Oslo Opera in ‘difficult and serious’ economic crisis

Oslo Opera in ‘difficult and serious’ economic crisis


norman lebrecht

July 07, 2016

Things have got so bad they are letting out the architectural landmark for society weddings.


Newspaper Finansavisen reported last week that the Opera & Ballet reported a deficit of NOK 67 million that may well be much higher, because actual pension costs for dancers who can retire at age 41 and singers who can retire at 52, are believed to be higher than estimated.

The Norwegian Opera & Ballet has been rocked by internal conflict and severe cost problems that are forcing new cost-cutting efforts. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The results for 2015 were much worse than for 2014. Opera & Ballet’s chief executive Nils Karstad Lysø confirmed the Opera and Ballet is in a “difficult and serious” economic situation. Lysø blames it entirely on pension costs.

English report here.


  • Bjorn Jesterdi says:

    The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund had around USD 873 billion in it as last published mid-2015. Just dip into that for a few billion and raise the dancers’ retiring age to 72. Problem solved.

    • Whoever says:

      When you find a ballerina who can dance Odette/Odile’s thirty-two fouettés en tournant in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at age 71, PLEASE let me know. I’d love to see it!


  • Bob Thomas says:

    “Things have got so bad they are letting out the architectural landmark for society weddings.”

    What’s so bad about this? Sounds like a smart new income stream to me. I’m surprised more halls don’t do things like this.

  • Nick says:

    I frequently wonder why it is that the managements of opera companies (and not a few orchestras) with what seems like increasing regularity not only fail to find a way of getting their books balanced, they are so hugely unbalanced it seems to threaten their very existence. Of course these are hugely expensive enterprises and huge leaps of faith have to be taken each and every season that the public will turn up and pay and donate as budgeted, But isn’t it odd that it is failure to reach income projections that is usually the cause rather than massive overspending. After all, Boards have to approve budgets in advance of each artistic year and, no matter that this blog has often aimed arrows at Boards for failing to carry out their fiscal responsibilities, expenditure by that stage is by and large committed – given that salaries and fees make up a very large line item in the budget. The view seems to be, no matter what the increase in expenditure, let’s just push up the income projections – and then hope.

    The managements of commercial enterprises have no choice but to balance the books and make a profit, If not, many will find themselves fired. Yet managements of the large musical performing companies are rarely held to the same sort of account. Just the other day this blog highlighted Michael Kaiser’s Report on the state of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Kaiser’s light may not be shining as brightly now as it did some a decade or so ago, but if that Report highlights one issue it is the failure to attract a larger donor base. That is the job of a Board and its management team. Is the CEO not at least partially responsible? Yet this CEO moved from Atlanta after presiding over a series of major problems there. It has been asked before, but how is it that a failed CEO then moves up the ladder and becomes what certainly seems like the failed CEO of another top orchestra? Is there such a dearth of capable, ambitious yet business-like managers out there? Are Boards so scared they appoint anyone with experience, no matter how many major screw-ups their appointee has made in the past? Indeed, are they so scared they appoint anyone without even an iota of actual experience in management of their the art form they present? And yes, that is a very definite dig at the Board of the Metropolitan Opera!

    I have no idea of who runs Oslo Opera or how it has come to this situation. But will anyone be fired for allowing singers to retire at such a ludicrously early age (or. if this was agreed ages ago, for not putting in place new building blocks to get this increased) and for failing to ensure pension funds are adequately topped up? I doubt it!

  • Sue says:

    OMG, I’m sorry but it’s just horrific hearing about this. What would Kirsten Flagstad think – unfortunately unable to comment because she stands outside in all weathers in statue form. I was in this Opera House only last year and was staggered by its beauty and elegance and I remember thinking that this is about the most appropriate monument you can build (apart from Copenhagen’s phenomenal O/H) to the greatest music ever written.