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Arts Minister puts Australia’s leading opera companies under review

Arts Minister puts Australia’s leading opera companies under review
August 4, 2014

The Federal Government has appointed a three-member panel to determine the financial health of Australia’s opera companies with the announcement of a review of Opera Australia, the State Opera of South Australia, West Australian Opera and Opera Queensland. 

Federal Minister for the Arts, Senator Brandis, has recruited Dr Helen Nugent to chair the review. Dr Nugent, an experienced company director who led the 1999 Major Performing Arts Inquiry, will be joined by Moffatt Oxenbould and Andrew McKinnon. 

Minister Brandis explained that the purpose of the enquiry is “to ensure that Australian audiences continue to enjoy opera of the highest quality and that the opera companies can operate in a financially sustainable way.” 

The companies under review all receive $32 million in Austalia Council funding through the Major Performing Arts Group, as well as state funding. Senator Brandis says he has asked the relevant state arts ministers to contribute to the review's terms of reference. 

In recent years the viability of Australia’s opera companies has come into question. Faced with dwindling audience numbers many are diversifying. Opera Australia has turned to musicals and tourist-friendly opera on the harbour to attract new audiences, and last year delivered a $467,539 surplus. 

As Opera Australia Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini explains “we are interested in getting as many people to our performances as possible and things like Handa Opera do attract a lot of tourists and a lot of people from Sydney. 

“However, we haven’t sacrificed quality in any way.”

Senator Brandis says a public consultation component of the review will also announced in the coming months. The panel will make its final recommendations in 2015.

Image shows Opera Queensland's production of La Boheme.

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