The economics of opera

October 5, 2018

You don’t need to know anything about opera to enjoy it. All you have to do is walk into the theatre, sit down and then ….whatever you feel is right.

But why are opera tickets so expensive? The answer is simple: a vast number of people are needed: orchestra, chorus, principals, crew and so on. The result is glorious and the most “immediate” of art forms in which narrative, music, scenery combine to bewitch you.

Let’s say for every 10 people performing, you need 1 person backstage. Here are three examples:

Don Carlo at the Theatre in the Woods (seats 700)
60 in the orchestra + 50 on stage + backstage support. Spending £180 = £1.49 / performer

King & I at the Palladium (seats 2,250)
15 in the orchestra + 30 on stage + backstage support. Spending £125 = £2.50 / performer (Don Carlo seat would have cost £305)

Exit The King at the Olivier (seats 1,110)
7 on stage + backstage support. Spending £50 = £6.49 / performer (Don Carlo seat would have cost £786)

We want to give everyone the chance to bathe in these magical worlds.

Musical Chairs are free seats for young people aged 14 – 25 who otherwise could not come to the opera.

Meteor tickets are for the under 35’s and cost £35.

We aim for break-even and we have no government subsidy. We work hard to make the operas magnificent. It is interesting to compare our efforts to, say, the Royal Shakespeare Company, visited by 1m people every year.

Turnover: GPO = £3.5m (RSC = £66.8m)
Government Subsidy: GPO = zero (RSC £15.4m = 23% of turnover)
Performances: GPO £2m = 57% of turnover (RSC £34.7m = 52% of turnover)
Fundraising GPO £800k = 24% of turnover (RSC £4m = 6% of turnover)