When theatres reopen I would like to get tickets to the Bolshoi and Mariinski ballet - I cannot understand how a foreigner does this - are there different (higher) prices for visitors?
Same for Mariinsky ("buy tickets" button):
Same for Stanislavsky&Nemirovicha-Danchenko (Moscow, in Russian, may need to use google translate):
I may very well be ostracized for this by ballet lovers, but out of the three Russian "Swan Lakes" I've seen, I liked the Nemirovicha-Danchenko production the best. Also, their current chief conductor (F.Korobov), while not quite the caliber of Gergiev, is still very, very good.
I got tickets for opening night at the Mariinsky a few years ago on line. I bought the best seats possible -- it was in the front row of the first balcony. not far f rom the Tsar's box. I can't recall what I paid but I think it was around $60 US and the cheaper seats were not cheaper enough to make having poor sightlines for a ballet worth it.
FWIW. for the Hermitage, you can buy tickets easily on site for less than you will pay on line and by using the machines in the courtyard of the main building or the sales desk in the General Staff Building (where the modern work is kept) you won't have lines and it is cheap. The long lines at the Winter Palace are clueless tourists who don't know this or locals who are seeking cheaper tickets available to students and locals.
Thank for the tips - would be grateful for any more that you think would assist on our first visit - do we use tour company or try to plan on our own?
I had purchased tickets to the Bolshoi for an intended trip in 2020. I was working with a Russian travel agent on some things, but she suggested buying ballet tickets directly from the websites ourselves, as there was no difference in price and no incentive for her.
Do make sure to buy from the ballet company websites directly, as there are various reseller sites that will charge much more for the same seats.
On the Bolshoi website given above (https://www.bolshoi.ru/en/visit/buyingnew/) you will find the schedule for the release of tickets for sale. My experience was that those were followed precisely. So you can check it to see when your preferred performance will go on sale.
We purchased Bolshoi e-tickets. At that time, the e-ticket had to be presented at the box office and exchanged for a "regular ticket." It appears that has changed. See section 3.11.
Some productions (such as Spartacus) sell out quickly, others less so. You can check earlier dates of the ballet that interests you to see how quickly tickets are selling. You can also see the prices for different seating sections for that ballet production and the price tier for each section.
We scoped our choice of section ahead of time so that we knew exactly what we wanted when the tickets went on sale. I got up in the middle of the night, as soon as tickets went on sale for our performance, to get the seats we wanted. Depending on your choice of performance and seats, that may not be necessary.
One other tip: I had read that within each section in the balcony, the rows of seats are not elevated. So while the first row might have a good view, the 2nd and 3rd rows would have some obstruction from Row 1 patrons. The visibility is reflected in the price tier for each section and each row:
You'll find a few more tips in this earlier post that I had updated as I was proceeding through the process of the Bolshoi ticket process:
You'll need to register at the Bolshoi site, and as I mention in the post, one of my email addresses did not work. (I don't recall the specifics.) When I used a gmail address, everything worked perfectly. So if you're not able to register, or don't get a confirmation, try a different email address.
We saw Swan Lake at the Marinski Ballet in St. Petersburg and it was amazing.
"do we use tour company or try to plan on our own?"
I assume you're not just asking about the ballet, but other aspects of travel in Russia.
My experience was visiting Russia in 2001 and 2010, so things may have changed. But, based on those trips, if you are willing to learn the Cyrillic alphabet and are not intimidated by big cities, you can visit Moscow and St. Petersburg on your own. There are enough English speakers and English menus to make it work. Without learning the alphabet, it really is hard to visit, since signs in languages other than Russian are rare. I've read that there are now some English signs in at least some of the subway stations, but when I went, there weren't any.
If you want to visit other places, there's little to no English, so using a tour is a good idea. I went with a Russian speaker to Suzdal and Vladimir (Golden Ring towns outside Moscow), and it would really have been a struggle on my own.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of learning Cyrillic if you're going on your own. The book I used was Teach Yourself Beginner's Russian Script, which was great. It breaks down the alphabet into letters that are the same as English, letters that look the same but are pronounced differently, etc. http://www.amazon.com/Teach-Yourself-Beginners-Russian-Script/dp/0071419861
We spent ten days in Petersburg once and did a cruise between Moscow and Petersburg once with days added on each end. (I DO NOT recommend the 'river cruise' on what is a collection of canals and lakes and most uninteresting IMHO.
There were tours included in our cruise and they were uniformly terrible. If that had been my only intro to the Hermitage, I would have been crushed. We booked a car through the hotel to the Peterhof as we wanted to see the Gardens and then got tickets on site and took the hydrofoil back. Our friends from the cruise had booked this as a sidetrip with the cruise company and were very unhappy with the experience and paid considerably more than we had for their bus tour -- we had a comfortable trip there in a mercedes and then the hydrofoil back for less than they paid.
In Moscow I booked a tour with a Tours by Locals guide on our first day to do the NOvodivichy cemetery and the art installations in the. Moscow subway. Again -- cruise mates who booked through the cruise line paid more and only saw 3 subway stations. We did the whole thing on the subway and saw 10 stations for less than they paid. And the bonus was that we then knew how to navigate the subway, had our passes etc and so for the rest of our Moscow stay were able to visit museums, parks and monasteries easily on our own. We got out to Gorky Park, the Garden of Fallen Leaders. https://janettravels.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/garden-of-fallen-leaders/. and saw the socialist realist collection at the New Tretyakov -- we were unable to find much soviet art at all in Petersburg although we enjoyed a small museum at a former Lenin residence that was about the revolution as well as a museum of Russian art which mostly pre-dated the revolution.
Petersburg center is very compact and you don't need a tour to do the things there at all -- We did hire a Tours by Locals guide to take us to the Catherine Palace which is somewhat difficult logistically for individual tourists. https://janettravels.wordpress.com/2016/01/23/an-easy-trip-to-the-catherine-palace/ He picked us up at the apartment we had rented, got tickets, shepherded us through the Catherine palace and took us to a good place for lunch and back again. It was well worth it to us for the logistics. But other than that we managed easily on our own with minimal understanding of the alphabet and our phones. We found few English speakers but it was fine -- we can point and say thank you and please and that works pretty well --
Thank you all for your wonderful comments and advice
If you are really in Russian ballet, you may want to check out the summer ballet festival. It is an unique mega-project in Russia dedicated to popularize classical ballet which is property of national culture. The festival has become a part of the modern Russian history. you may also check eduhelphub for more details. But, I suggest that anyone interested in Russian ballet should definitely check this one out, before fixing you itinerary.
Thank you - I had not heard of the summer festival.
I will advise doing your research before using the OperaAndBallet.com website (mentioned above) to purchase tickets to the Bolshoi, as they are a reseller. The direct site for Bolshoi ballet tickets is https://bolshoi.ru/en/.
When I compared prices for the tickets I bought in 2020, it seemed that they purchase blocks of tickets and sell them for much higher prices. I saw markups of several hundreds of dollars for the ballets that I researched. (Having said that, if the tickets direct from the Bolshoi are sold out - as some performances will be - you may still be able to get them from the resellers, if you're willing to pay.)