Dutch opera company faces shutdown

Dutch opera company faces shutdown


norman lebrecht

June 14, 2011

The smoke has yet to clear on the Dutch front line since last Friday’s Cabinet decision but word has just reached me of a significant closure provoked by the government’s arts cuts.

The National Touring Opera lost 60 percent of its subsidy and is ceasing operations, its artistic administrator, Nicolas Mansfield reports in a comment on Slipped Disc. Mansfield was due to succeed Guus Mostart in 2013 as artistic director.

The Nationale Reisopera takes between four and six opera productions to fifteen large theatres across the country each year. There are well-known operas from the standard repertoire and less familiar works from the Baroque period as well as contemporary operas. Current work includes Wagner’s Ring, Bohème and Lucia di Lammermoor. The website has put up a petition for supporters to sign.


State funds for the performing arts have been cut from Euros 236 million to 156 million.

LATE EXTRA: In a subsequent message to the industry, Nicolas Mansfield has clarified his previous post:

The Dutch government has announced that they intend to cut us by 60% as of 1st January 2013. The consequences of such a cut are obvious and we are clearly fighting our corner on all fronts in order to get this decision reversed. We are most certainly not closing the Nationale Reisopera with immediate effect and it is business as usual until the end of 2012.

Hopefully things will be clearer soon and we can look forward to a new chapter in our future.

With many thanks for the warm messages of support we are receiving. Spread the word!

All best wishes,



From other sources, it appears that the only survival hope for Reiseopera is for Opera Zuid to be liquidated. There is not enough money for both to continue fulltime operations.


  • Nicolas Mansfield says:

    The government intends to cut us by 60% as of 1st January 2013. Until then, we continue as planned. We are obviously fighting our corner in the hope to have this decision reversed.
    Watch this space!

  • Please visit the link to our website to sign the petition!


    • Michael Peel says:

      Dear Nicolas

      This is appalling news. I’ll happily sign the petition but there is no link to your web-site. I’d suggest that it is put up on FaceBook and you might like to start a Group – save the Reis Opera.

      Very best at what must be a very trying time for you.

      • Nicolas Mansfield says:

        Thanks Michael. I’ll forward your suggestions to our marketing and communication department!

  • Artworld Salon has a useful article about the cuts in Holland here:


    They note that $200 million will be cut from Holland’s $900 million federal arts budget.
    With the new $700 million budget, Holland’s federal government will still spend $42 per capita on the arts. America’s NEA by contrast spends $2 per capita –or less than one-twentieth the amount.

    We should also remember that the large majority of public arts funding in Holland comes from the state and municipal levels, so the amounts provides by the government are far higher than $42 per person. Even with the cuts, public funding in Holland will still be at least 50 times higher per capita than in the USA. One can see the effects in Holland’s far richer cultural life.

    This article explains how Dutch public arts funding is administered, why Dutch politicians scrupulously avoid attacking artists, and how the government relies on independent, outside specialists to determine what is funded:


    We should remember these facts, because when cuts in the European system are highlighted, there is often a hidden agenda to try to discredit their public funding system. As the above numbers and many other stats illustrate, the European system, even in the few countries where cuts are being made, is still much better than America’s.

    • Christian Karlsen says:

      True, but in the USA you pay about 25% less tax than in the Netherlands and therefore you’re more or less expected if you make a bit of money to support your local art institutions. This is not the case in Europe (except from maybe the UK ).

    • Pieter-Jelle de Boer says:

      Mr Osborne, you seem to be implying that the Dutch government, or any European government, may cut the arts all they want and artists should still consider themselves blessed as long as funding is higher than in the USA? This is completely beside the point. The question is not simply if cuts are made or should be made, the question is how they are made and what the consequences will be for cultural life in it current state.

      As it is, the article you’re referring to is hopelessly outdated (from 2007). The present government has not at all taken into account the opinions of artists, art specialists or even succesful arts entrepreneurs who don’t rely on direct public funding, all radically opposed to the proposed plans. Instead, it goes ahead stubbornly, not in the least trying to leave institutions with a possibility to adapt themselves and survive.

      • No, I find the cuts in Holland absolutely appalling. And it makes me ashamed as an American, since I feel the European right is being inspired by the neo-cons in my own country who relentlessly attack public arts funding.

        The point I was t trying to make is this: The new federal budget for the arts in Holland will be 700 million Euros (994 million USD.) The budget for the NEA in the USA is 160 million USD. That means the federal government in Holland is giving $62 dollars per capita for the arts, while the sum in the USA is only 50 cents. The federal sum per capita in Holland is thus 120 times higher than in the USA.

        And that is not to mention that an even larger amount of funding in Holland comes from the state and municipal governments, while in the USA that vast majority of states have only miniscule arts budgets. That means that the per capita public arts funding in Holland reaches over 200 times that of the USA.

        I do not make this point to somehow justify the Dutch government’s idiotic cuts. I make this point because in the USA neo-cons constantly try to disparage the European funding system by saying it doesn’t work and that the American system is better. So I point out that even with the recent cuts, the federal system in Holland still provides 120 times more funding per capita. And I stress how much richer the cultural lives of the Dutch are than what we Americans have.

        I wish the people of Holland every success in turning their foolish rightwing government around or putting it out of office. I am sure the people will ultimately return Holland’s funding to previous levels, and that the Dutch will continue to set an example for all of us.

  • Paul Muller says:

    It is interesting to me that the same politicians busy dismantling Hollands’ cultural infrastructure are the first to claim that the Muslims living in the country pose a threat to Dutch civilization. Seems to me that the building up the traditional arts would be the best answer to such a threat – if it actually exists. Do those making the cuts offer any explanation?

    • Nicolas Mansfield says:

      The cuts being made to the arts in the Netherlands (200 million euros) are equivalent to 9 kilometers of motorway. It’s about many things, but it’s certainly not about money. It’s all about a right wing government wishing to keep the coalition with Geert Wilders in place. It’s what happens when ‘decent’ politicians sell their souls for the simple gain of power. And it’s a big lesson in how undemocratic the heart of Dutch politics really is. Eventual closure of the Nationale Reisopera will cost the tax-payer 20 million euros. In my book that’s a scandal larger than life.

  • Guilherme Fontão says:

    In face of international crisis, distinct budget cuts have been done, affecting different segments in all parts of the world. Generally, payment of public debit is religiously honored, mostly to the detriment of social investments, and, inaccurately, art is not considered a profitable activity (because it, supposedly, doesn’t generate material goods to be sold in large production…). Nevertheless, capitalism has transformed art into a mere object of merchandise. Its logical premise is: if not lucrative, must be discarded.
    Well, a symphony orchestra is a complex organization that demands a lot of money to be satisfactorily maintained. But, whether unprofitable, must simply cease to exist? Certainly, according to that perverse logic. However, luckily there’s another point of view: music may not have the power to transform sounds into food, though, is able to feed fully our soul!

  • Patricia says:

    It is the case that arts organizations, as well as universites and other not for profits organizatons, have a strong business component. Whether your ‘product’ is theatre, opera or education, the bills must be paid. I don’t know why this is difficult for people to understand. It also costs more to see a sporting even – amateur or professional – in America than it does to see the opera, yet arts organizations are unwilling to raise ticket prices. I don’t understand that, either. I hope the Dutch are willing to pay more out of their own pockets to keep their company open and thriving. If not, perhaps it shows that this isn’t as important to them as they would like us to believe.