Breaking: Dane gives 9-digit sum to the opera

Breaking: Dane gives 9-digit sum to the opera


norman lebrecht

April 08, 2016

If you can’t reach anyone at Copenhagen’s Royal Opera this afternoon, it’s because they are reeling from the news, or have been rushed to hospital in shock.

In the biggest gift in Danish opera history, the AP Møller Foundation has pledged ‘a three-digit million’ amount over the next four years to help the Royal Opera recover from DK35 million in Government cuts and the high maintenance costs of a new building.



The gift is in Danish crowns, which are six to the dollar or nine to the UK pounds, but that’s still huge money.

A hundred million DK changes at US$16 million or UK£11m, and this donation is way over one hundred million. It’s an epic icebreaker in Europe, where private giving does not come near to matching US generosity to the arts.

There are two conditions attached. The donor wants tickets to be cheaper for young people and expects to see new productions of the ten most popular operas.

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen.


  • V.Lind says:

    The reason Europeans may donate less than Americans to the arts is that Europeans pay taxes, some of which are assigned to the arts in every country in Europe. Americans consider every penny paid in tax a personal outrage, which is why their “National Endowment for the Arts” is insignificant, they have no health care worth speaking of, and their so-called “public” television receives virtually no public money. If Americans wanted a hall in which to attend a concert, any great paintings or books and galleries and libraries in which to house them, or a hospital to be sick in, they pretty well had to stump up themselves. Their public television funding campaigns are long and regular.

    This Danish gift is breathtaking all right, and the response of a citizen who can to a situation where government apparently cannot. But I doubt it will start a flood of copycats in the capitals of Europe. I hope they get a good tax break!

    Perhaps there will be more tax money for the arts in Europe after they sort out the offenders from the Panama Papers and get them to pay tax at home…

    • JJC says:

      You use exaggeration in each of these categories. But to the extent that there is some truth there, many Americans desire a society which remains free from governmental oppression.

      • CDH says:

        Oh, really. Taxation = governmental oppression. Not half as oppressive as living in a country as one of millions who cannot get health care because they can’t afford it.

        The survivalist motifs about “having to defend ourselves from the government” — which often end up in locked compounds populated by enough arms to equip a small army and of course the statutory children, one of whom will inevitably get caught in the crossfire — how do these morons continue to breed?

        I doubt Europeans feel half as “oppressed” by their governments as these right-wing Americans, who simultaneously if illogically crow that theirs is the only great country in the universe (and the only free one, in their perverted definition of the term) and yet who feel the need to arm themselves to the hilt against government, and to avoid taxes at all costs.

    • Jon H says:

      Some generalizations here. The U.S. government is doing something by giving a tax break if you give to a non-profit – for every dollar you give to a non-profit, they take half of that off your taxes.
      There are more conservative minded people who think the NEA is a handout, like welfare. But these musicians are performing – they’re not just pocketing the money. Not everyone is into classical music, especially if performances are hard to get to – so everyone has their priorities. Some don’t mind millions going towards baseball stadiums (that will probably get knocked down in 10 years) – not sure I need any of my money going towards that. So taxes being lower – and me paying directly to the orchestra gets a certain message across…

    • Peter says:

      Apparently the Americans love to pay taxes for the biggest military in the world, so corporate America doesn’t have to pay for it themselves, even though the military is used for their interest almost exclusively, not for the interest of the tax paying people. To each his own.

      • Jon H says:

        Personally I don’t care what system is in place as long as the performing arts organizations aren’t always operating in crisis mode, and have reliable sources of funding, whatever that is. The organizations that are actively seeking such funding and know how to handle the donors (because strings are inevitably attached) – will continue to survive and thrive.
        Having a pool of donors has its advantages – one passes on and leaves nothing isn’t a huge problem – there will be some turnover – but a government cutting 40% all at once is difficult for any organization to absorb.
        The other point is if donors have to keep bailing out an organization, changes might have to be made – it’s preferable to have stability first. So hopefully Danish Opera will be successful there.

  • Robert Roy says:

    Either way, this is great news. Hopefully, it’ll encourage others to do the same. It would be great to see works by Bo Holten produced. A very under-rated composer, IMHO.

  • Peter Danish says:

    The NEA entire budget for EVERYTHING is 10% of what Italy budgets just for its Opera houses. Our national budget spends 11,800 times more on military than arts. 11,800 X more. We collectively as a nation simply to not value the arts the way other nations and cultures do.

  • John Daszak says:

    Great news for Copenhagen! If only we could see the same happening in the UK for English National Opera…or in Italy for the Arena di Verona… Opera is (in my view) the ultimate art form, but it’s prohibitively expensive. We need more wealthy benefactors and donors like this to secure it’s future. Governments aren’t going to foot the bill because this sort of investment doesn’t win votes…

  • Nick says:

    Let’s not forget something here. There is more than a degree of self interest in this massive donation. Who paid for the Opera House in the first place, one of world’s most expensive and best equipped at around US$500 million? Two Moller Foundations. They then donated it to the state. There followed an outcry because the full cost was tax deductible – meaning in reality the state paid for a large part of the construction!

    Now with State cuts resulting in the House not able to function at the level it would wish, the Moller Foundation has stepped up to the plate to make up the difference. Not much point in having a major Opera House if it is not going to produce the sort of production standard you intended when you paid for (some of) its construction!

    • V.Lind says:

      At least it means SOMEBODY thinks Denmark should be getting first class opera. I’d settle for that, whoever pays.

    • John Daszak says:

      I think you are wrong in saying “in reality the state paid for a large part of the construction!”. Tax deductible projects like this, if they weren’t tax deductible, simply would not happen. And I think it’s admirable that Denmark has a government which still puts a high value on the Arts. So the Danish government didn’t pay a kronor! And that money would have been redirected to another project in another country, in my opinion. As for not functioning, this donation secures that it WILL function… Isn’t that a good thing?

    • Anon says:

      Why would there be an outcry with the state indirectly by tax breaks co-financing a new opera house? The Danes are not barbarians, so why the “outcry”?