A night out at a Broadway show, opera, or concert can easily set you back a cool Benjamin (or more). While students and seniors can often catch a price break, finding discounted seats requires a bit more digging for the rest of us. Read on for some terrific tips on snagging great seats and getting cultured on the cheap.
Rush Tickets: It Can Pay to Procrastinate
Sometimes the late bird catches the worm, too. Rush tickets are a great solution for travelers who are spontaneous or just plain patient, and are willing to wait to the last minute for affordable seats. We've seen rush ticket offers on New York's Great White Way priced from as little $26.50, while London’s West End has similarly priced offerings. Tickets are limited, though, so queuing well before the box office opens is highly recommended.
For the more risk-averse, TKTS is a reliable source for same-day deals to musicals and plays on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in London’s West End. Unfortunately, hit shows like Wicked, The Lion King, and The Book of Mormon have yet to receive the TKTS treatment, since they still have strong sellout power all on their own. However, plenty of other popular, critically acclaimed, and classic productions are available daily for 25 to 50 percent off. The main TKTS booth in New York City is located in Times Square, while the TKTS booth in London is in Leicester Square.
For opera, ballet, and symphony performances, the majority of available rush tickets are set aside for students and seniors. However, a number of renowned institutions around the world slash ticket prices for all to enjoy. For example, New York’s Carnegie Hall sets aside about 40 balcony seats per concert to sell for just $10. However, people have been known to stand in line for up to four hours to snag such seats for popular Carnegie performances. Needless to say, arrive early to avoid disappointment.
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Other notable rush ticket deals include:
- Metropolitan Opera, NYC: 200 rush tickets are available at every Monday–Thursday performance for $20 each.
- Teatro alla Scala, Milan: 25 percent-off tickets are sold one hour prior to performance (subject to availability).
- Philadelphia Orchestra: $10 rush tickets are offered between 5:30PM and 6:30PM for evening performance (or, between 11:30AM and 12:30PM for afternoon shows).
- Boston Symphony Orchestra: $9 rush tickets are sold at 5PM for Tuesday–Friday evening concerts, or 10AM for Friday afternoon concerts.
- San Francisco Symphony: $20 rush tickets are made available during box office hours on the day of the show.
- Miami City Ballet: Get up to one-third off the regular price, when booking 90 minutes before the performance.
Orchestra Open Rehearsals: Start Your Day on a High Note
Attend an orchestra open rehearsal for a deal that's music to our ears. During these morning practice sessions, you can get an intimate look at a conductor at work with his musicians. One downside to attending a rehearsal is that, well, it’s a rehearsal. Attendees will most likely hear certain passages and pieces played multiple times until the orchestra gets it just right. Nevertheless, it truly is a unique experience to see how a world-class orchestra prepares and perfects itself for a concert.
- New York Philharmonic: Offers open rehearsals almost weekly. Most run from 9:45AM to 12:30PM and tickets can be purchased ahead of time for $18.
- Boston Symphony Orchestra: 10 open rehearsals are available this season; tickets are $20.
- London Symphony Orchestra: Several are offered throughout the season from under $7 each.
Lotteries and Drawings: Winning Seats for Less
Some of the deepest discounts require a little bit of luck. The Metropolitan Opera in New York City holds a drawing every Monday for $25 tickets to performance on that Friday and Saturday. Winners are notified the following day. These seats are located in the Orchestra and Grand Tier sections, which means prime viewing spots and discounts of at least 80 percent.
A number of musicals also hold lottery rush drawings from 1.5 to 2.5 hours before the performance starts. Some lotteries, including those for the NYC productions of Wicked, Godspell, and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, are for front row or special side-stage seats. The drawings are free to enter, and winners pay anywhere from $26.50 to $40 for great seats.
Standing Room: Views That Are Heads Above the Rest
For those with strong limbs and comfortable shoes, standing room tickets are another cheap option. Be aware, though, that standing room policies are typically strict. Guests normally aren’t allowed to bring portable chairs and the like, and ushers at some places will nudge those they see trying to give their feet a rest. Also note that most standing room tickets are only sold on the day of the performance.
One of the best deals out there for standing room tickets is at the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera). For a mere €4 (about $5.50), attendees can stand behind the parquet (floor-level) section of the opera house and get a head-on view of the stage. (Amazingly, these standing room tickets are cheaper than a guided tour of the opera house, which costs €5.) The view here is just as great as those sitting in €100-plus seats directly in front of the standing room section. Standing room areas in the balcony and gallery sections are also available for only €3. There are 567 standing room tickets up for grabs 80 minutes before every performance. However, plan to queue much earlier than that to ensure a prime standing room location, particularly if the performance features a major star.
Other notable standing room ticket offers include:
- Opéra Bastille (Opéra National de Paris): 32 standing room tickets are available, priced from under $7.
- Berlin Philharmonic: Select standing room tickets are priced from $10 to $22.
- San Francisco Opera: 200 standing room tickets start at $10 each.
- National Ballet of Canada, Toronto: Up to 60 standing room tickets are available; $12 each.
- San Francisco Ballet: Up to 200 standing room tickets can be booked; $15 for mixed bill, $20 for story ballets.
- Metropolitan Opera, NY: Book $17 Family Circle standing room tickets and $22 Orchestra standing room tickets.
- Broadway productions such as The Book of Mormon, Chicago, Mamma Mia!, and The Phantom of the Opera offer standing room tickets, but only if the performance is sold out. Prices range from $21.25 to $27.
Cheap Seats: Get Your Foot in the Door
For those who prioritize general experience over good views, opt for cheap seats. At London’s Royal Opera House, for instance, restricted view seats for the opera and ballet start at under $7. At the Paris Opéra, nosebleed seats can be had from under $7, while the cheap seats at the legendary Teatro alla Scala in Milan are only $16. The best part is that these tickets can be booked in advance; just don’t forget to pack the binoculars.
Free Concerts: Some Things in Life Are Free
Yes, some things in life are still 100 percent free. Add the Kennedy Center to the long list of complimentary activities in Washington, D.C. Its Millennium Stage boasts bragging rights for being the only venue to offer free performances every single day of the year. The entertainment ranges from theater to dance to classical and popular music, with performances starting at 6PM.
Members of top orchestras worldwide also feature their talents in free, smaller-scale concerts. In Germany, members of the Berlin Philharmonic perform in free lunchtime concerts in the Philharmonie foyer every Tuesday at 1PM during the Philharmonic’s regular season. Boston Symphony Orchestra musicians also host free community concerts in the Boston area throughout the season.
Also be sure to check out event calendars at renowned art schools and conservatories. Students often hold free or cheap performances and recitals, and if you’re lucky, you just might get to see a future star on the rise.
Photo Credit: Woman Performing on Stage via Shutterstock