National Opera Review discussion paper released for comment

SOSA Einstein on the beach photo by Darren WilliamsIn a major review of Australian opera, the National Opera Review was commissioned by the Government to consider the financial viability, artistic vibrancy and audience access of Opera Australia, Opera Queensland, State Opera of South Australia and West Australian Opera.

“Opera companies are hugely important to the creative life of our nation but they face challenges,” says new Minister for the Arts, Senator The Hon Mitch Fifield. “The National Opera Review discussion paper outlines a range of options for addressing the major issues facing the companies.”

“This is an important piece of work that has significant implications for ensuring the ongoing artistic vibrancy not just of Australia’s major opera companies but also performing arts companies more broadly.”

The panel chaired by Dr Helen Nugent AO and included Kathryn Fagg, Andrew McKinnon, and Moffatt Oxenbould AM consulted broadly and undertaken in-depth analysis to understand the pressures that face the major opera companies and why those challenges have arisen.

Part A of the discussion paper provides an analysis of the major opera companies showing the companies make a significant contribution to Australia culturally and economically:

  • They put on 576 performances in 2014, with Opera Australia being among the most performed opera companies in the world. Collectively, the companies staged 23 mainstage productions, around half of which were either new to the company or undertaken with an international or Australian partner;
  • Close to 700,000 attendees were present at the companies’ performances; and
  • They generated $86.5 million in earned revenue, with 88 percent of that coming from box office. They employed the equivalent of over 600 full time singers, craftspeople, and technical, marketing and administrative staff.

The Australian and state governments recognise the significance of the major opera companies in building Australia’s recognition at home and abroad for its cultural heritage and its creativity as a nation.

Though the viability of the companies is likely to be threatened without government funding, as they respond to evolving dynamics including: the Global Financial Crisis; better educated and travelled consumers; audiences changing their buying patterns; and increase competition from venues, festivals and individual entrepreneurs presenting opera.

Part B of the discussion paper outlines the nature of these challenges, the options for dealing with them, and the pros and cons of a range of different options with seven key areas addressed including: where the companies should head; how the major opera companies should operate; improving artistic vibrancy; improving access; addressing financial stability; proving strong governance and management; and providing government funding.

The review panel looks forward to receiving submissions and consulting with stakeholders on these important issues and the options proposed. To view the discussion paper and find out how to make a submission, visit: for details. Submissions close 26 October 2015.

Image: State Opera of South Australia’s production of Einstein on the beach (2014) – photo by Darren Williams