees you a seat plus upgrades to “best available” on day of performance. My personal pick, FWIW, would be the weekday Ring 3 value package at $460. (As of time of editing 2016/17 value subs seem to be sold out). There are also deals for three, four or five performance packages which might work for some people but since they are more expensive than a value subscription I don’t really see the point.
So, you don’t want to commit to tickets a year in advance or you only go to the occasional show or you really want the cheapest possible deal, what then? There are usually offers on if you keep your eyes open or subscribe to the COC’s eOpera newsletter. It’s also good to know a subscriber or two. Season subscribers can get extra tickets at the premium subscription price. Previous year offers have varied but there’s always something. Knowing someone who works for the COC is also pretty handy (I didn’t tell you that!).
The really cheap route though, as with opera houses around the world, is the “day of” route. Unsold seats have no value so they have strategies to shift them. Generally unsold seats are put on sale at half price, box office only, at 11am on the day of performance. They usually also release blocks of very cheap seats at the same time. There is every chance of securing a seat for $35 or so though it likely won’t be a terrific seat. There are also 60 standing room places; mostly at the back of Ring 4 but some at the back of Ring 3. These sell for a princely $12. The view from the Ring 3 ones is excellent but they tend to sell out really fast. They do make you sign a declaration that you won’t take an empty seat even if one is available but the ushers at the Four Seasons Centre are mostly friendly folk and may well accommodate you if possible. A seat in Ring 3 for $12 is the bargain of bargains.
So, bottom line, attending COC performances doesn’t have to be expensive. If you are cunning and don’t mind standing or sitting in the nosebleeds it can be cheaper than a ticket for a Met HD broadcast and the product is vastly superior.
All information here current as of May 2016.