Russia's Bolshoi to bring in ID checks to fight scalpers

16th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia's renowned Bolshoi Theatre said Wednesday it would force ballet and opera lovers to show ID when buying tickets in an attempt to combat touts who sell on tickets at a vast profit.

"We are trying to fight against ticket reselling and give spectators a chance to see shows on our historic stage at affordable prices," the Bolshoi's spokeswoman Katerina Novikova said.

"The only possible way to battle (scalpers) is to sell tickets on presentation of passports, so that they go to our audience, rather than to those wanting to make money," she told AFP.

But it was unclear when the measure would come into force and how the theatre would check the IDs of audience members with the details on their tickets.

The legendary theatre reopened its main stage last month with a gala premiere after a massive six-year renovation during which it had used a second stage.

Amid the excitement, hundreds of people regularly stand in line beside the Bolshoi's box office close to the Kremlin to buy tickets up to two months in advance.

But the heavy presence of scalpers, known as the "ticket mafia," who snap up cheaper tickets and then sell them on at extortionate prices, has recently generated a flurry of outrage.

Last week, trend-setting magazine Afisha called the situation "organised impunity" after its reporter talked to homeless people, pensioners, and Tajik migrants, who he said were paid to wait in line and buy tickets for resellers.

When the reporter attempted to take pictures with a mobile phone, he was tackled by muscular men and threatened with being thrown out of the queue, he wrote.

Bloggers fuming after similar experiences often blamed the theatre's management for failing to tackle the situation.

"Why do foreign theatres make it convenient for foreigners to visit, while in my own country it's impossible?" wrote blogger Angryrussia on Livejournal.

The Bolshoi held its first staging on November 3rd with a controversial take on Glinka's opera Ruslan and Lyudmila. Its first post-renovation season features four ballets and two operas on the main stage.

© 2011 AFP

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