Russia's top ballet and opera companies and classical music orchestras need little introduction. This is your chance to see them in their element at grand performance halls such as Moscow's Bolshoi and St Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatres. Popular forms of live music are common in cities and jazz is particularly loved in St Petersburg. Cinema is also well patronised, though you'll struggle to find movies screened with English subtitles.
Teatralnye kassy (theatre ticket offices, sometimes kiosks) are found across all sizeable cities, although it’s not difficult to buy face-value tickets from the kassa (ticket office) at the venue itself, typically open for advance or same-day sales from early afternoon until the start of the evening show.
Outside the major cities tickets can start as low as R100. Only the most popular shows tend to sell out completely, so there’s usually hope for obtaining same-day seats. In Moscow and St Petersburg, however, competition is much greater and the top venues have ‘foreigner pricing’. It can be worth falling back on a hotel service bureau or concierge to get the best tickets, even though that can mean paying a huge premium over face value.
Tickets for both Moscow’s Bolshoi and St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatres can be booked online usually three months or more in advance – this is the best way to ensure that you get the seat you want. For Moscow events, consider booking using a web-based service such as www.parter.ru.
If all else fails, there are usually touts (scalpers): not only professionals but also people with spares. It’s standard practice to sell tickets outside the main entrance before starting time. Remember that prices are a free-for-all and you run the risk of obstructed views. Before handing over any money, make sure that the ticket actually has the date, performance and section you want.