Two Wagner operas are three-quarters unsold this week

Two Wagner operas are three-quarters unsold this week


norman lebrecht

July 21, 2014

One of our readers alerts us to some empty Wagner nights this week:

(We) found out by accident that the Theater Freiburg is performing Parsifal and Tannhauser (fully staged, company of 200) at the Theatre Royal, Norwich at the end of this week.  Toying with the idea of a weekend break checked the theatre site to see whether they might have a ticket or two remaining – shocked to see around 75% of seats remain unsold for all performances.  Such a shame – such an enterprise seems worthy of wider support.  Perhaps a brief mention on SD might help send readers scurrying to Norfolk…

theatre-royal norwich


  • Laurence Kidstone says:

    Well I’m not surprised. Just tried the web-site and I’m unable to find out who’s singing, conducting or even if it’s their own orchestra or a put-together one from the UK. They really should smarten up because these events are so important to our local culture and economy. And I love Wagner!

    • Nick says:

      When you click on “+ Click here for more about The Operas” located just under “Click here to book”, it’s clear that the performances feature the Freiburg Orchestra. But I agree the lack of detailed information is more than unprofessional given what these performances must be costing. Another quick check on the internet reveals a press release from Visit Norwich dated April 2014 giving full details of the casting. Why there is no link to this on the “new dedicated website for this event” or the general event info under WagnerFest borders on the downright idiotic in my view!

  • Hugh Canning says:

    The publicity for this visit has been woeful. I only heard about it via the Intermezzo blog – not a press release from the theatre, nothing and the website is less than informative. It may be that Wagner outside London doesn’t sell as it once did. I was shocked to see plenty of empty seats at Opera North’s stunning Götterdämmerung in Birmingham. Maybe Wagnerian Birminghamsters are saving their pennies for Gergiev’s Mariinsky Ring….

    • Halldor says:

      Any venue manager can tell you that even a sold-out house will have empty seats in it somewhere; there will always be ticket purchasers who don’t show on the day, for any number of reasons. Have to say, I didn’t see many empty seats at the Birmingham Gotterdammerung from where I was sitting (admittedly up in the cheap seats that critics rarely tend to visit). They actually ran out of programme books for sale – which hardly suggests it was under-sold.

  • Joshaw says:

    I’m not totally familiar with the circumstances surrounding this but it should be taken as a word of caution for those who feel that London arts spending can transferred to the “regions” and achieve the same result.

    I grew up well “North of Watford” and, although it’s very un-PC to say so, there simply isn’t the same level of interest in certain types of art, and opera is one of them. I’m not saying that interest doesn’t exist, clearly Opera North wouldn’t exist otherwise, but it’s at a much lower level and, in many quarters, there’s a very aggressive philistine streak. Billy Elliot wasn’t set in Surrey.

    I know how much wrath a comment like this can attract, and I’m not saying that opera should never be taken out of London, but I think it probably needs to be sold far more vigorously. I see that the most expensive tickets are twice as much as West Side Story. Curious people might be put off by that.

  • william osborne says:

    Freiburg is a city of 200,000 in the Southwestern corner of Germany with a full time, year-round opera house. Freiburg is one of 9 full time opera houses with about 2 hours of where I live in Germany (5 in Germany and 4 in Switzerland.) Little Frieburg ranks 70th in the world for opera performances per year, while Dallas with 1.2 million people ranks 257th — a norm for the USA. Freiburg even outranks Chicago for performances per year by 27 positions.

    To offer some context, the US military budget is 640 billion per year. That’s 1.7 billion per day, 72 million per hour, and 1.2 million per minute. In one hour the military spends more than the entire yearly budget of the Chicago Lyric. In 2 hours it spends more than the entire yearly budget of the NEA. If the money were needed by the military that would be one thing, but 80% of it is just corporate welfare for the military industrial complex. Americans are brainwashed into accepting this disgrace without a word of protest.

    Perhaps the situation in Norwich illustrates the extent to which the UK is being drawn down into US cultural standards.

    • Joshaw says:

      “Perhaps the situation in Norwich illustrates the extent to which the UK is being drawn down into US cultural standards.”

      Don’t agree with that. Historically, the UK has never matched Germany in its commitment to opera.

      I think the situation is probably improving if anything, but not dramatically. Certainly the prospect of an Opera North would have been unthinkable to many when I was growing up in Yorkshire but there’s still no professional symphony orchestra other than Opera North’s band. Plenty of brass bands and some good choirs though.

  • I think you’ll find that Wagnerian Birminghamsters are known as Brumhildes, Hugh…

  • newyorker says:

    Ha Ha… but seriously, I was going to say that this reminds me of the idiocy of the Lincoln Center (not MET) website, which similarly short sells (and undersells) because it is so foolish and counterintuitive.

    Which is to say, the Met’s problems are also exemplified here.

  • Simon K says:

    We saw Parsifal in the half-empty Theatre Royal in Norwich last night. It was wonderful. But I would suggest that it isn’t so much that there is no interest in opera ‘north of Watford’ – rather that, in the provinces, especially in solidly non-metropolitan East Anglia, people baulk at paying £80 to £95 a ticket for a night out, transcendent experience or no transcendent experience. There were very few cheaper seats.

  • Sean O'Byrne says:

    I knew about these performances months ago and normally I would and did travel anywhere to see Wagner and in particular Parsifal. But, having had a bad couple of years opera going, with ever more in the way of Eurotrash stagings at ROH, Welsh National and Opera North, I was wary of another possible dose of Regietheater – after all a company from the country that invented the approach…. The production photos looked like a school drama workshop so I let it go. Maybe that was a mistake, but whatever.

  • Matthew says:

    I found out about it on a Wagner site – the only way to know what’s happening globally, and travelled from New York to see Parsifal and Tannhauser in beautiful Norwich.

    It was upsetting to see so many empty seats, I was embarrassed for the performers, and wonder if in the last weeks the tickets could have been discounted and distributed to students and or other musical groups in the area.

    Even more shameful given Parsifal was SO good. The theater ‘s intimacy, and the production design ensured a very sensitive but dramatic musical performance, paced and graced perfectly by the orchestra. The singing was first rate, and acting some of the best – Kundry was really out there, and Amfortas desperate, as he should be.

    The production was mostly good, bit too grungy in places, and the ending too flat, but the Transformation has me weeping more than usual.

    I enjoyed this more than last years Met production and ROH this season, neither of which had the power of this one. Stop being patronizing about small regional theaters and get to them to witness some of the best opera!! It was well worth the trip just for the Parsifal, hopefully Tannhauser will be a bonus!

  • William H says:

    I heard nothing about this – there was no local publicity (I live in Ipswich, some 40 miles away from Norwich) – and I didn’t even get an e-mail from the Theatre Royal despite having bought tickets for 2 other events there in the last year.

    The BBC and Classic FM, for all of their promotion of the Proms and “Classic FMs orchestra in the South” didn’t mention it, and although I look at the Intermezzo blog regularly, I didn’t spot it there either.

    Very disappointed to have missed a great production of Parsifal