Exposed: The diva lifestyle of an opera boss

Exposed: The diva lifestyle of an opera boss


norman lebrecht

May 10, 2017

The Mediacités site in France has obtained copies of personal expenses submitted by Serge Dorny, director of the Opéra de Lyon, from 2013 to 2015.

They come to more than 8,000 Euros (or dollars) a month.

Among the extravagances are a dinner with his music director, Kazushi Ono (and his wife): 644 Euros.

A new pen: 600 Euros.

Trip to Frankfurt for a meeting with its opera chief: 8,000 Euros.

Five nights in a luxury hotel in Aix to attend one concert… a 4,000-Euro tour of Russia and the Ukraine… and so on.

More details here.

Dorny, 55, has been head of Lyon Opéra since 2003. He is not hugely popular with staff, which may explain the leak of his expenses.

In Dresden, where he was fired before taking office as general director of the Semper Oper, he was accused by a government minister of acting ‘like the Sun King’.

Dorny later won a case against the Saxon government for unfair dismissal.

UPDATE: Dorny explains his expenses.


  • John Borstlap says:

    One is reminded of Norman’s “Who killed classical music”. When an art form is under threat by a wobbly economy, eroding politics and a rising tide of populism, such people are the parasites of music and should be get rid of ASAP.

  • Andy says:

    Europe’s Jeff Melanson.

  • Allisnotfairinopera says:

    This is an unfair attack on someone of great standing in the industry. High end dinners and hotels are nothing new in this business. The shock, the shock! This plays to the peanut gallery. Go get your hands on all of expense reports for all of the artistic and general directors. How about expense reports and hotel bills for artists? What’s next? The fact that these same people take journalists out to nice dinners. This is the cost of doing business and taken out of context it does not look good. The lesson: Bosses be ware of your offices leaking your expenses. There is no privacy anymore.

    • Fred says:

      unfair, you’re kidding. Nothing justifies this kind of behaviour. Tax payers’ money using for Louis XIV behaviour, come off it

    • EricB says:

      “Unfair attack” ?
      Ah, that’s the best of the day !!!
      And his dismissal from Dresde even before he started his contract, “unfair attack” ???

  • AMetFan says:

    Last I checked, the majority of opera companies are public intitutions, or at the very least accept a great deal of public monies. This fact alone requires transparency involving expenses. Artists (few are wealthy or even working all the time) are often surprised and. frankly, sickened when they learn how their administrative bosses spend as if it was their God-given right. Detailed financial disclosure provided to boards of directors is sometimes scant and often obfuscated, and volunteer boards are for the most part ill-equipped to decipher budgets and financial reports. Sadly, I’ve seen this all too often in my professional life.

  • Fred says:

    And one is surprised classical music is dead.
    This nitwit managed to lead opera houses without any knowledge of the genre just because he was a “follower” of the late Gerard Mortier (another big spender).
    I absolutely LOATHE him, Dorny that is. Mortier at least knew about opera and genuinely loved it. dorny is no good for nothing.
    Remember Theielemann who was criticised for not willing to work with him???
    Never understood the French why they took him back.
    Macron has a cleaning job to do as well. He should be fired at sued for criminal behaviour.
    Nothing but absolutely nothing justifies this kind of behaviour, but the titanic floats along until it is ALL finished

    • erich says:

      Someone must have authorised such expenditure in his contract of employment and someone must have signed off his expenses. The malaise rests not with Dorny alone, but with those – mostly idiotic politicians and board members – with zero knowledge of the business – who sanction the contracts in the first place.

      • Ricci says:

        Dorny is probably not the only one…But sued he should be.
        Trip to Frankfurt 8000 euros?
        These kind of people are the venom of classical music.

    • EricB says:

      “I absolutely LOATHE him”
      We’re at least two, and I know LOTS of others who do too. Ask ANY member of the staff (past and present) at the Opera de Lyon, who’s had to endure the guy…

  • William says:

    I can’t comment on his expenses. But I worked with him many years ago and found him to be an inspiring boss, full of ideas and passion – things sadly lacking within much of the classical music industry.

  • Simon S. says:

    Is this unusual by French standards? (No offence intended.)

  • Nick says:

    I don’t believe it matters one whit whether you are good at your job. Who authorizes/approves such ridiculous expenses? €600 for a pen is idiocy! And how is it possible for anyone to spend even a fraction of €8,000 for one meeting in Frankfurt? Presumably he was returning from a holiday auditioning singers on a beach in the Maldives and charged his company the return portion of his air ticket and a couple of nights in a high-end suite!

    • Lara says:

      …haha presumably taking his wife & family on holidays while continue to work. Is he even married?

      • Ebubu says:

        He is indeed.
        I don’t know about him taking his family on vacation while continuing to work, but I do know that even the video rentals for his kids have in the past been presented as “professional expenses”…

        • Lara says:

          Video rentals as professional expenses – unbelievable! Do you know if they did get approved? Surely he must have enough money to afford those! Lucky family then getting some extra ‘pocket money’ with all the money he is already earning. Let’s hope that when he starts in Munich 2021 that this will come to an end with overspending taxpayers money!

  • rudi says:

    he hath no shame

  • EricB says:

    “Not hugely popular” is a euphemism !
    He’s indeed quasi unanimously aborrhed.