Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ticket Office Puts End to Scalper Era

Small details can make a big difference.

Like selling opera and ballet tickets at a real box office and having the ticket revenues go to support the opera and ballet companies- perhaps a phenomenal idea in other worlds, but not in the world of the Bolshoi Theater, at least until recently.

For years the Bolshoi was infamous for its ticket sales technique. Tickets were sold - at infinitesimally low prices - to scalpers, who then marked them up to Western prices. The box office was always closed, but tickets were always available for a price. Scalpers got rich, the Bolshoi got poor, and theater-goers got angry.

This year the Bolshoi box office is open and selling tickets at very reasonable prices directly to the public. Located next to the Okhotny Ryad metro station on Teatralnaya Ploshchad, the box office's working hours are noon to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Tickets for the first ten days of November go on sale Saturday, Oct. 9 at 10 a.m. Ticket prices are posted inside the box office and run from about 80 to 400 rubles ($3 to $16), with tickets for most performances and most seating locations generally available.

Foreigners ostensibly need not worry that these sales are for Russians only. You don't even need to show your passport, but sales are conducted in rubles only - dollars and credit cards are not accepted.

During three recent visits to the box office, lines were very short and fast moving, with only four to eight people standing in line each time. The ticket sellers were efficient and polite by Russian standards and didn't even yell at the customers.

Scalpers still stand in front of the box office and on the steps of the theater, taking advantage of the occasional buyer who thinks the old ticket sales method is still in force. Their prices run from $10 to $50, or about three times the price at the box office. Nevertheless, security guards keep the scalpers away from the box office.

Across the street in the Metropol Hotel, at a desk inside the UCS Travel Agency, Bolshoi tickets are sold to foreigners and others not willing or able to stand in line at the box office. These prices are about the same as the scalpers' prices - about $50 for a good seat, but the agency is selling tickets directly for the Bolshoi, through a computer connection to the box office. Given the additional expense, it's not surprising that you can charge the tickets on most credit cards.

One great advantage of buying tickets from the box office is that the money goes to support the Bolshoi, not tothe scalpers. The theater-goer who has avoided the Bolshoi for the last few years because of the scalpers should be pleasantly surprised.