Opera Australia has posted an operating surplus of $342,667 for 2018, on turnover of over $115 million dollars, the company announced in its annual report. The modest surplus is a positive sign for Australia’s largest performing arts company, which posted an operating deficit of $2.1 million in 2017, when the Sydney Opera House’s Joan Sutherland Theatre was closed for seven months for renovations. Bolstered by a number of significant bequests, the company has posted a consolidated profit of $5,590,519 for 2018, which OA Chair David Mortimer described as “a year of consolidation”.
Nicole Car in Opera Australia’s La Traviata. Photos © Prudence Upton
The operating surplus was “in line with expectations,” OA CEO Rory Jeffes said. “In 2018, Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini again delivered an outstanding season of programming and the OA singers, artisans and musicians continued to deliver high calibre productions which are now synonymous with the company,” he said. “The positive operating result is a reflection of the company’s strong commitment to fiscal responsibility, artistic capability and ensuring the long term success of the organisation and the sector more broadly.”
Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini described 2018 as a “wonderfully successful year”, highlighting – among other successes such as Nicole Car’s role debut as Violetta, Jessica Pratt’s company debut in Lucia di Lammermoor and Kasper Holten’s production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – the use of new digital sets in Aida. “Magnificent singing from Amber Wagner, Yonghoon Lee, Natalie Aroyan and Diego Torre together with Elena Gabouri made the performances thrilling. Andrea Battistoni conducted with extraordinary power and passion and ensured that every performance was electric,” Terracini said. “It was the production, however, directed by Davide Livermore, and utilising our digital sets for the first time that made a tremendously powerful impression. We will be using much more digital technology in the future and we are leading the way globally in this 21st-century technology.”
The technology will be used again soon in the new opera Whiteley, based on the life of Australian artist Brett Whiteley, with a score by Elena Kats-Chernin and libretto by Justin Fleming, opening in Sydney in July.
Opera Australia’s 2018 annual report also provides insights into new works in development behind the scenes, including, of course, workshops for Whiteley, but also other new works such as Opera the Opera, a pastiche of music by Wagner, Rossini, Mozart, Verdi, Dvořák and Puccini, with new music, lyrics and dialogue by Guy Noble; Gold Diggers, a new musical theatre project by Jonathan Biggins and Linda Nagle that re-imagines the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire with a completely new book and lyrics, set in the Australian goldfields; and a newly commissioned opera called The Track, with music and lyrics by John Haddock set in 1930s Queensland.
Overall attendance was 543,498 from 637 total performances, down on 2017’s 641,622 when there were 815 performances, with the numbers bolstered by My Fair Lady. Seasons of the musical Evita in Sydney and Melbourne led the charge in 2018, followed by the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour production of La Bohème. Last year’s HOSH was attended by 48,267 people, a little down on the year before, and since blown out of the water by the record-breaking 65,000 West Side Story achieved this year.