In exploring one myth, Harrison Birtwistle's The Minotaur has quashed another.
According to Kasper Holten, its recently-ended five show run played to an average 95.4% capacity, comfortably above the ROH's last season's average of 92%. Of course that still means 100 or so seats were empty each night, but it's still one in the eye for those who claim modern opera is an unsustainable minority interest. Not to mention those who plead that taking risks leads ineluctably to poor box office.
Ticket pricing played an unquestionable part in its success. Prices were initially set at a maximum of £65 (compared to £225 for some productions), and even then there was a spot of strategic discounting later.
But cheap seats can't be the whole answer. Judith Weir's dreadful Miss Fortune failed to sell even when the discount offers were crowned with free kebabs.
The difference is one of quality. Miss Fortune was well cast, entertainingly staged and keenly priced. But it lacks The Minotaur's trump card - a great score. It explains too why Anna Nicole and The Tempest filled the house - and why The Passenger and Caligula couldn't do the same job for ENO.
Initial reaction to The Minotaur was positive, and when there's a buzz about a show - any show, not just opera - word quickly gets around London. Combine that with accessible pricing and people will come. There's a sizeable public out there who are turned off by what they see as the kitsch trimmings of traditional opera - the pretty tunes, the silly plots, the puffy shorts. That's the potential audience ENO have spotted, but failed to capture - and the audience The Minotaur has grabbed.
Fingers crossed that the ROH will have the guts to chuck out any Missfortunate duds on their recently announced new opera programme before they get anywhere near the stage. And that ENO will either find a way to sort the operatic wheat from the chaff - or just stick to the Jonathan Miller-style bel canto fluff which, much as it pains me to say it, has hit the artistic mark better than anything else they've done recently.