[The interesting part of this story is where the Korean organizers make
their cost public. I don't think I have ever seen a US organization do
Expensive Vienna Opera Concert Frustrates Fans
Korea Times, July 23
By Seo Dong-shin
Korean classical music fans were delighted when it was announced
that the Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper), one of the
world's most reputed opera companies with a 138-year-old history,
would come to Seoul for the first time Sept. 19-20. However,
jaws dropped when the price for VIP tickets became known: 450,000
won [$492 - for a concert performance! For a rough estimate in
this story, drop three zeros from won figures to get the dollar
The price matched that of the Berlin Philharmonic's performance
in Seoul two years ago. At that time, too, the debate on expensive
classical music concerts flared up among classical music fans.
While it is the first time for the world-class opera to visit
Seoul, their staging of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" will
not be presented in a full-fledged style, but in the form of an
opera concertante - which means the costumes, stage settings as
well as acting of the singers will be minimized - to "focus
purely on music."
Nevertheless, the VIP seats and the next class, R seats priced
at 350,000 won, take up more than half of the total seats. Seats
in the S, A and B class are priced at 250,000, 150,000 and 80,000
won, respectively. Student chair seats are available at 30,000
won [3 cents?!].
As one anonymous classical music fan complained in an online
forum, if a couple plans to go to the concert with VIP seats,
with dinner and transportation it will easily reach one million
won ($1000). "Why not just book a plane ticket to Austria with
that sum of money?" the fan complained. "With less than 200 euros
(250,000 won) we can buy a fine seat at the Vienna State Opera
As criticism mounted, Credia, a local performing arts company
organizing the Vienna State Opera's concerts here, made an unusual
move by making public the balance sheet of the scheduled
According to the company, it costs about 1.1 billion won [$1.2
million] to organize the concerts, with 900 million [$983,537]
alone going to the Vienna State Opera, including tax. In addition,
about 80 million won is necessary to cover the expenses of about
110 orchestra and opera members, who come to Korea for four days.
Then there is 30 million won to pay to the Seoul Arts Center for
renting the concert hall, and 80 million won for advertisements.
Without corporate sponsors, at least 1.3 billion won of ticket
sales must be achieved, considering about 15-20 percent deduction
of credit card fees, reservation fees or value added tax. That
would mean selling out 4,800 seats at the concert hall of Seoul
Arts Center with an average price of 270,000 won, which is
impossible to do, the company said.
"This is not a popular big-scale opera held at an Olympic stadium
or outdoors," Credia said in a statement. "We decided to invite
the Vienna State Opera because it's worth introducing its appeal
to domestic audiences despite possible losses on our side."
While classical music fans express anger at skyrocketing ticket
prices, industry insiders largely agree that it is a helpless
South Korea is different from Japan, which has a bigger classical
music market and where renowned European classical orchestras
can tour several cities holding as many concerts as possible to
make up the cost, they say.
In Korea, due to relatively small audiences interested in
classical music, it is hard to hold the same concert more than
twice. According to a survey by the Ministry of Culture and
Tourism, people who go to a classical concert or opera dwindled
over the years, from 6.7 percent in 2000 to 6.3 percent in 2003
and to 3.6 percent last year.
In addition, the more expensive the tickets are, the more people
tend to regard it as a prestigious performance worth going to
watch, in line with the "Veblen effect" meaning conspicuous
consumption. Sales actually go up when the ticket price is
expensive, many industry analysts believe.
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