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Subject: "What we wanted from the reopened ROH" Archived thread - Read only
 
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #1004
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Lynette H

20-10-00, 05:24 PM (GMT)
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"What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
 
   In autumn 1999, I recall we had a long thread here, where we discussed the sort of things we hoped to find in the reopened Covent Garden. I don't mean in terms of repertoire, particularly (a subject which needs a separate discussion), but in terms of the building, the facilities, how welcome or not we felt.

Now that Covent Garden's about to reopen for another season, what do you think ? There were a lot of suggestions at the time, e.g. in terms of different approaches to the study days (less on music, more on dance please, as I recall). Some things we discussed did come off - tours of the building, for instance. And the shop has just begun to sell (a very few) postcards of dancers.

I tried to fish out the original thread but failed - I'm sure Bruce will be able to locate it.

There's a lot to mull over: here's a few random thoughts:

- the shop is a disapointment: seems to have very little in it, given the amount of floor space it takes up
- the siting of the cloakroom at the lowest level is an incredibly bad bit of design, which resulted in a deeply unpleasant crush on the stairs and a 20 minute queue to get coats on the opening night. It's improved a bit, but it's still a major inconvenience if you're in the amphi (which used to have its own cloakroom)
- all this marvellous technology is meant to make moving scenery more efficient, so how come intervals are now 30 minutes long ? I'd heard that this was for the convenience of those dining at the restaurants, but I don't think Covent Garden should be considered as a restaurant with a theatre incidentally attached.
- glad to see that there are now some study evenings starting at 7pm, and not just whole days
- really pleased to see that the Linbury is being used more and more, with some interesting programming
- the general ambience is more welcoming than it was, but the restaurants are fairly pricey.

In general, the building is more welcoming, and much more accessible, with better facilities, but I think there are still things to be ironed out.

Views ?


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH eugene merrett 23-10-00 1
     RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH alison 24-10-00 2
         RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH Bruce Madmin 24-10-00 3
             RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH eugene merrett 24-10-00 4
                 RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH Bruce Madmin 24-10-00 5
         RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH Jim 27-10-00 11
  RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH Bruce Madmin 25-10-00 6
     RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH Stuart Sweeney 26-10-00 7
         RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH Eugene Merrett 26-10-00 8
             RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH Stuart Sweeney 26-10-00 9
                 RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH eugene merrett 26-10-00 10
             ROH Sandwiches Jim 30-10-00 12
                 RE: Intervals Ann Welsh 30-10-00 13
                     RE: Intervals Jim 30-10-00 14
                         RE: Intervals eugene 30-10-00 15
                             RE: Intervals Bruce Madmin 31-10-00 16
                             RE: Intervals JIm 31-10-00 17
  RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH alison 31-10-00 18
  RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH Robert 06-11-00 19
     RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH Bruce Madmin 06-11-00 20
         RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH Robert 08-11-00 22
     Sneaky swigging... Jim 07-11-00 21

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eugene merrett

23-10-00, 06:49 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
In response to message #0
 
   I would like to see a book shop on the premises just like at the RFH. Also perhaps some talks and presentations during the intermission just like they do at the NYCB.

But my biggest beef is the appalling reservation. No internet online bookings (no excuse now given the POB have got it) outrageously long waits - again the RAH and Sadlers at least tell you where you are in the queue.

It is the worse of any theatre in Europe or the USA.


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alison

24-10-00, 01:15 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
In response to message #1
 
   What do you mean, no on-line booking? It may not be very well set up, but at least it's there.


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Bruce Madmin

24-10-00, 02:42 PM (GMT)
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3. "RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
In response to message #2
 
   I think its a semantic point.. but its not actually on-line I think - just glorified email and that's not the same.

On the other hand a direct, unthrottled, link of the Internet to the booking system scares me senseless since all the available tickets could easily go in a few hours, or minutes even, as more people cotton on.


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eugene merrett

24-10-00, 04:37 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
In response to message #3
 
   There is huge difference between a truly online system the what the ROH have got. It is really just an email request for tickets! When I booked using it it took 48 hours to respond with my reservation. But it is the poor telephone service that makes the lack of on-line booking more irrirtating. It is a double whammy.

But Bruce has got a point regarding the possibility of unfairness of people booking out the performances instantly on the internet. But this does not happen too much in ballet!(Only happens with Alagna and Gheorgiu). But most online booker hold back seats from on line booking. This is partly for administrative reasons (100% of seats on the internet is very difficult to integrate with telephone bookings etc) and to ensure those who do not have computers have a chance to get tickets.

On slightly different point I was just checking out BTs new ADSL website. It promises DVD quality pictures and CD sound through the internet! The internet is best hope for more broadcast of ballet and opera. Of course that unwelcomed news for some people on this web site.


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Bruce Madmin

24-10-00, 05:34 PM (GMT)
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5. "RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
In response to message #4
 
   >On slightly different point I was
>just checking out BTs new
>ADSL website. It promises
>DVD quality pictures and CD
>sound through the internet!

I'll let you know - the engineers are due to install ADSL tomorrow!

Will it work with just one visit? Will it be quick? Will it be v quick? Will it be reliable? Will some high-school drop-outs from Manitoba try and break into my network? Whatever it is it certainly won't be cheap!

btw if you want ADSL, and want it quickly, BT is not the place to go: their waiting list goes into the new year. I'm going with a company called Iomart who have their customer care centre in the Outer Hebrides - don't ask! Strangely enough it will be BT engineer who calls to install it all.


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Jim

27-10-00, 04:15 PM (GMT)
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11. "RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
In response to message #2
 
   >What do you mean, no on-line booking? It may not
>be very well set up, but at least it's there.

Yes, it's worked for me - twice! Sylvie performances n'all!
They don't tell you if you've been suceesful but it's a lovely surprise when the ticket arrives and you've forgottten all about it


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Bruce Madmin

25-10-00, 07:44 AM (GMT)
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6. "RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
In response to message #0
 
   I think there are two broad areas to discuss - the things that can be changed and the things that can't, but if one had ones chance again one would do differently.

Neither should be seen as snipping, just trying to pass on the best of experience when arts institutions elsewhere embark on massive rebuilding.

Things that could be improved:
An orchestra that bothers for ballet as it bothers for opera

Booking remains a painful process. ACE should give ROH management 18 months (more than generous) to meet some sensible levels of service or hook into one of the established ticket agencies that can flex to cope with teh highes and lows

Affordable food - are sandwiches still 6.50?

Interval talks

Things that one would do differently
Bulldoze the old auditorium. Controversial, but having sampled the place for a complete season, my advice to another theatre/institution contemplating work of this scale would be to start with a completely clean slate, either on a new site or by demolishing what is there. Covent Garden is a nice old building, however it's function is as lyric theatre and when the house lights go down, one wants to see what is happening on stage and to be seated comfortably. Sight lines are still a big issue in many parts of the house and the Amphitheatre seating remains very cramped. There are also issues about the house being large enough. I like old architecture, but starting afresh would have been a better bet. I hope I live long enough to see a new Dance House built in London.

All that said...
The above concentrates on the audience but the new CG is actually much more about the creative infrastructure and there a very good and long overdue job has been done. And it is nice to go into a theatre that looks so good and has much more circulation space etc. None of this should be seen misconstrued as a view that money has been wasted on ROH.


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Stuart Sweeney

26-10-00, 09:30 AM (GMT)
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7. "RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
In response to message #6
 
   >Covent Garden
>is a nice old building,
>however it's function is as
>lyric theatre and when the
>house lights go down, one
>wants to see what is
>happening on stage and to
>be seated comfortably. Sight lines
>are still a big issue
>in many parts of the
>house and the Amphitheatre seating
>remains very cramped. There are
>also issues about the house
>being large enough. I like
>old architecture, but starting afresh
>would have been a better
>bet.

I agree entirely. It has to be a major disappointment that after spending 211m, the ROH sightlines, while better then the old house, are still the worst of any major dance venue that I know. As someone who likes to be in the front of the first circle at The Coli, Sadlers or the Lowry, there is no ideal seating for me at the ROH.

However, The Floral Hall is one of the loveliest spaces in London and is a real boon.

>I hope I live
>long enough to see a
>new Dance House built in
>London.

Actually the Coli devoted to dance would do rather nicely in my view.


>The above concentrates on the audience
>but the new CG is
>actually much more about the
>creative infrastructure and there a
>very good and long overdue
>job has been done.

The Clore Studio is now one of the most excitng dance spaces in London and those involved can feel delighted with the work to date.

However, I am rather concerned that the Linbury has opera and music in a ratio of about 5 to 1 or more compared with dance.



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Eugene Merrett

26-10-00, 11:46 AM (GMT)
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8. "RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
In response to message #7
 
   Oh Bruce - how you infuriate me with your complaints about the sandwiches. They are DEVINE - worth a visit to the ROH for the sandwiches alone.

I agree that a new opera house should have been built- when I said this a few months ago I got a very frosty reception. But it could not have been done. ROH is a listed building and they would never allow it to be knock down! It would mean a move and I do not see the Lotter or anyone else agreeing to this. It is a pity that some people value buildings greater the the arts. They would rather see a vacant building with no art more then any thing else.

A few years go I was doing some work for the Electric Cinema in Portobella Road, the oldest cinema in England. It was clear that it was not viable as a cinema but it could be a night club. The Heritage Council would have none of this -so the building lies vacant, covered in graphitti and complete eye sore. But what do the Council care!

The American are not so inflexible or tradition bounded. The old Met Opera had great singers such as Callas, Gobbi and conductors like Toscanni - a heritage as good as Covent Garden. Yet it did not stop them building a magnificent new opera house which sells out every day despite having 4000 seats. Had the same thing been done in England ticket prices could have cut by a third but what do the elite and the forces of conservatism care about that! (I would say that 4000 seats is too big for ballet in England but OK for opera)

I think the current ROH is due to our rather tiresome tradition bound culture then the fault of those who conceived the renovation of the building.

The Coli is a pretty shabby place and is already occupied (in my view wasted) by the ENO. It is also too big for dance - only big name acts can really fill up the place. Sadlers on the other hand is ideal for dance despite the location. Great stage and no to big.



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Stuart Sweeney

26-10-00, 02:58 PM (GMT)
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9. "RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
In response to message #8
 
   >The Coli is a pretty shabby
>place and is already occupied
>(in my view wasted) by
>the ENO. It is
>also too big for dance
>- only big name acts
>can really fill up the
>place. Sadlers on the
>other hand is ideal for
>dance despite the location. Great
>stage and no to big.


Eugene, you're forgetting the sell-out week that Rambert had at the Coli about 4 years ago. Top price seats were 20 and a special offer cut even that low price to 14 if you booked for 2 performances.

Rest assured there is a lot of demand for dance companies to use the Coli, but the price that ENO demands is usually too much. The Mark Morris visit was under the opera banner otherwise it would not have been possible. A lot of dance admin people have cast envious glances at the Coli over the years, particularly when ENO wanted out.

I think it a very beautiful theatre, with great sightlines and it will be getting a clean-up over the next few years.



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eugene merrett

26-10-00, 04:43 PM (GMT)
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10. "RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
In response to message #9
 
   I think I remember this!I did not know it was sold out. But this is rather annecdotal and more over the prices were subsidized - One has to look at the experience of the Royal Ballet and things like the heavily susidized prices of the ENB triple bill as evidence of the box office dearth of all ballets other then Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and possibly Coppelia!

The most depressing scene in ballet I saw was the poor attendence to the PNB Midsummer Nights Dream at Sadlers Wells!!


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Jim

30-10-00, 10:15 AM (GMT)
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12. "ROH Sandwiches"
In response to message #8
 
   >Oh Bruce - how you infuriate me with your complaints about
>the sandwiches. They are DIVINE - worth a visit
>to the ROH for the sandwiches alone.

Eugene - Tell me more! I don't usually bother with food in the intervals - I'm simply too excited to think about food!!!
However, I will give it a go next time. How do you get them - do you order them when you get there (like interval drinks) or do you have to place an advance booking? Any particular type you recommend?

On this subject (raised somewhere else in this posting) I'm personally convinced the extended intervals are to rake in more dosh from the munching fraternity. This is annoying to us from the outback 'coz we have to worry about last trains, and it certainly rules out any prospect of a chat with Sylvie at the stage door afterwards. 15 mins for a quick bladder evacuation and swig from a hip flask is plenty.



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Ann Welsh

30-10-00, 07:24 PM (GMT)
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13. "RE: Intervals"
In response to message #12
 
   Can anyone tell me why it is now necessary to have two 15/20 min intervals in performances? In my day (don't ask!) a 15 min interval was enough. Time to buy an ice cream and no time (as Jim says) to worry about getting back home before the last train/bus. One interval is OK to get a coffee/drink/go to the loo, but does anybody really need the second interval?. Looking around, most people tend to stay in their seats.


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Jim

30-10-00, 10:12 PM (GMT)
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14. "RE: Intervals"
In response to message #13
 
   >Can anyone tell me why it is now necessary to have
>two 15/20 min intervals in performances?

I suppose it is at least arguable that time is needed to change the sets, and the dancers need to get their collective breaths back. After all, Sylvie has to change from white to black and back again to white, and we all want her to be looking sparkling and lovely, don't we?
However, when I was small there used to be a full interval 'twixt 1st and 2nd acts, giving three all told. Now you sit still while they change the sets 'twixt 1 and 2 and that saves time. But I agree, it's the intervals that bring out the worst in folks. I've never felt like pushing and shoving at the bar in intervals - all I want to do is hide away and prepare myself for the emotional onslaught of the following act.


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eugene

30-10-00, 10:53 PM (GMT)
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15. "RE: Intervals"
In response to message #14
 
   The sandwiches might seem pricey at 6.50 but they are of particularly good quality - specifically they are fresly made, moist, of good variety (in the mixed selection), over two rounds, and are served with some half decent crisps.

There is enought there for two people or an entire meal for one - I find them particularly ideal as I never have time to eat before I leave work (staff do not get fired by themselves!!!). In contrast your supermarket sandwich which have been hours before and all the taste gone after being so long in the chiller cabinet. They also very dry!!

I wish the intermission were shorter too - ideally no intermission but some sets are so complex more time is need now then before to change them.


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Bruce Madmin

31-10-00, 01:38 AM (GMT)
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16. "RE: Intervals"
In response to message #15
 
   >The sandwiches might seem pricey at
>6.50 but they are of
>particularly good quality

Somebody said that they are now 7.50.

Undeniably they are excellent. But so are Marks an Spencer ones at a third the price!


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JIm

31-10-00, 08:25 AM (GMT)
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17. "RE: Intervals"
In response to message #16
 
   >Undeniably they are excellent. But so
>are Marks an Spencer ones
>at a third the price!

But I don't suppose you are allowed to munch your own sammidges in the interval? Hey, anyone for a sammidge on November 13th?



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alison

31-10-00, 02:26 PM (GMT)
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18. "RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
In response to message #0
 
   Well, I've discovered I really miss the Rear Amphi water fountain (suppose that's not classy enough for the new building).

And something else I've decided I don't like is the new revolving door which has been installed between the Amphi bar and the outside balcony. I imagine it was done to prevent draughts, but it doesn't appear that there's now any disabled access to the balcony, which isn't good.


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Robert

06-11-00, 02:10 AM (GMT)
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19. "RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
In response to message #0
 
   I am sorry to read so many people grumbling about Covent Garden. Fortunately we did not get a new building. It would have been awful. Think of the poor old French with The Bastille. There is no one capable of designing a decent theatre at the moment. Covent Garden has some bad seats but not too many. The Online booking service has proved to be very good for my bookings up until now. I can recommend it.
I have beside me a sales receipt for two drinks and a sandwich ordered on 2.10.00. The sandwich cost 3.80 it was smoked salmon and was sufficient for both myself and my wife. I call that reasonable I cannot understand what all the fuss is about. I remember eating our sandwich opposite two ladies who sat down and unpacked their home made picnic and drank from glasses and a bottle of wine they had bought in themselves, they could not do that in many places.No one bothered them at Covent Garden.


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Bruce Madmin

06-11-00, 09:31 AM (GMT)
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20. "RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
In response to message #19
 
   >Think
>of the poor old French
>with The Bastille.

I don't know it well, but The Bastille has great sight lines and the seats are comfy. Modern architecture is not for all, but when the lights go down - the real reason people are there - it is pure functionality that matters.

> There is
>no one capable of designing
>a decent theatre at the
>moment.

I think the architects did a reasonable job at Sadler's. The Lowry nearly got it right but they got the stalls too low - goodness knows how!

>Covent Garden has some
>bad seats but not too
>many.

A bit subjective that. Probably a quarter have problems to one degree or another

>The Online booking service
>has proved to be very
>good for my bookings up
>until now. I can recommend
>it.
> I have beside me a
>sales receipt for two drinks
>and a sandwich ordered on
>2.10.00. The sandwich cost 3.80
>it was smoked salmon and
>was sufficient for both myself
>and my wife.

Interestings - can I ask where you got your sandwich in CG? The other day I checked in the Floral Hall and they were 7.50. I think sandwiches in the Linbury are cheaper, but thats efectively a different theatre.

>I call
>that reasonable I cannot understand
>what all the fuss is
>about.

If sarnies were indeed generally 3.80 at CG I too doubt that it would have be a big issue (and they would sell more too!)


>I remember eating our
>sandwich opposite two ladies who
>sat down and unpacked their
>home made picnic and drank
>from glasses and a bottle
>of wine they had bought
>in themselves, they could not
>do that in many places.

That is great - agree

>No
>one bothered them at Covent
>Garden.

Long may that be the case.



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Robert

08-11-00, 03:21 AM (GMT)
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22. "RE: What we wanted from the reopened ROH"
In response to message #20
 
   I bought my smoked salmon platter in the upstairs amphitheatre bar. By chance I have the reciept! It says Searcy's at the Royal Opera House , on top and is for 8.80 which includes Drinks and Kettle chips. I meant to check them out again on Monday but forgot. I was there to see Margeritte and Armande. Unfortunately I could not see much last time as I had such a lousy seat so it is not all wonderful but it is better than The Bastille or The New Sadlers Wells (You can be shocked at the price of food there too)as it has an atmosphere as a theatre.
What we really want at Covent Garden is good Ballet and imaginative programming. We should be worrying about the lack of good choreographers rather than the sandwiches.


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Jim

07-11-00, 08:36 AM (GMT)
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21. "Sneaky swigging..."
In response to message #19
 
   Hooray! Someone not being reflexively negative
I really enjoyed my first re-visit, desptite the House's charming idiosynchrasies!

>home made picnic and drank from glasses and a bottle
>of wine they had bought in themselves, they could not
>do that in many places.No one bothered them at Covent
>Garden.

More hoorays! No more slinking off into shady corners for a guilt-ridden swig at my hip flask



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