“The closure of operas is not inevitable”

On December 19, 2022, a collective of local elected officials associated with the union the musical forces sign in MO12345lemonde an alarming platform. “89 % of our houses are preparing to suspend their activity, cutting part of their programming from 2023. Some (…) for months.” In question, inflation of energy prices that ruins local authorities . These elected officials therefore appeal to the State and its ability to go into debt to assume the increase in essential grants. They alert the Minister of Culture: “Without an immediate awakening of the ministry, our houses can only reduce their activity or close their doors punctually.”

If there is no doubt that an important aid of the State would be welcome, we cannot stop there. The critical situation of operas and orchestras, the sharp decline in the number of representations, the fall in artistic employment, the difficulties in expanding the public did not date from the war in Ukraine or the COVVI-19. Some have long been worried about the foreseeable consequences of an obsolete economic model and practices unsuitable for current challenges.

The current situation should not surprise anyone. The closure of operas is actually inscribed in the logic of their organization. Indeed, unlike other forms of live performance, the opera is organized in such a way that the lifespan of the shows does not depend on the demand of the public. A representation costs much more than the ticketing recipes in a full room. The subsidies fill this deficit. So we play as long as we can pay and not as long as there is public.

Operas are giants whose activity is structurally limited, because it is directly correlated at the level of subsidies. Only their increase would allow a real widening of the public. However, these are already the first cultural expenditure of cities. In addition, due to significant operating costs, the slightest drop in grants has disproportionate effects on programming, the only adjustment variable. The outbreak of energy bills accentuates the problem until you consider temporary closures, pushing theaters to turn to the state. 2>

feed an imperfect model

But is this the solution? Is such a limiting model, also dependent on the increase in subsidies is viable in a situation of permanent crisis (economical, sanitary, geopolitical, climatic, etc.)? When the climate crisis demands massive investments, when our fellow citizens have each euro to heat or eat, when public services crack, it is reasonable, let’s dare the word, is it decent to claim more public money for Opera, an art certainly wonderful, but with restricted structural access and often prohibitive prices?

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/Media reports cited above.