Concert going is up in Germany, opera down

Concert going is up in Germany, opera down


norman lebrecht

August 28, 2019

The German Orchestra Association (DOV) has released figures showing that concert attendances are rising – up from 5.9 million people in 2000/2001 to seven million in 2016/17.

Opera ging has fallen from 4.7 million to 3.8 million, but that does not account for tens of thousands who now watch opera in cinemas.

Last weekend, 35,000 turned out in Berlin to see Kirill Petrenko’s opening concert with the Philharmonic.



  • Edgar Self says:

    TGood to hear, except the opera figures. A Slipped Disc poster recently said German has something like 130 symphony orchestras and 83 opera houses. That’s hard to believe.

    The same poster said the U.S. has 15 orchestras and one opera house full time, which is much harder to believe.

    But,– 83 opera houses! I think Italy has even more. Maybe it’s over-exposure.

    • Gustavo says:

      German professional orchestras:

      German youth-orchestras:

      Publicly subsidised theatres in Germany
      (M in 4th column = Musiktheater):öffentlich_getragenen_Repertoiretheater_Deutschlands

      Haven’t counted… too busy attending concerts and the occasional opera.

    • Nik says:

      These statistics are quite complex, and it’s not easy to compare apples with apples. The world is littered with theatres that carry ‘opera house’ in the name but are really multi-purpose venues that only occasionally host an opera production, if at all. It’s quite possible that Italy has more such houses than Germany, but I’m pretty sure that Germany wins by a wide margin when it comes to the number of opera companies that put on a proper season every year.

    • Kyle Wiedmeyer says:

      Off the top of my head I count 25 full-time orchestras (not necessarily 52 week, but most at least 40+) in the U.S., and at least three full time opera houses (MET, Lyric, LA).

    • Novagerio says:

      Edgar: Italy has/had once 13 Enti Lirici, and then they have some Fondazioni, the one is an entity and the other a foundation. And most are in the streets, with no permanent choruses or orchestras anymore, due to rutten politics, with the exception Milano, Rome, Florence Torino and Venice. And maybe Palermo is still doing well.
      The seasons still run in the other theaters though, but most musicians and chorus singers are recruited, and they commute from town to town at their own expense and are hardly even paid.

      Germany has at least 83 opera houses, yes. And in the old days, with the old prussian and silesian territories, they were of course more than 100.

  • wladek says:

    Was that 35000 paid ticket holders ?

    • John Borstlap says:

      My old jewish uncle Max who lives in Berlin told me it were family.


    • Zenaida says:

      It was a free concert at Brandenburg Gate – and part of Kirill Petrenko’s inaugural concerts. Beethoven 9th was the only piece played. 35,000 attendees plus countless thousands watching the livestream on national TV. I was there – wonderful, appreciative audience on a summers’ night.

      • Wladek says:

        Being a free concert of course there were thousands attending .Any major city can
        attract a huge crowd with a free concert. Means
        nothing except as a social event.Petrenko was
        most clever with the 9th. it having reached the
        status of a feel good icon used as here and in mall openings. It would be an interesting crowd count if people had to pay top tickets prices
        to demonstrate in this instance their love of what is called “classical” music and yet another
        airing of the 9th.I have the feeling the crowd
        count would be quite different as would be the
        wonderful crowd reception.

  • Kiu On says:

    Opera in cinema supplements my live performance attendances. I myself have avoided trips to Germany in fear of spending my money to encounter weird regie productions. Going to Bayreuth no longer interests me. I’d rather attend Opera in concert like the Hong Kong/Sweden Ring Cycle and have been following Gurrelieder performances for the past few years in Manchester, Paris, Edinburgh.

    • Brian says:

      Spot-on, Kiu On. I live in Germany and no longer attend operas. Life is short and I am frankly tired of no longer being able to see and hear an opera (or, for that matter, a play) the way it was written. This doesn’t mean I long for wigs and gowns, and some modern stagings are indeed magnificent. But it would be really nice to hear every note that was written by the composer, instead of having to endure the infamous Regietheater cuts and changes.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The downturn of opera in Germany is, indeed, probably due to the crazy Regietheater fashion – after a while, even German opera fanatics get enough of that.

      The Hong Kong Wagner concert performances & recordings are superb thanks to Jaap van Zweden. His concert performances of Tristan and Parsifal in Amsterdam were sensational events; the Parsifal is still on the internet:

      There is a concert-Walküre coming-up this October in Amsterdam with the Radio Philharmonic. The Concertgebouw was sold-out on the day of the announcement.

      In spite of some people who complain about Van Zweden for some reason, his Wagner interpretations are great, with fluent, forward-moving, rather fast tempi (as Wagner himself always wanted), clear but expressive textures, and the orchestral sound sensitively folded around the singers (which is always a difficult thing to do on a concert stage).

      No doubt vZw will, at some day, be invited by Bayreuth, and that will be a very well-prepared and carefully polished event, so: very different from the Gergiev way of doing things nowadays.

  • M2N2K says:

    Decline of nearly a million people (about 20% of total number) cannot all be explained by “tens of thousands who now watch opera in cinemas”. Some of that huge deficit is probably due to audiences’ growing aversion to continued prevalence of regietheater on operatic stages. The concert attendance numbers are encouraging.

  • Couperin says:

    Forgive my ignorance but, so, regietheater is the proper and respectful term for “Euro-trash”?

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Yes it is. A couple decades ago, regietheater was primarily a European phenomenon. There were exceptions: for instance, the American Peter Sellars made some notable Mozart opera films in the 80s, including the Marriage of Figaro at the Trump Tower…

  • Joe says:

    Excuse my ignorance. Could someone please explain the term “regietheater”?
    Thank you.

  • Ms. Melody says:

    I am surprised it has taken so long to come to this
    Opera used to be the most complete art form where music, singing, stage sets and costumes worked together to deliver an organic, whole experience
    With the advent of euro- trash the visual has been all but eliminated and when still present is unpleasant and disturbing most of the time. Maybe the paying public is finally waking up and realizing that they have been fooled for decades and have been sold perversions in the name of innovations and progress. One only needs to look at Bayreuth productions of the last 5 years to see the trend.
    Maybe having a few shows of complete works without cuts to suit the latest delusion of a director, where singers act according to text and music, not in contradiction to it and, yes, where they wear wigs and gowns because it is correct for the time period in which the work is set or was created. Maybe these radical measures can
    help revive interest in opera but the time is running out. In 30 years, regie productions are all the public will know and remember.

  • Edgar Self says:

    U.S. orchestras used to boast that more people attend their concerts than go to baseball games. I haven”t heard that claim for a while and wonder if it ‘s still valid. I know, apples and oranges, definitions, and who’s counting and how.

    Still scratching my head over the commenter’s claim elsewhere of only 15 full-time orchestras and one full-time opera house in the U.S. It overlooks quite a lot.

  • Karl says:

    I’ve noticed fewer people in the US are attending the operas in cinemas. The only Met one that sold out last season was Adriana Lecouvreur. As for live opera I was surprised at how few people turned up for Walküre at Tangelwood. I should move to Germany. But they all speak German unfortunately.

  • JR says:

    Is this people or tickets? 7 million individual people or fewer buying several tickets each?

  • Escamillo says:

    Stage directors have a lot to answer for in the decline in opera attendance. I go for the orchestra and singing now, and cringe at what appears on stage in many instances. Too often it is just arrogance and self-indulgence on the part of the director. The Wagnerian ideal of opera as a synthesis of the arts is just a distant memory at Bayreuth now. Very sad.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Novagerio, many thanks for your information on the situation of Italian houses.

    I’ve read that in the XIX century there were 100 or more opera houses in Italy. Italy’s borders changed often then, and many of those houses could have been private, princely, or small affairs, but what a demand and market they must have created for new operas to fill them.