Is UK Arts Funder’s Analysis Of Opera’s Challenges Right?

Touring and audience development, another focus, has been the subject of much ire recently with cuts to Welsh National Opera and Glyndebourne Touring (although funding increased to English Touring Opera). One suspects ACE doesn’t think they get value for money in this area. My own view is that we should be able to find opera throughout the country, not only relying on the touring productions of large companies. A plethora of good accessible companies (and not just country house festivals) in the regions (like Germany) operating on different, more efficient producing models is one solution.

The sections on talent and sector organisation and communication highlight other undoubted priorities for the art form. Finding a way to collectively communicate with the world at large, including with the government, is a sensible aim.  

Of course, the time to judge ACE, the real litmus test, will be when they tell us what decisions they have reached as a consequence of the roundtables. I think they will have learned a lot from this report and, as a piece of work to define the industry’s state of play and to reflect the huge range of views within it, this analysis is a good starting point. I can’t recall anything like it for many years (a mistake) and nobody likes scrutiny of the status quo. It is undeniable that the opera industry gets a huge part of our relatively small arts funding pie and within that, a small number of companies get most of it. 

I can’t predict whether the ultimate course taken by ACE will be the right one, whether they will succumb to pressure from friends in high places who wish to protect the status quo, or if they will just do something silly. But I am certain this report gives an accurate picture of the business and offers a real chance to improve the lot of the artists we produce in such great numbers in this country.  

Michael Volpe is former founder and General Director of Opera Holland Park and is currently Executive Director of If Opera. His new book ‘Do I Bark Like a Dog?’ is published on 27th March. 

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