Rebirth of Bolshoi’s ticket mafia

The re-opening of Russia’s famous Bolshoi Theater has also opened a new era for ticket scalpers, who are using a classic fraud scheme to make millions of rubles out of Moscow theater-lovers’ craving for art.

­After six years of meticulous renovations, the curtain at the world-renowned Bolshoi
Theater rose again last month. But for the person in the street, it makes little difference whether the sumptuous auditorium is open or closed, as purchasing a ticket has become a real challenge.

Visiting the Bolshoi at the reasonable prices posted on the theater’s official website is almost impossible. Although the site states that “in a modern metropolis online ticket purchasing is in high demand,” it does not offer an opportunity to make a purchase or even a reservation. Seizing a much-coveted ticket requires you to pay a visit to one of the theater’s booking offices and get acquainted with the tight-knit family of Moscow’s ticket mafia.

Booking offices open at 11:00, but the queue forms long before that. And the consistency of the group swarming at the entrance daily may surprise those unfamiliar with the ticket scalpers’ ways.

Operating a scheme widely known as “circle-dance,” it leaves those who are out of luck and out of the circle with little to no chance of ever getting to the counter.

People waiting for hours for any chance to nab a ticket to the renovated Bolshoi have described similar patterns.

A scalper gets in, buys a couple of tickets, and hands them over to the “supervisor.” Then he receives another sheaf of cash from his boss and returns back to the middle of the line, to his colleagues, right under the noses of the respectable would-be theater-goers. The scalper gets some $10 per cycle, according to furious bloggers’ estimates.

The tickets pile up in the hands of the “supervisors,” who lazily walk along the irritated line offering to solve people’s problems. For a “modest fee” some 300 per cent higher than the original price, you can grab a ticket for any seat you like and finally leave the paralysed queue which has not moved an inch all day.

Official ticket prices at the Bolshoi range from around $65 to some $500, depending on your seating preference, performance, and day of the week. And that is for a regular show, never mind premieres. Moreover, after spending days in line, there is no guarantee that there will be any tickets available at these prices.

Before you envy those who manage to cross the threshold of this world-renowned theater, remember – most of the “lucky few” who take their seats in the hallowed auditorium before the third bell will have paid triple price for the privilege.

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