Research undertaken by regional theatre finds that despite a huge reduction in touring opera, demand for the artform has not declined.
Richard Hubert Smith
A theatre has called on Arts Council England to develop a clear strategy and action plan for the future of opera in the regions on the back of a study highlighting a continued appetite for the artform.
A survey of more than 1,000 audience members Norwich Theatre found that that demand for opera has largely remained the same since the pandemic with only one art form, musicals, performing better by average number of tickets sold.
The theatre, which receives no regular public subsidy, has hosted Glyndebourne Opera’s annual tour for the past five decades. However, earlier this year, the East Sussex Opera House cancelled its scheduled 2023 regional dates, saying a 50% reduction to its funding from ACE had rendered it 'financially unsustainable'.
- Glyndebourne cancels opera tour following
- ACE cutWelsh National Opera to cease performances in Liverpool
The East of England arts organisation said that the cuts to Glyndebourne, along with a grant drop of 35% for Welsh National Opera, “have seen touring opera decimated” and that provision for audiences across the UK is in decline.
The survey also found that a quarter of Norwich Theatre's opera-goers came from places deemed priorities for levelling up. Of those questioned, 39% said they felt put off by the art form, citing ticket prices, lack of ability to understand the storyline, and feeling out of place at the performances.
Norwich Theatre Chief Executive and Creative Director Stephen Crocker said, “Our research shows that audiences crave opera and that they want to see it nearby.
“Whilst we welcome the independent analysis being conducted by ACE, it must be swiftly followed with an inclusive action plan that represents touring companies, venues and audiences alike.
"We are calling on ACE to re-consider and recognise the impact cuts to organisations like Glyndebourne have on access in the regions.”
An Arts Council England spokesperson said: "We are grateful to the team at Norwich Theatre Royal for publishing the Opera Voices research report, and will be considering its findings as we reflect on the conclusions of the Opera and Music Theatre Analysis we have commissioned.
"Arts Council England has a single 10-year strategy, Let’s Create, which shapes all our investment and development decisions, however, this analysis [due to be published in the new year] will bring into focus a picture of opera audiences across the country, as well as the challenges and opportunities in the opera and music theatre sector, so that we can continue to support and develop the artform.
"The analysis will also provide opera companies with data that can help inform their own strategies and approach to audience development.
"The Arts Council is committed to supporting opera and music theatre, with more opera organisations receiving funding than before, and up to £130 million being invested in the artform over the next three years, enabling emerging operatic talent to bloom and to thrive, and people in more places across the country to enjoy this great artform."