Opera is 20% down in Australia

Opera is 20% down in Australia


norman lebrecht

August 21, 2014

Annual live performance statistics are in and the news is bleak for opera down under.

Attendances are down 20%, revenue 9.5%. Higher ticket prices reduced the budget gap, but drove audiences away. Fewer performances and poorer marketing failed to attract a new public.

Stage musicals, which Opera Australia is using as a revenue driver, are also down.

Everywhere in the world (except the Metropolitan Opera), attendances for opera are on the increase. Australia is our of step.

What should the Aussies do? Change managements, start over.

Stats and analysis here.

sydney opera



  • LJ says:

    For someone who is only going to Opera in Australia because of the Under-30 subscription ($60 tix per performance vs $250). I don’t know if I will continue attending regularly once I hit the big 30. Especiallly with access to HD livestreams nowdays I’m often finding I’m enjoying the overseas productions so much more.

    OA has an issue where especially in Sydney the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Theatre Opera House is just inadequate for opera. The stage is small so production ingenuity is limited, and the orchestra pit is so muffled that only the biggest Verdi/Puccini stuff will carry across. And of course staging Wagner is just out of the question because of the space.

    In terms of productions themselves, most are just pretty bland. The best new productions border on really good, (La Fura dels Baus’ un ballo maschera) to the grey and drab (Current Don Giovanni by McVicar) to the WTF? (Tosca by John Bell.). And the program year on year is just, Verdi/Puccini hits with the odd Mozart & Donezitti and of course Carmen.

    I guess the real problem is that OA just not been able to attract the singers to stage the really good stuff, probably due to the fact that we are at the butt-end of the world. Although next year we’re getting Michael Fabiano in Faust and Ferruccio Furlanetto in Don Carlos. And we’ve just had Jonas whom we’ve had to sell off our assets to afford tix to.

    But yeah I’m not surprised, even standing tix are like $50 here. So it’s a question of whether you’d rather save up every couple of years to head to Europe for the good stuff or continue been frustrated at all of the above. And I’m not surprised audiences are staying away, especially younger audiences. Which is a shame because the free yearly opera performance during the Sydney summer is always packed and going to that as a kid was what got me interested in the first place.

    anyway, that’s my rant

  • Lewes says:

    But how bizarre! I thought opera attendance was up worldwide, in contradiction to Peter Gelb’s flimsy excuses for the Met’s low ticket sales. Can it be that Gebl is secretly running Opera Australia as well? Yes, that must be it!

  • Fourth Norn says:

    Might I suggest that it is not opera itself that is in crisis (never before has it been so accessible at the highest standards and watched and listened to more widely via modern technological means) but rather it is the opera company/opera house/stage-focused format which is in crisis. Filmed/recorded versions of staged performances are all too familiar, but where are the operas written specifically for the new media? I’m convinced that if the great composers of the 19th century were alive today they would be writing not for 2,000 seat auditoriums but specifically for film, television, on-line broadcasts and stereophonic recordings. Opera originated in the ducal palaces of northern Italy during the Renaissance and seems to have stayed there. Get with it composers and start creating new forms for a new world.

    • William Safford says:

      Even more importantly, get with it, opera houses, and start commissioning and presenting works for our new world.

  • RW2013 says:

    toim ta go linden

  • Nick says:

    Australian Opera presenting musicals seems to make little sense, given that commercial promoters regularly produce a stream of excellent musical productions, some of which find their way to the West End and Broadway.

    LJ is correct, though, in that the Opera Theatre in the Sydney Opera House remains a near-disaster. As David McVicar said recently, “it is inadequate for opera.” If ever a building was misnamed, the Sydney Opera House is it. Due to pressure from the state authorities, the 1,900 Opera House envisioned by Jorn Utzon became a 2,800 seat Concert Hall for the Sydney Symphony. Into the 1,150 seat Drama Theatre was squeezed a 1,500 opera theatre with a pit that is far too small for other than medium-scale forces.

    There has been much talk in Sydney about a new opera house being constructed. It will probably never happen. In the meantime, sadly it will be the HD relays which attract more of the opera audiences.