Another opera house caves in to musicals

Another opera house caves in to musicals


norman lebrecht

December 05, 2018

Kasper Holten has announced his strategy for the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen.

He maintains that the annual audience has dropped by 100,000 over the past decade.

His remedy?

Hit musicals.

Read here.



  • Luigi Nonono says:

    Do you really expect us to read Danish? Perhaps there were too many avant-garde productions. Mainstream opera is very popular when well done. So is light opera and operetta. But a fine first-rate musical is just as good. What about melodrama and singspiels, forgotten genres? What about doing plays with orchestras to play the incidental music by great composers? There is much to explore in a lyric theater.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      True, but I don’t miss singspiel! Musicals are the largely America descendants of operetta, much to enjoy.

  • Jack says:

    Stupid man. Why doesn’t he do Busoni’s Doktor Faustus. A guaranteed sellout.

  • Herman the German says:

    Why not, a well rehearsed and directed Les Miserables is certainly more to an audience‘s liking and enjoyment than Die Soldaten by B.A.Zimmermann. A similar role in German theatres was and is being played by operettas. That they can be done in attractive ways, can be seen at the Komische Oper Berlin or at the Gärtnerplatz Theatre in Munich.

  • Emil says:

    The Göteborg Opera produces one hit musical a year, and it funds a big chunk of the opera season, it allows them to maintain and use to capacity their orchestra (and sometimes the chorus), etc. Win-win.
    So apart from snobbery, is there any reason to complain about this?

    • John Borstlap says:

      Many big publishing houses thrive on pulp which sells abundantly more than Proust or Goethe, but it enables them to publish these latter authors for an elite. But these two different genres are not being confused or presented and marketed in the same way. So it all depends upon the way musicals are being presented.

      Yet, an opera house is created and structured for presenting opera. While I suppose that different singers can be employed for the popular trash, it is deeply offensive for the musicians in the pit to be forced to play vulgar accompaniment to vulgar shows. This means an opera house should also employ a different orchestra and this may cancel the advantages for the budget.

      Opera is not for making money, but for presenting opera. If its audiences shrink, that should not make any difference, opera should be paid for by the community anyway, through subsidies. The same with orchestras. Music is not a business, like a restaurant, but an art form for the benefit of the entire community.

  • Robin Worth says:

    I’m no fan of Holten’s, but you have to see the sense of this

    In Vienna last year (couldn’t get seats for Tosca, but both Kaufmann and Gheorghiu then cancelled) went to the Volksoper for Bettelstudent and the Raimund Theater for Schickaneder. So, an operetta and a musical. Both played to full houses, both were excellent. What’s not to like about it?

    And didn’t Opera North put on a successful Carousel a couple of years ago.

  • C Porumbescu says:

    “Caves in to musicals?” What snobbish silliness. Seriously, Weill and Brecht is art but Rodgers and Hart is trash? “Paul Bunyan” is OK but “Company” is too lowbrow? “I Vespri Siciliani” is music theatre of genius but “Carousel” is disposable entertainment? And why is a frothy Kalman operetta from the 1930s with foxtrots and saxes fit for an opera house, but a frothy Gershwin musical from the 1930s with foxtrots and saxes (and considerably more sophisticated lyrics) isn’t? Come on, please, enough of this. It’s 2018.

    • John Rook says:

      Nothing to dislike in this comment.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Weill and Brecht ARE trash. While there is nothing against the existence of trash – given the human condition – it is the claims that trash is art, and is being presented as art, which is despiccable, not its existence in itself.

  • Lilas Pastia says:

    The article is behind a paywall so I have only read the beginning. As a Norwegian I can read Danish, and from what I can read I am not alarmed at all. Holten states that he wants more performances on all three stages of the Kongelige, and these extra performances shall include musicals. There certainly is nothing wrong with that, rather a win-win.

  • John Rook says:

    Musicals are an excellent way to tell a story. If there’s something that will keep people attending live theatre, then storytelling is it.

  • Kyle Wiedmeyer says:

    Musicals are the operettas of the twentieth century, especially those up through the 1960s.