Where the Streisand concert was a commercial venture, the Royal Opera House is publicly funded, with the Royal Opera receiving £8.8m from the Arts Council in 1995-96.
Eighty five seats in the grand tier at Covent Garden will be sold at £267 for each of the four performances in April. The next price down will be the orchestra stalls, where seats will cost £197. Some slip seats in the balcony will be available at £7.
Jennifer Edwards, director of the National Campaign for the Arts, an independent pressure group, said last night: "As an opera fan myself, I would love to go and see Pavarotti, but I certainly won't be going at the prices they are charging. But they are having to make decisions to a background of declining subsidy. Obviously if we had an arts policy that really encouraged access, then we would have access to the world's leading singers without ordinary people having to sit in the slips."
Keith Cooper, ROH director of corporate affairs, said yesterday: "We are in the same marketplace as Barbra Streisand. We are in one sense a business, and this is the commercial end of our operation. We set a price that we believe people will pay, and they do. This helps to subsidise our ability to put on special performances of other works for young people, and those on concessions."
Jeremy Eckstein, arts researcher at the Policy Studies Institute, said: "Covent Garden's pricing policy is denying the opportunity to far too many young people. It is becoming far too elitist."
Is Pavarotti worth it? page 3
Leading article, page 15