Cheap Opera

Mr. Tisdale and I love opera. That doesn’t mean we know a bloody (pun intended) thing about it. But we love it. As in our Sirius radio is always set to it, and we cook and eat dinner while listening to opera every night. But does that mean we know a Wagner from a Mozart, a Handel from a Schubert? Nope. All we know is that we love it.

As opera Philistines, we adore attending local productions. But even in Louisville, that can be expensive, starting at $34 a ticket at the Kentucky Opera. Yikes! (One redeeming quality: the Kentucky Opera performs at the Brown Theatre, which has nary a bad seat in the entire theater.)

So what’s a cheap couple to do, besides stay home and listen to opera on the radio?

The Met: Live in HD

For $22 per person in Louisville (or, inexplicably, $24 in New Albany, Ind.), you can enjoy the absolutely BEST opera streamed live to a local movie theater. Normally $22 for a freaking movie would send the Tisdales into apoplexy, but in this case it’s worth it. Sorry, Kentucky Opera, but we cannot deny it: the Metropolitan Opera wipes the table with your productions.

Recently Mr. Tisdale and I saw Bizet’s Carmen at the Cinemark at Mall of St. Matthews. Not only was this production jaw-droppingly amazing, but the seats at the Cinemark were crazy comfortable. Think first-class airline seats (back when that meant something). Plus, being the cheapsters that Mr. Tisdale and I are, we snuck in our very own gourmet popcorn (truffle salt, pepper, vegan butter and nutritional yeast – amazing!) plus a flask of bourbon. And since this was a 3-1/2 hour production, we also brought peanut butter sandwiches (Admittedly not gourmet, but it does its duty if needed). If we had attended the Kentucky Opera at full price, we’d be looking at $80 (including two drinks). Instead, our total cost was $44. Granted, the Cinemark lacked the people-watching quality of a local, really live production, but the incredible voices and the behind-the-scenes tour of the Met during intermission were spectacular.

Cheap tip: Mr. Tisdale and I have speculated that we could buy regular matinée tickets the day of a Met Opera production and then just sneak in to the opera, without paying $22 a ticket. There don’t seem to be ticket watchers at the Cinemark. We may try this next time. Will let you know if we succeed!

Kentucky Opera

A few years ago, Mr. Tisdale and I won free season tickets to the Kentucky Opera. We were so excited: our dream come true! But then we went. Some productions were excellent; others, not so much. In fact, during the intermission of one ill-fated production, we walked out (pretty sad; could be that the Louisville Symphony’s strike had something to do with the poor quality).

While we can admit that Kentucky Opera isn’t always stellar, we still love it and attend every production we can. But regular tickets are expensive.

Season tickets can be somewhat reasonable. They can be as low as $80 or so for three productions, but you’ll want to be sure you want to see all three before committing.

Cheap tip: But even cheaper is to buy $10 “rush” tickets. Rush tickets are one of Louisville’s greatest, but least known about, deals. Rush tickets started in New York, when theaters would sell “night of” tickets 30 minutes before the productions. In Louisville, some theaters ask for student/faculty/staff IDs for universities in order to score rush tickets (so always carry that old university ID, if you still have one). Others have no requirement other than that magic word. Mr. Tisdale’s and my experience is that Kentucky Opera just wants to hear that word – no ID needed.

One issue with Kentucky Opera rush tickets is that often the opera sells out. Not because it’s that amazing, but because it is at the Brown Theater, which has limited seating capacity. (Plus the opera has become trendy with some hipsters – which is great for opera, but not always so great for rush tickets.)

If you do want to do rush tickets, we suggest you show up one hour early. For $10, even a “meh” production is worth it.

University of Louisville Opera

Hands down, our favorite local operas are UofL student productions. We admit we may be a bit influenced by our friendship with Michael Ramach, UofL opera director. But we choose to think that even if we didn’t know Michael, we would very much enjoy his productions. The students are often amazing, and the choice of productions are often quite unique.

Over the years, we have seen an English-language version of Carmen performed at the Rudyard Kipling to an audience of 30 (AMAZING!), we have witnessed 20 nuns die onstage for Dialogues of the Carmelites, and we have sat through the almost never performed (with good reason) Dido and Aeneas.

Tickets are cheap – about $18 ($12 if you have any sort of UofL ID).

Do you have tips on how we can enjoy local opera on the cheap? Let us know! We are always excited to find new ways to see our favorite types of productions. Even though we honestly don’t know a thing about it. (It’s kind of like our knowledge for wine: all we know is that we like it and that it makes us drunk. End of story.)


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