Savings buying tickets from theater

By Yvonne Richter
This item appears on page 29 of the November 2013 issue.

My husband and I wish we’d known how easy it is to buy tickets for Russia’s Bolshoi and Mariinsky theaters. We would have saved a lot of money on our Bolshoi tickets.

We booked a 17-day tour of Russia, May 15-June 1, 2012, through Kensington Tours. For tour members, the company offered to purchase theater tickets. As soon as the venue was announced, the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, we asked for seats for the ballet “Giselle.” We were told the first-circle, first-row (box) seats cost $352 each. We gasped but paid, as we’d always wanted to experience the Bolshoi.

When tickets became available for “Swan Lake” at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, we were told the price for the same seating location (“belle etage”) that we’d asked for at the Bolshoi was $322 each. We looked up the theater on the Internet and found the seats were going for $214 each, the maximum price for any seat in the theater. The tour company’s fee for reserving our two seats was, apparently, $216!

We easily bought the tickets, ourselves, on the website, and when we wrote to the tour company to complain about their charges, the tour company representative Nadiya Makarenko told us that they make no money on the tickets and charge only what they pay.

She emailed, “We do not book tickets online, as Russian theater websites are not always updated. We send a courier directly to the box office, so we have to pay a small amount for his service. We just quote the rates we are told at the box offices, and, in fact, as a courtesy to my clients, I pay for the courier service from my commission.”

The warning about the websites made us uneasy until we picked up our tickets in St. Petersburg with no problems.

Our Mariinsky seats were perfect; no one was sitting in front of us.

Regarding the Bolshoi tickets, not only do we feel we were overcharged, but shortly before our tour, Kensington Tours emailed that they had “upgraded” our requested box seats to seats somewhere on the ground floor. In front of one of our seats, we ended up with a very large person who blocked the view of the center part of the stage.

My husband and I traded seats at intermission, so we each had time in the good seat.


San Diego, CA

In June 2013, ITN emailed, to two email addresses at Kensington Tours (2207 Concord Pike, Ste. 645, Wilmington, DE 19803;, copies of the email ITN received from Ms. Richter. No reply was received.