It’s that time of year again. And yes, Christmas does seem to come around more quickly with every passing year. Instead of buying (or asking for) more stuff that’ll only end up shoved in a cupboard, why not invest in an experience, while also supporting the arts?
These make great presents. The recipient – whether that’s you or a loved one – gets a whole year of opera while supporting the work of your chosen organisation.
Lots of opera houses, theatre groups and companies offer memberships which can be bought as Christmas gifts. They are often referred to as ‘Friends’ programmes, so you can feel all loved too.
Each organisation’s membership scheme comes with a range of benefits. These differ, but most include things like an exclusive members’ enewsletter, priority booking and entry to dress rehearsals. Some offer invitations to exclusive events such as post-show drinks and Q&As. Some might even offer discounts on tickets or food and drink.
Prices vary greatly, depending on the organisation. You can buy a Friend membership from OperaUpClose for £36, for example; the same costs £50 from Welsh National Opera. Opera North’s Friends membership is £60.
Several organisations offer different tiers of membership, with different benefits and corresponding prices – check the websites to find out exactly what you’re getting for your money. Opera Holland Park (OHP), for example, has Silver and Gold levels, costing £75 and £100 respectively. English National Opera (ENO) has four levels: Bronze (£65), Silver (£100), Gold (£200) and Platinum (£500).
Glyndebourne offers Tour membership (£45), membership for the under 40s (£70) and Associate membership (£500). Nevill Holt Opera (NHO) has five options: White Star Line (£60), Kirkby Family (£120), Nevill Family (£230), Cunard Family (£510) and Lady Emerald Club (£1,100).
The Royal Opera House (ROH) has six levels, from Friend, coming in at £115, to Premium 2 Friend at £2,550. Scottish Opera, most impressively, has 18 options, ranging Individual Friend, for £45, to Guardian Angel costing an eye-watering £5,000.
Some of the websites also explain what your gift membership supports, so you can choose whichever organisation is closest to your – or your recipient’s – heart.
You can of course just buy someone – or ask for – tickets to a particular production. But if you don’t know which one or when would be a good time to go, gift vouchers are the way forward. You can choose how much you want to spend and it can go towards whichever tickets the recipient wants. Most have a long expiry date, usually at least two years.
Many companies and venues offer vouchers, so it’s a good idea to check local organisations as well as the national ones. That way you’ll be supporting the arts in your own community.
OHP (starting from any amount), ROH (starting from £10) and Glyndebourne (from £20) all offer vouchers. Scottish Opera, however, currently isn’t selling these. Instead vouchers can be bought directly from the venues it tours to: Theatre Royal Glasgow, Festival Theatre Edinburgh, His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, and Eden Court, Inverness.
Longborough Festival Opera, based in Gloucestershire, also offers gift vouchers.
If you can’t decide on a company or venue, you could try ATG Tickets, a theatre group which has 35 venues across the UK. Vouchers start from just £5, but they have a 12-month expiry.
Of course these days everything is online, and both Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne have subscription-based streaming services.
Shop til you drop
But what about the opera lover who does want more stuff? Well we’ve got that covered too.
ENO’s shop at the London Coliseum has a range of Choose Opera-branded products, as well as production artwork, prints and photography. The Royal Opera House shop has clothing and accessories, jewellery, DVDs, CDs and gifts for children. Nevill Holt Opera sells gifts, cards and decorations all printed with views of the theatre.
Hopefully these suggestions will help you with your festive shopping. And it just remains for us to wish you an early Happy Christmas!
Might an exclusive bauble from Nevill Holt Opera, hand painted with scenes of the theatre, decorate your tree this Christmas?