Tonya Plank: Why do my friends clamor for opera, but not ballet?

Editor’s note: I received this thought-provoking comment– about how Mark Morris’ “Orfeo” at the Met had sold out–from my co-blogger Swan Lake Samba Girl (AKA Tonya Plank) more than a week ago. It has inspired lots of thoughts –and I kept waiting to have a moment to respond. But I haven’t had a moment, so here’s Tonya, and next week, I’ll add something–and you will, too, perhaps? (What I’ve been up to: a heavy month at Newsday.)
Tonya:
Argh, I wanted to see this SO badly, but can’t afford $375 for one seat, and all the cheaper tickets have long been sold out. Everything at the opera seems to sell out months and months and MONTHS in advance! I haven’t been able to get an affordable ticket to ANYTHING!
Which leads me to another issue: why is the opera so much more popular than dance? I feel that all kinds of people — young old, people of every race and ethnicity and gender–will take a chance on opera, even if it is out of the ordinary for them, even if they know the experience isn’t going to be like a big, action-packed Hollywood movie. They feel it is something that sophisticated and cultured people do, and so they will go for those reasons — to feel they are getting a sense of something cultural. Yet those same people don’t feel that way about the ballet.
To go to the ballet they need to be convinced that there will be tons of action-packed sword fights to hold their attention, plus beautiful dancers and men who are not “girly.” On one hand, I love that I can always get affordable last-minute ballet tickets; on the other, it’s, argh, SO very aggravating trying to convince “the average person” (particularly a man) to go with me to the ballet when the same person seems to have no problem spending an evening at the opera or an afternoon at an art museum.
Why is that? Is it because opera has a longer history, because Met director Peter Gelb is doing something more than directors at the big ballet companies to promote opera to younger people, because of some kind of crazy ingrained homophobia? Do you have any ideas??

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