Just in: Vienna Opera scores box-office record

Just in: Vienna Opera scores box-office record


norman lebrecht

July 02, 2017

The Vienna State Opera sold 98.83 percent of all available tickets in the season that ended this weekend.

That’s practically sold-out for all shows.

It also achieved record box-office revenues of  €35,205,803.24, half a million up on the previous season.

That must be why the fluffy Austrian government has decided to replace its director Dominique Meyer with a chancer from the record industry.

Still, all is not lost.

The Metropolitan Opera needs a leader like Dominique Meyer.



  • Alexander says:

    way to go for a lovely Vienna … and what does the Met have to do with it but your next jibe to Peter ? ( just curious about) 😉

  • Anon says:

    There is not much room for Bogdan Roscic for improvement on the economic bottomline of the house apparently then. But I’m glad for Meyer, being able to leave a legacy at the top.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Roscic promised ‘change’, but one wonders what that could be. If it is not on the financial score, it may be the singers, conductors or the stage directors or the repertoire, but all these factors are directly related to the box office.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Did the Vienna State Opera ever have significantly lower ticket sales?

    • Sue says:

      I suspect not, but I am old enough to remember the Lorin Maazel fiasco and how he fell foul of the Austrians. Music is extremely political in that city, so beware anybody who thinks they can effect change!!!

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Indeed. I was a student in Vienna around the Maazel years, and vividly remember a lot of noise around him. Boy, the media was after him before he even took office. But I don’t remember any reports about declining ticket sales.

        A funny scene in a VPO concert made wonder how early Maazel decided to leave. In the spring of 1984, a weeks after announcing he would depart in the end of the season, Maazel conducted a VPO subscription concert that included Haydn’s Farewell symphony and left the podium before the end of the work. The VPO season, however, program was circulated before the beginning of the 1983-84 season. So he had planned to conduct the Farewell months before announcing his departure. Coincidence?

  • herrera says:

    It is absolutely silly to present isolated figures without presenting the balance sheet, and then on top of it, gratuitously trying to compare Vienna to the Met.

    Just to illustrate how meaningless these figures are in isolation, here’s a comparison to the Met based just on the figures presented here:

    1) Vienna sold 98.83% of capacity:

    So what? Vienna’s capacity is 1,709 seats. Met’s capacity is 3,800 seats. The Met sells 72% of capacity, or 2,736 seats, or 160% of Vienna’s capacity!

    160% is better than 98.93%. ; )

    2) Vienna had revenues of €35 million: So what, the Met had revenues of $160 million.

    Of course one can meaningfully compare financials of opera houses, but they must be much more comprehensive than pulling isolated figures out of context.

    • bye bye says:

      What is the bottom line, is Vienna (or the Met) operating at a loss or a profit?

      • Max Grimm says:

        I don’t know about the MET but the Vienna State Opera is and has been operating at a profit (VSO net profit in the recent past has consistently fallen somewhere in the €2,5 Mio. to €4 Mio. range).

        • Anon says:

          I don’t think it is correct to call a yearly surplus over the planned revenue a profit.
          Opera is always financed to the bigger part by a mix of subsidies (public funding) and sponsoring (private funding).

          • Max Grimm says:

            You’ll have to file your grievance with the VSO and the language gods that be, I am but a mere non-native English speaker, living within the confines of existing vocabulary and quoted terminology 😉
            The Vienna State Opera publishes an annual “Geschäftsbericht” (business report) in which it refers to the € amount left over after all expenses and deductions as “Bilanzgewinn” in the German version and, generally, as “net profit” in its English language publications (I found two reports in which they used the term “net income”).

    • Anon says:

      Vienna Metropolitan area has 2.8 Million inhabitants.
      N.Y. Metropolitan area has 19 Million inhabitants.

      Vienna has at least two opera houses.
      N.Y. has only one (Met).

      Were N.Y. as successful in filling opera seats like Vienna, it should have about 20.000 seats to fill every night.

      • John Borstlap says:

        It is impossible to compare two opera houses in such entirely different cultures, with entirely different histories. All comparison is meaningless between Vienna and NY, be it in financial or artistic terms. In many ways the cities are each other’s total opposites, literally so but also symbolically. NY is the utopian idea of progressive modernity of some 100 years ago, Vienna is an imperial city preserving the best of the past for the future, with the political shadows deleted.

      • Sue says:

        I’m sure Vienna’s population does not exceed 2 million, unless their recent arrivals account for the extra 800,000. OMG.

        • Max Grimm says:

          Read the comment again. Anon wrote “Vienna Metropolitan area“.
          According to the 2016 census, the Vienna metropolitan area had a population of ~2.7 million, ‘Vienna proper’ had a population of ~1.8 million.
          There were no 800.000 “new arrivals” in Vienna, or Austria on the whole, either. There were ~74.000 “new arrivals” who came into Austria in 2016, of which the large majority were citizens of the EU, Europe, Canada and the USA, so no need to become distressed, Sue.

          • Sue says:

            Not according to an essay I’ve read just recently in our national newspaper’sweekend magazine, written by an Arab-speaking woman who lives in Vienna. Very sobering, in depth reading.

        • Max Grimm says:

          With all due respect to the essayist whom you refer to, the quoted numbers are from the Austrian Federal Statistics Office.

      • bye bye says:

        What else is there to do in Vienna, besides the year-round Sound of Music Festival, than to go to the opera?

        Attend a session of the Vienna United Nations, visit the Vienna Stock Exchange, or attend Vienna Fashion Week, wander through its Chinatown and its Harlem…

    • Krikey. Numbers in the era of Trump. Vienna is perhaps a fifth of the size of NY. So even with an opera house of 1700 to the Met’s 3800, Vienna’s box office puts NY to shame. And we’re not even touching on the numerous number of productions and number of stars (when was Harteros last at the Met?) Vienna offers on an annual basis. Ditto for Munich, Berlin and many major European cities. Opera IS a European art form. It always baffled me when anyone claimed that the Met is the greatest opera company in the world. Ludicrous and pointless. Focus on filling those 3800 seats instead of childish competitions that were lost well before Don Giovanni finally made it stateside for the first time.

    • AMetFan says:

      Unless you compare these numbers with total expenses and break down the revenue into earned (mostly seats for both houses, including the questionable HD figures provided by the Met) and unearned (mostly contributed income), and goverment subsidies (minimal in the case of the Met), the actual attendance and revenue figures are meaningless for the purpose of comparing the success of these two companies.

      Also, for both houses, are we comparing of the actual number of seats sold or the money generated from those seats sold as a percentage of budgeted income from audience sales? If a great number of seats are sold via discount programs (or given away as comps) or receive major subsidies (like the rush ticket program at the Met, which is contributed income, not earned revenue), then the picture looks very much different.

      Short term, all of this seems inconsequential as long as the annual numbers appear to align. Long term, these questions can pose a potential institutional threat.

  • Ulick Magee says:

    This is not surprising who would want to visit NY? Travel to the US is now a real pain with all that security. Vienna is far more interesting place to visit and so is the food. The Met is too big to fill up. The other consideration is where have all the great composers gone in the 21st century? Why do we not hear any new symphonies, piano sonatas, concertos? Well, to answer that one has to understand what went wrong in the last century! Wrong note music. That is only part of the problem. The reason is that the profession of jobbing composer as we understood it from the past, is that it no longer exists. No one today is composing operas and symphonies living in dusty old attics anymore. Instead, most have ended up as academics with teaching roles, composing on the side or for commissions, the rest are composers for films, plays, and jingles for ads. How has this happened? In a word technology.
    Last century saw great technology changes which impacted on the Arts, especially music. These included sound recording, the phonograph, shellac discs, gramophone, acoustic then electrical recording, magnetic tape the LP and finally digital recording. In addition to this, radio and TV broadcasts, VHS and DVD enabled one to experience live concerts without having to leave your front door.
    In the late 19th and early 20th century there were composer conductors, for example Mahler, Weingartner and Furtwangler. They conducted because they could not live on the meagre takings as a composer and also their music was not good enough, even Furtwangler said so. The 20th century saw in the academic composer, which the wrong note brigade gradually took over during last century , once the old boys like Elgar and Vaughan Williams had gone, the rest took up the wrong note method, consequently the music schools today have no one with the knowledge of composing in the traditional old melodic way, fashions have changed symphonies, sonatas are old hat and now they only know how to write serial dog biscuit music, so it is not surprising that we have no one writing any good music these days, that is music one would want to hear more than once and which will last the test of time. So for example, instead of Beethoven we end up with blokes like Birtwistle, Turnage, Rihm! Fortunately broadcasters and concert organisers are wise to this and do not broadcast much of it at all, since they know audiences will not swallow it .
    The last of the so called jobbing composers who write actual tuney music have gone into film music for example Bernard Hermann and John Barry and ads mostly. It is in fact contrary to the belief of certain folk on here it is actually quite difficult to write an original tune and to develop it into a full scale work, Shaun Davey, for example has succeeded in fusing elements of Irish folk music into orchestral compositions, for example the Suite for Uilleann pipes and orchestra, The Brendan Voyage, demonstrating that it is possible today to write a popular work.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Sir Roger Scruton has written eloquently about the relationship between avantgarde and kitsch, them being two sides of the same coin, and neither has anything to do with serious music…. as if there were only two choices to make. The happy freedom from aesthetic standards inevitably leads to these two.

  • Nik says:

    Vienna is in a rather unique position in that pretty much every travel guidebook recommends ‘attending an opera’ as one of the top three ‘experiences’ to be ticked off whilst visiting the city. This is why the standing room and any unsold seats tend to be snapped up at the last minute by walk-in tourists in shorts and flip flops who wouldn’t know Puccini from Rihanna and many of whom do a runner after the first act. Together with the subscription system, this ensures that even the most half-*rs*d, cheaply cast repertory performance (of which there are many) can be sold out.
    Many of the other great houses don’t have access to this type of income stream. I can’t imagine many tourists visiting London would even be aware of the ROH, let alone decide to attend a performance there, unless they were already into opera.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That may be true (about Vienna), but don’t we want to interest people who would otherwise not take the trouble to attend classical music or opera? If an opera performance is treated as a tourist visit item, and innocent tourists come for the first time into an opera building, what could be against it? If tourist marketing in London would take-up a similar strategy, the ROH would, maybe, become a comparable tourist attraction.

      The fact that innocent shorts-wearing foreigners casually overcome the so-called ‘barriers’ that hinder so many populist critics of the genre, proves that such barriers are entirely imaginary, which they are, of course. I always regret it to see people in audiences inappropriately dressed for the occasion, but more important is that they are there at all and possibly would want to repeat the experience.

      • Sue says:

        Don’t forget Theater an der Wien which also produces opera. I’ve been to many there myself.

      • Nik says:

        A slight misunderstanding has crept in about the main point I tried to make in my post. It wasn’t about whether or not the tourists are appropriately dressed.
        My point was that Vienna markets itself as a city where the opera is an essential component of the tourist experience, and as a result the opera house benefits from a high level of tourist traffic that wouldn’t consider going near an opera house in London or New York, because even though their opera offerings are very good, there are hundreds of other attractions in those cities that would be higher up the list of the average, non-opera loving tourist.

        • John Borstlap says:

          That may be true, but also in Vienna there are hundreds of other attractions besides opera, or besides music. If cities like NY and London would invest more in tourist attraction of classical music and opera, that may increase audience numbers. But indeed, Viennese opera is part of the tourist flow, but how lucky they are for that reason.

    • bye bye says:

      I can assure you, wearing only “flip flops and shorts” I am already more — and better — dressed than most of the singers/supernumeraries on stage in some operas I’ve attended, where the “flipping and flopping” are from their genitalia and bare breasts some of which are considerably “shorter than my shorts”.

      ; )

  • Sharon Ryba says:

    Having just had visited Vienna as well as the Staatsoper (Donizetti) I didn’t see people wearing shorts. The ‘Stehplätze – standing places’ don’t really produce revenue – they’re 4 euros a piece! They offer simple and cheap access to opera, which is a very expensive proposition by definition. To get a ‘Stehplatz’ one also can’t just walk by, one has to stand in line for quite a few hours to get one! A quickie it ain’t!

    • Sue says:

      Yes, that’s absolutely true. I had the good fortune to get a box seat with it’s on ante-room for coats and a red sofa. Only 5 of us sat in that one box and each had their own electronic device for translations. I looked way up to the standing-room area and saw the scarves hanging over the side railing where people had reserved their standing spot. I wouldn’t have the stamina to stand for the length of an opera, not the inclination. And I also add that I met the most interesting and thoughtful people amongst audience members in Vienna’s musical establishments, over and over. Very fond memories of my 12 months there in 2011 and my 6 weeks there again in 2015. Unfortunately my landlady has died so it isn’t so easy now.

  • sl says:

    “It also achieved record box-office revenues of €35,205,803.24, half a million up on the previous season.”

    But it still needs to be subsidized by the Austrian government with around 60,4 million Euro to cover more than half of its expenses! You can hardly call that a successful enterprise.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It does not need to be successful financially as an enterprise, the Viennese opera is part of the city’s and the country’s cultural identity. And yet, under Meyer it has surely achieved many successes, in artistic terms. The subsidies are there not to help-out an unsuccessful institution but to ensure the best possible conditions.

  • AndrewB says:

    Dominique Meyer is an excellent theatre director. He offered great programming and was successful at the Theatre des Champs Elysees during his tenure there as well.