Jonas Kaufmann: The biggest houses are struggling to sell tickets

Jonas Kaufmann: The biggest houses are struggling to sell tickets

News

norman lebrecht

May 17, 2022

Kaufmann speaks of an ‘existential crisis’ in opera, during an interview in Australia, where he is singing Lohengrin.

He says: ‘Even the biggest houses, the strongest, the Vienna State Opera, Munich State Opera, Berlin, you name it. They all struggle in selling tickets and they play productions in front of a half empty hall. And that cannot go on for a very long time…

‘We have to do something. In the past, the golden times before the pandemic, we didn’t pay attention to entertain people. It was more [about aiming] to be as outstanding, as extravagant, as on-the-edge as possible within this art form. And I said back then, and I say it now again, I think it’s necessary that there has to be an understanding that we do it for the people.

‘It is necessary that you come up with a package where everyone feels pleased and entertained.’

Kaufmann says the key is not to ‘turn the story upside down’ for the sake of it, but ‘to find as may layers as possible without destroying the surface’. And, of course, the music is ‘really, really gorgeous.’

Read on here.

Comments

  • Luciano says:

    More people would attend if ticket prices weren’t so high. And why are ticket prices so high? To pay the enormous fees of these star singers, directors and conductors. No offence to Kaufmann, he is a great artist, but if he thinks his fee isn’t part of the problem – he’s dreaming!

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      At Wiener Staatsoper in December 2022/January 2023, Mr Kaufmann is scheduled for four performances as Andrea Chénier and four as Radamès.

      Traditionalists shall be pleased: the production of “Chénier” dates from 1981, “Aida” from 1984. Normally, tickets for productions as old as these are sold at a low price schedule.

      The first performance of “Chènier” and all four “Aidas” will be sold at exaggerated prices usually reserved for new productions. Maybe it’s because we also get Elīna Garanča as Amneris (no Aida has been announced!).

      • Becker Waltraud says:

        Standingplaces in Vienna still are very cheep; even 5 Categoies for seats are offered for those AIDAs for much less than 100 €. Pop-events are more expensive……

    • Una says:

      Wonder how much is a football match ticket, or a ticket into Wimbledon that are always sold out? And their fees? Different priorities and never more so since the pandemic. Wonderful Opera North is not expensive, but the same problem.

      • Henry williams says:

        Tickets for f1 motor racing start from
        £200. Up to £700.00.
        It is not only opera that is expensive.

        • guest says:

          Motor racing caters to a very different type of audience, to those for whom a 700 ticket is less than a Starbucks coffee for normal mortals. Also the big money in motor racing doesn’t come from ticket sales, it comes from ads, from the rights for the TV transmission, and from selling overpriced merchandise with the name of your fav racer stamped on it. The high ticket prices are just the icing on the cake, for no other reason than the audience can afford it.

          Football matches or the Wimbledon aren’t that sold out either. The big cups, the semifinals, the finals – these are sold out. The rest, not so much. And like in the case of motor racing, the big money doesn’t come from ticket sales.

          And how many races or big cup football matches are there _every_ year? Opera houses of long tradition, who offer long seasons, have to sell 150-250 opera performances per year, every year. If they have an affiliated ballet company, there’s 80-200 ballet performances per year on top of the opera performances.

          Lastly, with football, tennis, or racing, you know what you get. With opera, you might purchase a ticket to a Mozart opera in good faith but get something that makes you wonder whether you haven’t landed in Bedlam or on the filming set of the latest low budget p*rn by mistake.

          • henry williams says:

            if the silverstone racing
            circuit did not have fans
            paying for tickets. it would of gone bust.
            tv is not enough.

          • guest says:

            @henry
            Ticket sales might be enough for circuit maintenance and the salary of people hired for this task, though I doubt it. The circuit must be shipshape, we don’t want any accidents because of low quality tracks. But the racing teams are separate entities, they race on many circuits, not only Silverstone, and spend a lot of money on themselves – on drivers’ salaries (millions), on the team of engineers fiddling incessantly with the car, on the small army of busybodies surrounding the drivers and the engineers, on the many cars smashed in tests if not during race. The big funds come from ads and merchandise. If it weren’t so, the cars and the circuit itself wouldn’t be plastered with ads, and you wouldn’t get your fav team’s logo and your fav racer’s name on everything from t-shirt to chocolate Easter Bunny.

          • Nick2 says:

            There is zero comparison between a major sports event and an opera performance – other than that both involve drama. A sports event is able to charge far higher entrance prices for a whole variety of reasons. Part is scarcity value. How many F1 races, Wimbledon Tennis Championships, British Open Golf Championships and soccer matches featuring Manchester City and Liverpool are there in a year? Then compare that with the number of opera performances at the Royal Opera House.

            Then consider the number of spectators a big sports event will attract compared to ROH performances. Somewhere between 50,000 and 500,000 probably compared to perhaps 12,000 for a week of performances at the ROH. There is zero comparison.

            Then consider the popularity and worldwide attraction of major sports stars compared to the handful of top opera stars. Again there is no comparison. Add to that the vast revenues that a major sports event attracts. It’s not just entrance tickets and television. Sponsorship for sports events, many of which are beamed around the world, is massive. Motor racing has been cited. Well if you hardly see a blank piece of clothing on a driver’s outfit or on the car he is driving it is because a vast number of sponsors, large and small, queue up to be associated with them. And the cash they pay for the privilege is extraordinarily high. Companies like Nike, Adidas, TaylorMade and others spend tens of millions to sponsor sports stars. DHL, Emirates, Fedex and a host of others sponsor or advertise at events. Even Rolex pumps many millions into sport. How much does it pump into opera?

            But that is just the start. There is the hugely expensive and highly lucrative corporate hospitality. Television rights have been mentioned. These are usually humungous and in the many millions for an event taking place over several days.

            The late Mark McCormack, known as the King of Sports worldwide, was persuaded that his IMG should become involved in the arts. Given that the division generated precious little by way of profit, he quickly realised that it was all but a wasted exercise. IMG Artists was the first part of his Empire to be sold within months of his unexpected death.

    • M McGrath says:

      Ticket prices are NOT the sole factor in the empty houses. In Frankfurt, it’s hard to even fill the cheap seats on many evenings. And in Strasburg, a Joyce di Donato concert of Berlioz in 2 weeks with ticket prices at max 60 Euros is still half empty. We need to think more broadly than in the past if we want to fill the houses again. Let’s not just bash the old favorites of fees, ticket prices… something substantial has changed about human behavior with respect to ‘consuming’ classical music, esp. opera.

    • Dominic Stafford says:

      Fees, even for a famous artist like Jonas Kaufmann, are very, very much less (in real terms) to what was being paid to leading singers in the past. In real terms, Kaufmann sings for about a third of the fee that Franco Corelli received at the height of his career. Tickets at many international houses are subsidised and are no more expensive than going to a football match.

      • guest says:

        “Kaufmann sings for about a third of the fee that Franco Corelli received at the height of his career”

        I very much doubt this. Firstly, what’s ‘height of his career’ for you? The period when he could sing but was making less money, or the last years when he was way past his prime but was making more money? For me it’s the first. In the early to mid 1960’s Corelli was paid $1500-2000 per performance. The annual salary of a Harvard Law School graduate in that period was around $10000 for the first job. So Corelli was making per performance 15-20% of a Harvard Law School graduate’s annual salary. I doubt JK sings for less than 10000 per performance, and I doubt a Harvard Law School grad makes less than 50000-60000 p.a. today at his first job.

        JK isn’t in the last years of his career yet. Just wait and see – I predict he’s going to cling to the stage until he dies, and he will be paid more then than than today 😉 Today’s ‘artists’ have lost all decency, and the public has lost what little common sense they had to begin with.

      • guess says:

        that should read ‘three times more than 50000-60000’ not ‘less’

      • John Kelly says:

        That fee differential seems appropriate to me since Franco Corelli was a GOD!

    • PG Vienna says:

      Look at Rock concerts or London Musical and tickers are sold for 200 or 250 quids ….

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    Price is an important thing concerning opera or the galas with great singers. Last month I have seen in concert in Paris Philarmonie Kaufmann for his lieders tour with Diana Damrau. The prices were very very high or you have to be very far or with the singers behind you… Personally I payed only 45 euros (thanks to a subscription) with a place towards the side of the stage. I was very close and it was a superb concert I will never forget. But I would have never buy a place in an italian theater it would have been too expensive. That’s the problem when you have a concert with someone who sing and of course the opera must sell tickets with not too much expensive prices.

  • M McAlpine says:

    My word! Put on opera to please the people who actually pay the money instead of the idiots who want to propagate their own political mantra! Quite a revolutionary way of thinking!

    • Paul Dawson says:

      You got me thinking. My flip answer to why I go so rarely compared with such frequent attendance living in London in the 70s and 80s is that I now live 200 miles from the nearest opera company (LA).

      But then my choice of location indicates that opera attendance is no longer a high priority for me. I have had too many disappointments – almost always down to the production.

      In the middle of the desert with a hefty stack of CDs, I can listen to what I want, when I want, in the musical interpretation of my choice and with the volume control set on 11 if I so wish.

      As for the ‘meaning’ of the opera, comparing erudite writings about the work stimulates me more than the visual monstrosities I have seen in recent times.

      Nevertheless, I do have a store of fond memories of live performances and I was happy to find that my visit to the UK next month coincides with Opera North performing Parsifal.

      • Una says:

        Yes, Parsifal. Will be first class without any star singers as they can’t afford them, but stars they will bi in the real sense, and all for £15! Why people don’t frequent Opera North from London much more, and a cheap hotel and a cheap train ticket, I don’t know, and then a nice weekend away in the north in Leeds. They might get a nice surprise!

      • Paul Dawson says:

        A few hours after posting this, I received an unsolicited call from LA Opera. No idea what they wanted – I was too busy to talk. Intrigued as to whether this was coincidence or not.

      • Henry williams says:

        You are right. If one has good audio and
        Good speakers. Why bother to go out.

        • Mick the Knife says:

          On the other hand, I’ve realized, latish in life, that recordings are no longer of much interest. They absolutely can not replace the thrill of live performance; given that a thrill is produced.

          • Paul Dawson says:

            I agree with your second sentence, but not your first. Recordings serve an important role.

            I’m a big fan of live recordings – the Goodall Ring ranking as my most-played.

            Am I alone in wishing that the audience applause would go on for much longer in live recordings. The sense of ‘being-there’ gets lost when the applause is faded out ofter just a few seconds.

          • John Kelly says:

            Nothing beats live performance when it’s good, but Fritz Reiner’s recordings come darn close.

  • maria says:

    So good to have a great Jonas Kaufmann!!!! He is the only one to save the Art World because he is so smart. All the others,they are just not thinking enough and not getting in contact with him.
    It’s so good to have someone confident.

    • guest says:

      You forgot to add an irony alert to your comment.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      I have seen on Amazon Prime the documentary about him, in his house. Of course he’s very narcissistic like so many great artists but he’s very honest and franck in he’s way to see his career I like it. Big respect for him.

  • Tamino says:

    Opera as an art form only has survived until to this very day, because of the music. It is not about the play, the libretto, no matter how many layers it has and how interesting it also can be.
    I avoid for instance usually opera houses, where on the program the stage director is listed before the conductor. They have understood nothing and are less likely to stage good opera performances.

  • Lawrence Kershaw says:

    Mind-bogglingly dumb assertion from somebody who has bled the opera world dry for years with exorbitant (and not merited artistically or commercially) fees. Ticket prices are an outrage and I’m afraid that the cohort of which he is a member are primarily responsible. I know of one instance last year where the ‘star’ singer’s fee – for a gala admittedly, rather than a production performance – was more than twice that of the orchestra and conductor; and it sold 70%! Sorry, but that’s immoral, as well as being damaging to the industry.

    • Becker Waltraud says:

      Who claims about the soccer-boys, the popstars or tennis-players?

      • guest says:

        The big money for the soccer-boys or tennis-players doesn’t come from ticket sales, it comes from ads, TV transmission rights, and from selling overpriced merchandise with the name of your fav soccer-boy on it. The big money for popstars comes partly from selling millions of recordings and partly from recital concerts in huge venues with sound amplification. Opera with sound amplification isn’t opera. Pav sold his big recitals as opera and the nekulturny bought into the act, shrug. JK’s technique is so poor he can’t be heard in a large opera house unless he sings f and ff. He’d be lost singing on a football stadium without amplification.

        • Renate Mckeever says:

          You are totally wrong, KAUFMANN is gorgeous, can act, and has a great voice, the music is what counts in Opera,
          Stop whining, he is the only super star left, we pay more in Oregon to go to a basketball game than for Opera tickets renate

          • guest says:

            Lol @Renate, stop blaming the messenger and stop advertising in caps, it’s so yesteryear. JK’s diction is mumbled, his emission unfocused, his registers unequalized, his passagio constricted, and he is unable to sing audible piani and below. Don’t confuse singing in a mic for the broadcast or streaming, with the sound heard (or rather not heard) in the upper rings in the house. That unfocused sound doesn’t carry well. His colorless, dry and squeezed falsetto is a disgrace. His sense of rhythm is monotonous to a fault. To top all this, he has put a lot of effort into sounding like anything, just not like a tenor. But I should think he’ll do nicely for Oregon 😉 No objection from me if you fork out a few hundreds to _see_ him in concert, I think he is right to fleece the fans for all he can get and some. In these, er, enlightened times, ‘influencer’ is a job, possibly even a profession. This shows there’s plenty of sheep around, just asking to be fleeced.

  • A.L. says:

    The proverbial chickens coming home to roost. This has been a long time coming. The pandemic only accelerated the inevitable. But Kaufmann didn’t mention the Elephant in the Room: The collapse of the star system in opera’s corner of the art world; the disappearance of important operatic voices with something individual to say and that make one take notice. Combine those two together with some additional seasoning such as the Regie regime destruction and the fact that no one can compose anymore in any significant fashion and you have a recipe for DESPAIR.

  • guest says:

    “Kaufmann says the key is not to ‘turn the story upside down’ for the sake of it but ‘to find as many layers as possible’ ”
    Good singing, Jonas, isn’t key?

    What has destroyed opera is bad singing and trying ‘to find as may layers as possible’, read making up non-existent layers. Jonas, you should read more Isaiah Berlin and pay less attention to regietheater. And fix your technique, though I suspect it is past fixing now.

    Opera houses were half empty before the pandemic, this isn’t a new development. Jonas is part of the problem, not of the solution, alongside, in no particular order, opera house managers, pseudo-intellectual ‘critics’, regietheater directors, high prices, bad voice teachers, and uneducated audiences who are so insecure, they eat up everything the media is pushing at them; failing that, everything that can be twisted into a sex symbol.

    His complain reads like fear he’ll have to lower his fees. Cheer up, Jonas, there’s always the odd Christmas concert you can sell to fans.

    • Maria says:

      Not empty at Covent Garden!

      • Rike says:

        ..obwohl die Tickets dort wahrlich nicht günstig sind. Aber die Inszenierungen sind meist erzräglich.

      • guest says:

        You and the ROH site are in disagreement. Funny how there’s plenty of available seats every time I care to look. For tonight’s performance I counted 150 available seats in almost all price categories before giving up the counting. Granted, the house is more than half full. The ‘half empty’ in my comment above was a bit of hyperbole, houses are seldom half empty in Europe, but neither are they sold out. Opening nights are the exception.
        Not every city in Europe can boast of embracing oligarchs as London and Monte Carlo do; the expensive seats are sold out accordingly.

  • guest says:

    N.B. Just in case someone feels like taking it up with me because of the ‘everything that can be twisted into a sex symbol’ of my previous comment, read the title of the article, or interview, or whatever it is, Norman has linked to (I say it’s neither, just a puff piece, a dime a dozen.) The title reads: ‘He’s the hottest tenor in the world.’

  • John Kelly says:

    He’s right. I just saw Lucrezia Borgia in Bologna. House full (small house). Singing very good. The female director had “moved” the setting to 1930s Fascist Italy (you know what’s coming……….) and in a slaughterhouse we saw the soldiers torturing and sexually abusing imprisoned young women bedecked in nothing but lingerie. Dragging them out of cages and tying them up etc. This made Luc Bondy’s Tosca look like the Teddy Bears’ picnic I can assure you. I believe the idea was to explain why Lucrezia was about to poison 5 men later on for no apparent reason – this was the apparent reason (she grew up in a fascist macho world). It was sort of like a bad Russ Meyer sexploitation movie. At the first performance there was apparently a good deal of catcalling but at MY performance at intermission an older gent seated right in front of me (and who clearly knew the opera backwards, I could tell from the opening bars) got up and started screaming “You RUINED it! You made it UGLY! You are SCUM! SCUM!” he did not return post intermission (and may have been reaching for blood pressure meds) and neither did a good many others. My first thought was “we could use him at the Met on some evenings” but he was, of course, absolutely right and so is Mr Kaufmann.

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    You can’t rely on him though. He often cancels at short notice.

    • JS says:

      Really? and when was the last time he did that? and did he actually cancel shows more often than other singers? Elina Garanca often disappears from the cast about two weeks before the performance (recently Aida in Paris, Requiem and Eboli in New York) and somehow no one says that this Garanca is unreliable. In fact nobody comments on that. He HAD a period when he cancelled a lot, but it was clear that something was wrong with him, he even had a break of several months when he did not sing at all (in 2016). But the funny thing is that the campaign “Kaufmann is a serial canceller” started BEFORE all that – at his first MET cancellation (2 performances of Valkyrie in April 2012) – mostly on Parterre but Zachary Wolfe also contributed. So..

    • Becker Waltraud says:

      When?

    • EbbaAnders says:

      Long ago!

      • Madeleine Richardson says:

        Kaufmann, who has had some high-profile cancellations, left soon after the Met announced the production. Opolais did not get good reviews when she sang “Vissi d’arte” at a gala at the Met in May and soon cancelled her appearance in the new production.

        Just one of the many instances I have read about of him cancelling through ill health. This one was from the MET.

    • Maria says:

      Most singers cancel at short notice.

  • Bloom says:

    What a piece of reactionary crap. The world is neither pleasing nor entertaining , why should opera, or art in general be like that? Just for the sake of money? Mr. Kaufmann has turned into a self-sufficient , mediocre opera mogul, eager to preserve his status quo in the business and to block any experiment, any new sign of life that might endanger his bankable position . Exploring new ways of expression, taking the risk of doing it, is part of the struggle that defines both life and living art.

    • Tamino says:

      It’s a bit hypocritical, to enter an existing art form like a parasite and destroy it from within, rather than to create something new, don’t you think?
      The sad reality about most of these directors is, that they are one of the least artistically qualified person in the Theater, yet take charge of the whole operation.

      The creators in opera are the composers, and the librettists.

      All others are interpreters. And the creators have to be always present in spirit.
      It’s not really complicated.

      • Bloom says:

        Not everything what Regietheather does is great, but I always prefer a daring failure to a boring academic approach. The creative spirit is elitist, daring and experimental . The mass appeal ( we need ”to entertain” people , ”to please” them blabla) is the last thing the true creator has in mind in the act of creation.

        • Tamino says:

          false dichotomies? the antagonist to director-centric Regietheater is not „academic“ as you imply, but rather composer/music/singer -centric.

          Also you are totally wrong about the composer not giving a damn about if people like his oeuvre.

      • Bloom says:

        Mr.Kaufmann is trying to hide the fact that his own creative spirit is extinct by promoting this ”let me entertain you” slogan. He is also trying to justify the obscene fees he claims for the sacred mission of entertaining and pleasing people – and ”saving opera”. He can be at peace and retire . Opera is not going to die without him, that s for sure.

        • Susan Toth says:

          Hmm. So you sneer at the idea of “entertaining and pleasing people.” What are your opposites? “Boring” and “irritating”?

    • Allen says:

      What is the point of reflecting the world as it is in the persuit of superficial relevance? Rather takes away the point of buying a ticket, doesn’t it? Art should be aiming higher than this. The music generally does, too many productions do not.

      Directors should direct for the public, not for each other or for a tiny minority of bored critics. An embargo on “new” and “explorative” Nazi analogies would be a good place to start.

      Directors’ narcissism is discrediting live performance and the subsidies that support them.

    • EbbaAnders says:

      Not true. He has been singing in a lot of modern productions. F.i. this “Lohengrin”. You should do some research.

    • Bonnieprob says:

      Hardly – the Munich Parsifal, Otello & Tristan weren’t orthodox productions nor were the ROH Manon Lescaut & Fidelio. Jonas speaks his mind & he sees the situation clearly. He has also more than paid his dues as anyone who knows the details of his lengthy career before he became a star overnight can attest.

  • Robin Worth says:

    It would be interesting to know more about what the main houses actually pay.

    There is an air of mystery about it all, and the only exception I can remember is when the Met had a display in one of the foyers, which included correspondence with Pavarotti (shown long after he had died) and which gave details of what they would pay, both fee and expenses.

    A few years ago the ROH published a financial report which showed that Tony Pappano had conducted 52 performances at £10.000 a time, this in one year, but I do not remember anything similar in other houses.

    None of the above is intended to suggest that artists are not worth what they are paid. My point is only that one cannot form any kind of opinion unless one knows at least some of the facts.

    • Anonymous says:

      The big houses in the U.S. used to get together once a year to set the fees that singers could get. Don’t know if they still do that. I heard that the top fee presently at the Met is $17,000 per performance for the top stars, but there might be perks that add to that.

  • Tinkerbell says:

    What is he talking about!!
    The world’s leading tenor likes to pontificate.
    Pavarotti said many times that the audience is the most important for an artist. The audience is your boss.

    • Becker Waltraud says:

      Thats why this Mr.P. only sang a few best sellable roles…..

      • guest says:

        But he sang them with clear diction, ringing tone, and sounding like a tenor, not mumbled, unfocused, and sounding like a constricted baritone. And two decades into his career Pav’s _every single role_ was ‘sellable’ (read marketable), even those that shouldn’t have been.

    • EbbaAnders says:

      But that is exactly what K says in the interview.

    • Maria says:

      Yes, if you keep doing Bohemes!

  • Player says:

    Part of the problem is that these institutions have contributed to their own destruction by helping to terrify the populace. Fannying around over Zoom etc, not opening up quickly enough, and then shouting at their audiences for not following ridiculous regulations.

    See Patti LuPone recently swearing at a member of the audience who was maskless, while she and other cast members sat closely together on stage (all maskless, including when when not speaking) when fielding audience questions after a show…

    • anon says:

      Yes, absolutely. I am still furious at how so many venues imposed an unscientific and unethical vaccine apartheid (there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines stop the virus from spreading) and mask mandates (the preponderance of evidence suggests that masks are useless, and may actually cause harm to the wearer), especially where not legally required to do so (and where they were, they could have explored non-discriminatory alternatives such as reducing capacity or insisting on everyone having a negative test, regardless of vaccination status), and I am in no hurry to forgive them, when I can go to venues with far more realistic and less divisive policies (i.e.: accepting that you cannot stop COVID-19 any more than you can stop the common cold, beyond ensuring good ventilation systems and discouraging people with a persistent cough, which is disruptive to a concert in any case, from attending).

      If you are going to tell me that I am not welcome due to my principled refusal to discuss my vaccination status and take a silly test every 48 hours (mass testing for COVID-19 is very expensive and not very useful, although there is some merit in testing people who have symptoms, perhaps), I will find other venues where my custom is welcome, and will need a lot more persuading to come back when you come to your senses.

  • Clem says:

    It’s a little bit more complicated than Kaufmann lets on. Yes, there’s something going on for sure. The pandemic has scared people away. And my guess, and what I see in the dozens of opera houses I visit every season, is that the houses relying on an elderly, bourgeois audience are struggling the most.

    The two main opera houses in Belgium where I live, the Monnaie in Brussels and Opera Flanders in Antwerp and Ghent, have been targeting younger audiences for decades. Their theatres are packed for every single performance. And their productions are never in the slightest way traditional. It was Brussels that launched Romeo Castellucci, for instance, and Calixto Bieito worked in Antwerp & Ghent from very early on. So it really isn’t about turning stories upside down or not. It also isn’t about entertaining people. It’s about giving them a meaningful experience that touches them.

    Yes, the Wiener Staatsoper may be struggling. But for Bieito’s Tristan und Isolde which I saw two weeks ago, the house was nearly sold out. In temples of tradition such as Vienna, I’d say their outrageous ticket prices (if you want a decent seat, that is) are a big part of the problem.

    This weekend I was in Koblenz, where the small local theatre mounted a decent, contemporary production of Parsifal. There were more people on the stage than in the seats. Such very local houses may have a continuity problem. You can’t convince (new) audiences to become regulars if you don’t have a clear profile. better to be always innovative or always traditional than to sway.

    So the problems vary. The solution may not. Decide what you want to do and do it, and ignore the screaming critics. If you have a coherent vision, the audiences will follow as they always have.

  • Carlo says:

    …or maybe people are tired to see Regie Theater horrible performances at high price? Last Tristan in Vienna…..

  • JohnB says:

    Jonas Kaufmann could help the opera houses and concert organisers enormously in these difficult times if he were to significantly reduce his fee. There would still be enough left over for him.

    Jonas, what do you think?

    • Becker Waltraud says:

      Why should he, his performances are the best sold in the world……
      Many book him to earn money with his name (and artistry of course)!

      • Susan Toth says:

        I am always astonished at the level of vitriol Jonas Kaufmann seems to evoke in Slipped Disc. Thank you, Becker, for your calm responses.

    • EbbaAnders says:

      And you really think they would lower their prices? Lol.

    • Maria says:

      He doesn’t set the fee. It is the agent.

      • guest says:

        This perfectly ridiculous. The singer sets the fee, not the agent. The singer tells the agent the fee he’s expecting, and how much leeway the agent has in negotiating said fee with the house. If the singer’s expectations are way over what he can reasonably expect, the agent might try to explain to him the difference between wishful thinking and reality, but this is all.

  • Ionut says:

    This problem does not relate only to opera (and classical music in general). It apploes to movies, rock concerts…you name it. There are just too many options to be entertained without much fuss nowadays. Netflix, youtube, every sport event on demand, amazon prime, HBO plus, disney plus, podcasts…pick one. And all of these together for monthly fees cheaper than an opera ticket (as in all of these together cost less than an opera ticket).

    • JB says:

      Exactly! What is more, opera houses offer themselves more and more streaming or retransmissions in cinemas.

      I don’t really buy that modern opera productions are at the origin of a decrease in audience numbers. Are there any reliable studies about that. Personnally, I prefer Warlikowski or Castelucci to dusty Schenk or Zefirelli.

      • guest says:

        You don’t buy into contemporary opera productions as one of the reasons for dwindling audiences because your personal preference is _for_ such productions. Confirmation bias doesn’t need reliable studies, but different opinion from yours do? 😉 Sure you are entitled to your preference, but why do you wonder other people stick to their preferences? You will never see a reliable study. For decades house managers’ tactics have consisted in throwing more shock value, more outrageous behavior, more outrageous imagery at an increasingly brain dead audience. Haven forbid a study should expose they have ridden the wrong horse all this time. No one is going to commission a study, it’s too risky. Meantime the Met is bombarding social media with ads, loftily proclaiming their new productions to be ‘awesome’, etc (insert superlatives of your choice.) The more flack they get at their posts, the more insistent they become.

        • JB says:

          This has nothing to do with my preferences. I attend all kind of performances and I saw the Zeffirelli Turandot at the Met no later than last week. Precisely because I have seen a great variety of productions over the last 30+ years in various cities and countries I came to the conclusion that there is no clear link between modern productions and empty seats. My impression is that the opera itself and the singers are more important, but then there are many other factors.

          • guest says:

            @JB
            Quote from your first comment: ‘Personnally, I prefer Warlikowski or Castelucci to dusty Schenk or Zefirelli.’

            When you write a three sentences comment, one sentence about your preferences, your comment is 33% about your preferences. When you demand reliable studies to support opinions contradicting your preference, but you don’t demand reliable studies to support your own preferences, your comment is at least in part tainted by confirmation bias.

            I agree with the end of your last comment ‘there is no _clear_ link between modern productions and empty seats. My impression is that the opera itself and the singers are more important, but then there are many other factors.’

  • David says:

    Most opera tickets are still far below the price of a Broadway show or a rock concert. And you get a lot of value for the dollar or euro. The problem is getting AIS (asses in seats). People want to see great singers like Kaufmann, but there aren’t enough great and popular singers to go around.

    • guest says:

      How opinions differ… In my opinion the only great thing about JK is his ego and his fee. A great _opera singer_ he is not, not even an average one. People may want to _see_ him, hint, hint (and even in this he is coasting on past ‘achievements’), but this alleged wish has nothing to do with his singing. For starters, modern audiences don’t know good operatic singing from pop or caterwauling.

  • M McAlpine says:

    I do not go to opera house these days ( sometimes to cinema broadcasts) because you can pay an exorbitant price for a mediocre or dire performance done in a way the composer would not have recognised.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    So according to Jonas Kaufmann Europe’s “biggest houses, the strongest” are all located in German-speaking countries.

    How well is La Scala selling, by the way?

    • Robin Worth says:

      He is correct, and the reason is simple : value
      I was at the Deutsche Oper on Sunday : Runnicles was conducting Lohengrin, with Vogt Groissbock, Nyland, an excellent chorus (amplified to about 50) and a great orchestra, plus the best and biggest offstage band -to left, right and behind us. The cost for a seat in row 6 was a mere 100 Euros. You could double that in Paris and nearly triple in London.
      The Komische Oper on Thursday cost 80Euros.
      It’s a country which believes in making sure its houses do not run short of resources, and all credit to them!

  • Em says:

    First, you have to admit that an opera singer works really hard and can achieve something only after many years of nearly unpaid hard work; compared to a rock/pop singer who doesn t really work but earn 100 or 1000 times more ; so I am really astonished at the perseverance of opera singers in this business; they deserve much- much more than what they are paid.
    But opera houses are small, not many spectators, so they don t earn much. There is where the states should get involved and help them because they are a noble form of art.
    Then, the pandemic really made the older spectators stay home for understable reasons, while so few young people are interested in this art form.
    Maybe some music lessons in schools could open young minds towards classical music? Once again, only the involvment of authorities can change something….
    May be one day officials will understand that even opera can be a good business,’because this is the only thing that interest the western state officials these days; the business sector. And then the state will begin to invest in the opera sector…

    • guest says:

      “May be one day officials will understand that even opera can be a good business”

      Math 101 for you.
      Most houses in Europe have an average capacity of about 1500 seats, give or take. Just a few are larger, about 2000-2100 seats. Houses larger than 2200 are almost non-existent. Now take a 2000 house sold out at the average price of 80 EURO. That makes 160000 EURO. Take an opera with a small cast – lets say Tosca. Three principals, a handful comprimari, a bit of chorus. Now explain to us how are you going to make it pay? By what magic are your 160000 going to pay for the singers, the 70+ orchestra, the repetiteurs, the conductor’s inflated expectations, the director’s even more inflated expectations, the huge salaries of various house managers, the lighting engineer, the stage hands, the ushers, ticket sellers, costume cleaners, the small army of people who will clean the house the morning after, the sets, the costumes, water, electricity, heating, and the house renovation every 30-50 years. Did I forgot somebody? Yes I did. The intimacy director and the naked supernumeraries.
      And I haven’t even asked you how are you going to make a grand opera pay, larger cast, more costumes, more sets.

      If a business operating at a loss is your idea of a good business, then yes, opera is a good business.

  • M McGrath says:

    Kaufmann speaks perhaps from the perspective of opera in German-speaking countries. There, intellectual onanism by two-bit wanna be’s, frequent profound disrespect of audience expectations, directorial arrogance, a disconnect of stage/direction and the music/libretto, a blatant disregard for what audiences would LIKE vs perhaps find mildly intellectually interesting… Think of Vienna’s Tristan. Think of the Otellos that take place in the supermarket, the Bayreuth and Deutsche Oper Berlin Wagner productions that make your eyes ache and your mind numb, the horrible Verdi productions at Salzburg these past years… If you were sitting at home wanting to see an Otello in Munich, maybe you’d take one look at the hard-to-use and harder to understand website of the new Intendanz, see a picture of the sets for next week’s Otello and say – ah, “I’ll listen to a CD, watch TV or drink a bottle with a friend. Even 65 Euros is too much for that.”
    N.B. I am NOT saying that the answer is a return to the 19th century, real animals on the stage, and cutsie La Bohemes. But the discussion, analysis… needs to begin. Especially when YOUR AND MY TAX MONEY (O.U.S.) is subsidizing some of this deficit-producting material.

  • Singeril says:

    So many issues.
    1. Many people are still concerned about Covid.
    2. Cost is too high for many people.
    3. Many productions are just not fun/entertaining/enriching. Many are offensive.
    4. People have gotten used to staying home.
    5. People can watch what they want/when they want via the internet.
    6. Many opera houses have nearly “given the product away” for years and so people aren’t wanting to go and pay for it at “full price”.
    7. Arts coverage has been miserable in newspapers/journals for some time.
    8. Arts education is horrific (if existent) in many schools.
    9. I could go on and on.

  • M McGrath says:

    Are great productions having trouble filling the halls? Or are crap productions like Vienna’s Tristan having the trouble? Do you have to be a genius to know that Germany is over-spending on opera in the Frankfurt/Main area, for example, where there are opera houses in Wiesbaden, Darmstadt, Mannheim, and Frankfurt, all within 60 minutes of each other? Could the audience be tired of seeing the same 4 women sing Fidelio, Isolde, Brünnhilde and Turandot ? Are there more tenors to sing Lohengrin than the usual 2-3 in Munich, Vienna, Zurich…? How many times can you see and hear Barenboim conduct the same opera?! Do you really want to see 12 naked males hopping around the stage at your next evening out? Does the audience’s idea of a fairy tale in “Frau Ohne Schatten” match that of the Frankfurt Regisseur and designer, where the Empress wears the most hideous and unbecoming costume and a beautiful singer visibly struggles to exist, project, act despite the visual farce she represents? Does the Ring in the Bismarckstrasse in Berlin really need to feature everyone in underwear? If the audience says “no,” I don’t want to see this, then, presto, you’ve got systemic and economic problems. Just wait til the audience in opera-subsidizing countries says “nope, not paying for that any more.”

    • guest says:

      It would be infinitely greater if the taxpayer could say ‘nope, not paying for that anymore when I am told all the time that there’s no money for healthcare, no money for education, no money for roads, no money for anything’ , but I don’t see the law makers tackling this any time soon. Until then, even a little opposition from opera goers would help, but houses do all they can to make dialogue difficult. So yes, in the end vote with your wallet, this is all that’s left.

  • Helen says:

    I see some of the usual Kaufmann trolls are out again. You really are becoming boring!

  • commonsense says:

    Many of you seem to be laboring under the delusion that the “big houses” are paying these artists exorbitant fees. They are not. In fact, the per performance fee quoted above for Pappano is very close to the top per performance fee for the biggest artists at ROH. These “big house” performances are some of the least well paid performances that these singers do.

    • guest says:

      “These “big house” performances are some of the least well paid performances that these singers do”

      Well commonsense, are you telling us _small_ houses are paying better than big houses? How funny all singers want to sing for smaller fees… someone ought to put them out of their misery and give them a hint they can make a packet in Fermo – forget La Scala, folks. Unless the small house is in Monte Carlo, I don’t see how smaller houses could pay better than most big houses.

      I believe you mean to tell us singers make much more money in recital concerts than in opera performances – to this I agree. In concerts they can fleece the fans of almost any sum.

  • Tamino says:

    I think he is not on top of it, WHY people are not back yet in full. Corona is one reason, people still unsure if it is a pleasure to be in crowds, or forced to wear these horrendous FFP2 masks (currently not, but the rules are unclear often).

    Second is the state of the world. Opera attendance is paid from excessive income. With the world in a perceived turmoil, inflation soaring, middle class people do think one more time before spending good money for leisure.
    A night out in town as a couple, attending opera and a restaurant or bar, sets you back a substantial three digit number in Euros, Dollars or Pounds these days.

    • JB says:

      You could add that major opera houses like Vienna, New York or Paris rely heavily on international tourists which are not really back yet. Surprising that Kaufmann fails to mention this. He should know for whom he sings!

  • madeleine Richardson says:

    La Monnaie in Brussels is packed out for most performances. All the opera and classical concerts I have attended since Covid restrictions were lifted, in various venues, have played to capacity or near capacity.

    • guest says:

      La Monnaie is a small house in city choke full with overpaid politicians and their entourage, with very generous per diem on top of their base salary.

      • Diane Valerie says:

        That’s as may be but I don’t see many of them in the opera house.

        • guest says:

          Is the latest fad of the European Parliament members – embossing ‘politician’ on their forehead? Failing this, are you familiar with all of them, do you know them by looks? There are over 700 members.

          Brussels is a comparatively small city in which all you can do is eat well, and attend shows. Both are expensive. I should think that politicians, bored with themselves after yet another day of debating the all-important laws regulating the size and shape of imported bananas, would avail themselves of the amusements Brussels has to offer in the evening. Though of course if there are many night clubs offering pole dance, they might prefer the latter.

          • Diane Valerie says:

            “Brussels is a comparatively small city in which all you can do is eat well, and attend shows”. You say this with such authority; have you ever lived there?

          • guest says:

            Nice attempt to change the topic. The topic of our conversation(*) isn’t where I used to live in the past, the topic is Diane Valerie’s unusual powers of recognition – what’s the trick, Diane? How come you know hundreds members of the European Parliament by sight?

            (*) Unless you and Madeleine are the same person, in which case the topic is La Monnaie selling to near capacity.

          • Diane Valerie says:

            I take it the answer is “No” then.

            Loads of long-standing residents of Brussels have, over time, honed the ability (and it is not an enviable one, you needn’t covet it) to spot a Eurocrat at 50 paces.

            I am not Madeleine but what what precisely is wrong with La Monnaie selling well?

          • guest says:

            I take it your answer means ‘reading the tea leaves’ 😉

            Nothing is wrong with La Monnaie selling well, quite the opposite, but Madeleine makes it sound like La Monnaie has cracked the code and other houses are just too stupid to ape la Monnaie’s strategy. La Monnaie hasn’t cracked any code. La Monnaie is in a privileged situation, as is Opéra de Monte-Carlo, as is ROH, or was until very recently. Monaco is a tax haven by European standards, one of the first addresses for money laundering and for expensive sports events; no wonder their opera house is selling well, particularly considering it shares a building with the Casino. London is, or was until very recently, a paradise for a few thousand people who got indecently rich in an indecently short period of time. Small wonder ROH sells reasonably well (but not excellently). The European Parliament, the Commission, the Bank, and what else is there, is doing the trick for Brussels. Just because a few select houses sell better than others it doesn’t follow that opera attendance isn’t in decline. If you are a long time resident of Brussels you must remember the times before the European Parliament. How was the La Monnaie season back then? Well, it wasn’t much different than it is today – about hundred opera performances per season, give or take. The season didn’t shrink since then because there was a generous infusion of moneyed population 40 years ago, complete with infrastructure that moved to Brussel to support them. But most opera houses were less fortunate – for instance, if you compare the season of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma with the situation 40-50 years ago, you will notice the difference. And if you compare it with the seasons before the first world war, you’ll get a shock.

            Nothing is wrong with La Monnaie selling to capacity for most performances, _if_ it is true. Opening nights, first run nights, new productions, very popular operas, very rarely performed operas, famous singers (regardless whether they are already in the coasting phase or not) – these nights always sell to capacity, everywhere. But do other nights in La Monnaie sell equally well, or just acceptable? Only the house management can tell – and Madeleine, apparently. I’m sure Madeleine attends tens of performances if she speaks with such authority. As I said – Brussels is a comparatively small city in which all you can do is eat well, and attend shows 😉 And develop the high art of reading the tea leaves, which may come in handy one day, don’t sell yourself short, Diane 😉

            Bye, it was nice to chat with you.

  • Foxxy says:

    After the cost of a premium ticket to Lohengrin in Melbourne skyrocketed to $799 after it was announced Jonas was singing, presumably this means he’s now going to reduce his appearance fee so it can be as cheap as cinema.

  • Herby Neubacher says:

    For they only put shit on stage today. Look at Bayreuth. Horrible staging. Music of the best, singing of the best, staging to run away from.

    Better listen to good CD at home and have the good staging in your imagination.

    Or look at old performance like the fantastic DVD recordings at home of Wagner Operas under Levine with Staging of Schneider Siemsen or Schenk. What they show today is simply horrible

  • Allen says:

    Those who argue that Regietheater works because (certain) performances are well attended should consider whether it is because of, or in spite of, the production.

    The music alone generally has huge appeal, and directors enjoy success on the back of it.

    • guest says:

      Very true. To this I would add, there is one important difference between the mirror arguments of the two camps (proponents vs opponents of regietheater). As a rule, the opponents never forget to mention the appeal of music, and write that they sometimes attend regietheater productions – and make it through by closing their eyes and gritting their teeth 😉 But the proponents of regietheater never mention music, and apparently never attend the much despised (by them) ‘traditional’ productions. One wonders how they came to despise them so much 😉
      Joke aside, there is a fundamental difference in approach between the two camps – ‘gesamtkunstwerk’ vs visual perception only ; tranquil and free enjoyment of an artform and its positive, clear, primary messages, vs touting one’s self-absorption with one’s self-consciousness and neurosis plus gratitude extended toward anyone who takes said neurosis and grafts it on something that was neurosis-free to begin with ; it’s the glorification of humiliation of man by man in a dehumanized society, implemented in a rather cheap manner.

  • Sef says:

    Of course! Last time I went to Paris Opera Garnier to see « a quiet place » it was in March, masks were no more mandatory but, can you imagine this, the singers performed with masks!!! The sound of their voice was terrible! There had been no warning of such a possibility. I won’t be going to the opera again before long! I wasted my time and money on this disrespectful and ridiculous representation

  • Linda33 says:

    Als Opernbesucherin möchte ich von dem neuen Regietrash verschont bleiben. Modernisierung ja, aber das Stück soll erkenntlich sein und nicht die Vision eines der neuerlich so “modernen Regisseure” sein. Wenn das Stück “Otello” der Mohr von Venedig heisst und der Sänger Kaufmann als natürlich Weisser mit zurückgegelten Haaren (um ja nicht in den Verdacht zu kommen, Locken zu haben) das Stück spielt und singt, fehlt eigentlich der Bezug darauf, warum Otello Minderheitskomplexe hat und sich so leicht von Jago zur Eifersucht verführen zu lassen.
    Sicher Musik und die Stimmen sind das Wichtigste, ein noch so gutes Video oder eine CD kann nie das Live-Erlebnis einer guten Opernaufführung bieten, aber bitte es soll immer noch ein Bezug zu dem Stück vorhanden sein, nur in eine andere Zeit ein Stück zu versetzen ist oft an Lächerlichkeit nicht zu überbieten und dafür sind Opernbesucher in der Regel bald nicht mehr bereit, die Kartenpreise zu bezahlen. Gute Aufführungen mit guten Sängern bringen auch heute noch ausverkaufte Häuser.

  • Ken Smith says:

    Lieber Jonas, das Hauptproblem mit der Opernwelt ist nicht COVID, sondern die Tatsache das die meisten heutigere Saengern sind keineswegs an deinem Niveau. Gib uns mehrere Kaufman- Qualitaetliche Saengern und, trotz COVID, werden an die Oper kommen!

    • guest says:

      “die Tatsache das die meisten heutigere Saengern sind keineswegs an deinem Niveau”
      Right you are though not in the sense you hope.

      “Gib uns mehrere Kaufman- Qualitaetliche Saengern ”
      Heaven forbid.

  • Angela says:

    Hi,
    Operahouse that stands half empty.
    Is it because of overly complex and incomprehensible sets?
    I do not think so! I think JK underestimates its audience and maybe JK talks more about his own wishes and preferences.
    There are many reasons why we don’t go to listen to opera in real life
    1. We have just experienced a deadly pandemic.
    2. There’s a war going on in Central Europe! A cruel war of conquest going on! Many of us are extremely taken by it, going to the opera feels pointless when people are murdered, like going into a fairy tale and we don’t want that.
    3. We, many in the audience , do not want to be entertained when we go to listen to opera, we want to be touched, we want to be challenged,we want to see and listen to opera on a high artistic level.
    4. The artistically high level that’s the difficult! Many sets are imitations of each other, missing an appeal, an own artistic “voice”. There are so many talented musicians, conductors and singers, there is hardly a shortage.
    More female directors, more of ethnic variations and experiences, more males like Sir David Mc Vicar and Philipp Stoelzl will attract the audience back.
    5. The ticket price naturally plays a role especially if the set is mediocre. A great artistic experience, wonderful music and a welcoming operahouse with wonderful breaks with wine, coffee and good pastries and with at best a knowledgeable public is well worth a pretty high ticket price.
    Thank’s

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