Opéra de Paris posts massive loss

Opéra de Paris posts massive loss


norman lebrecht

October 26, 2017

Stéphane Lissner’s company had a really bad year.

In 2016 fiscal, the Opéra lost 9.3 million Euros ($11 million), an amount which would cause heads to roll in most other countries. In France, deficits are the norm.

The good news? Audiences for opera and dance were up  7% on the previous season and the house played to 91% of capacity. Average audience age was mid-40s.

Production costs, however, went through the roof – 40.8 million Euros. Where did that money go?



  • Dominique says:

    I know how the French system works from the inside. There will, sadly in this case, be no action taken, no accountability, nothing. There will be some discussion but in the end no action will be taken against Opera management and nothing to avoid this poor result being repeated will be requested. The fact that will be emphasised will be that audience attendance was up and the people got culture. The fact that tax payers’ money was overspent won’t phase many too much. That is how things go in France and if they can find a way to get more tax out of a successful rich person they will. Nobody will see anything wrong with that, as in France success and having earned money is a big negative and such people, if they remain in the country, must pay a big price for having dared to make money and be successful. They are looked at with suspicion and scorn and most young people don’t aspire to be successful, just be bureaucrats and live endlessly off the taxpayer, going on strike and accusing the rich whenever the money runs out or they overspend their budgets. I look forward to the day when France gets its act together and puts to rest their archaic hatred of success and money. Only then can the country be taken seriously, be competitive and get competent international executives to manage their institutions.

    • Boulezinho says:

      A very schematic and black and white explanation to a complex situation. A regular reading of these columns should be enough to prove how “international executives” can be icompetent. Good handling of funds has very few to do with nationality.
      What bothers me more is that with this huge spending, price of tickets remain so high…….

    • Sue says:

      I think you’ve nailed it. My son’s best friend lived in France for 3 or 4 years making wine. He developed depression because his marriage ended and had to go on anti-depressants. The French taxpayer funded him being ferried everywhere in a taxi because he told us he couldn’t drive on anti-depressants. I thought to myself, “wont’ be long now, comrades”.

  • John Borstlap says:

    There is also the question whether such deficit – if covered by the state – is not merely an investment. Opera is not an endeavor to MAKE money, it is there to COST money. The notion of profit does not come into question. Yes, opera is expensive but infrastructure, defence, and garbage collecting is expensive too. Not to speak of subsidized sport events including the current necessary safety measures.

    • Nik says:

      I’m wondering though, if the increasing deficit is down to exploding production costs: was there a budget for production costs? Of course opera will always consume a certain amount of subsidy, but surely it should be managed in a way that a certain budget is set for the year (including a projected loss to be covered by subsidy), and then it should be up to the management to run the house within that budget. Just because opera is loss making by nature doesn’t mean that management should have free rein to run it as a bottomless pit.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Of course. But suggesting that something goes wrong if there is a deficit, is missing the point. It goes without saying that a structural deficit has to be managed carefully within the projected budget… But it is not so, that in France all opera houses are scandalously loosing money on their productions, as if this is a national exception.

  • William Osborne says:

    In 2014, the deficit at the Met was $22 million, about twice that of the Paris Opera’s current sum. Even though the Paris Opera runs two houses and a 500 seat small theater, and does about 380 performances per year (about 80 more than the Met) its 200 million Euro budget is about a third smaller than the Met’s. (And Paris is about as expensive.)

    The French government gives the Paris Opera 100 million Euros per year (equal to about 80% of the entire sum of the NEA.) 70 million comes from box office receipts. The orchestra has 170 members, the chorus 110, and the corps de ballet 150. It performs to a total audience of about 800,000 people (of whom 17% come from abroad), with average seat occupancy of 94%. In the 2012/13 season, the Opéra presented 18 opera titles (two in a double bill), 13 ballets, 5 symphonic concerts and two vocal recitals, plus 15 other programs. The company’s training bodies are also active, with 7 concerts from the Atelier Lyrique and 4 programs from the École de Danse.

    So my fellow Americans, compare that to Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix, St. Louis, etc. then bury your heads in the sand….

    • John Borstlap says:

      My fly on the wall in Houston just informed me dat two staff members of the local opera have been found on the beach, kneeling with their heads in the sand. Ambulance personel tried to reanimate them but all help came too late. It may be dangerous to give the right advice.