Royal Opera House to freeze the price of its cheapest seats

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The new head of the Royal Opera House has bowed to years of criticism of the venue's high prices and frozen the cost of the cheap seats. Even the most expensive tickets at Covent Garden will rise by no more than £5.

Tony Hall announced the price freeze when he revealed that Luciano Pavarotti would perform at the Royal Opera House for the first time in four years. The Italian tenor will sing the part of Cavaradossi in Puccini's Tosca, as the highlight of the new season. Mr Hall, formerly the head of news and current affairs at the BBC, chose in his first public statement to address the issue on which reporters at the BBC have grappled over the last decade ­ the high ticket prices at the publicly subsidised venue.

More than half the seats for opera will cost less than £50, including premium shows such as Tosca, next January.

Mr Hall said: "In a new initiative we are extending the lower Friday and Saturday prices for every evening performance of three productions: The Bartered Bride, Duke Bluebeard's Castle and Erwartung, and The Turn of the Screw. The prices for these operas will range from £3 to £90."

"We are holding the bottom four price bands for opera and ballet at the same level as last year ­ over half the House will cost £50 or under for all opera performances and almost 900 seats for all Royal Ballet performances will cost £11 or less."

The entire season of the Royal Ballet ­ for which Ross Stretton takes over as the new director ­ will be dedicated to the memory of its founder, Dame Ninette de Valois, who died in March.