Is There a New Paradigm for Publically Subsidized Arts Organizations?

Monday, April 19, 2010 - 01:55 PM

Do state-subsidized arts companies have a bigger responsibility to present great art or to sell tickets to the tourists who make up a good chunk of their audience?

A report in the newspaper The Australian says that Sydney’s Opera Australia posted a loss for the first time in six years. While some of this can be laid at the feet of the global recession, the company itself also blames “poor programming choices.”

Opera Australia is looking at a dilemma. Its season falls during summer--primetime for tourists who have filled the Sydney Opera House for standards like Madam Butterfly but who have also left the hall half-empty for more challenging works.

We all know that arts organizations in the U.S. don’t get significant funding from the government. With that in mind, does an arts company subsidized by public money have a responsibility to showcase works that might not otherwise be seen? Is the need to fill seats by presenting the tried and true more important? And what happens when the tried and true falls short of expectations? What’s the new paradigm?


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Comments [3]

RobinO. from NJ

It would seem to me, a mixed bill would be the "ticket". I think conductors would know how to group works that have a thread of similarity and contrast. Creative programming can incorporate both the "chestnuts" and new works. I have been to hundreds of concerts and ballet performances that do this to wonderful effect.

Personally, I find an entire evening of modern music grating. I have also been surprised by some contemporary works and find myself liking them in spite of preconceived notions.

Apr. 20 2010 07:49 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

State-subsidized arts organizations, symphony orchestras and opera companies MUST provide
the culture expected, to the masses who NEED
the sustenance that gives meaning to our populace's existence. Music, dance, art, and drama give meaning and hope for a better existence. Of course the old "chestnuts," particularly the masterpieces, deserve to be updated in their presentation, not omitted from the repertoire but not exclusively, "holding court." Modern works of music and the arts MUST have "their day in the sun." In Germany, Austria and Switzerland where the arts have been state-supported for many years they allow for the fact that new works and "heavy" music may not have the wide audience appeal NOW, but tastes change. La Traviata and Carmen were disasters at their premieres. We must have the courage to ponder financial failure in the beginning to major undertakings, but see the "greater good" in long range thinking and planning. Kenneth Bennett Lane, Wagnerian heldentenor and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, where actors are trained in the preparation for the Shakespeare roles and big-voiced singers coached in the Wagner opera roles. Website:

Apr. 20 2010 02:54 PM

Read Greg Sandow on this subject. Go back to old posts. Greg is the deepest thinker and writer on this subject.

Apr. 19 2010 06:55 PM

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