Opera Australia or Utopia Limited

Opera Australia ACN 000 755 153 (find out more here) is that rare beast, a company limited by guarantee.

This means that, rather than its members being shareholders entitled to dividends and a share of the net assets if the company were wound up, they are those people who have agreed to guarantee the company’s liabilities.

If you are a subscriber to Opera Australia, you are entited to become a member of the company. I am and I have done so. The potential liability under the guarantee is $20, so I am not taking a very big risk here.

Today I received the 2007 Annual Report. The AGM is on 22 May 2008. A covering letter states that “the information in this report is therefore embargoed until 23 May 2008.” This strikes me as just a little ridiculous. This is a non-profit company, kept afloat by the public purse. How can there be any governantial overviw of the the cosie coterie which constitutes its directors unless there can be some public canvassing of the contents of the Annual Report prior to the meeting? Otherwise, the only overview can be the withholding of grants or sponsorship funds. That would be a drastic remedy for us poor punters.

And it certainly is a cosy little club. The distributed proxy form only allows for votes to re-elect the existing directors and to approve the annual accounts. This almost makes the NRMA look democratic.

One of the directors facing re-election is Rowena Danziger. Regular readers of this blog may guess that this is one reason why I am tempted to attend the meeting.

In the meantime, I’m going through those accounts with a fine-tooth comb. Damn that embargo! Three snippets which are worthy of note are:

  1. The written-down value of sets, costumes, properties etc is $4.1 million. This is a decrease of about $200K, which is to say that the amount which has been spent on new productions is $200K less than the amount by which they have been amortised or written down for “impairment.” By contrast, the insured value is about $34 million. A fire must be a very tempting proposition! (And there have been fires before…[only joking!])
  2. The 2007 Sydney Winter Season saw lower attendances and box office than the 2006 one, and to a greater extent than can simply be accounted for by the reduced number of performances (which is probably APEC related) of from 99 to 96. The reason is probably that in 2006 Sydney winter season included over 30 performances of a Gilbert & Sullivan and 14 performances of a Puccini (the report is at home so I may have to correct the Turandot numbers) whereas in 2007 these numbers were 21 and 11 respectively (and the Puccini was Il Trittico rather than Turandot.) THe accounts are a bit more coy about profitability rather than box office of the individual seasons, but if you read between the lines the effect on profitability appears to be commensurate. The good news is that this sort of fluctuation appears to be within the usual bounds of year-to-year variation. The bad or good news is that this probably explains the very long run of My Fair Lady this year.
  3. Australia Opera persists in writing the accounts of the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra as a corporation operating at a very substantial loss. Given that the opera is the orchestra’s no 1 customer (accounting, I would say, for about 70% of its performances) as well as its shareholder, this seems a bit artificial.  To make a profit or at least break even, surely the orchestra could just charge the opera more.  The true effect would be pretty much the same, whether recorded as a loss in shareholder’s (the opera’s) funds or an increase in costs (of running the opera). The loss can’t all be attributable to the orchestra not charging the ballet (the other customer) enough.  I suspect some kind of direct or indirect hard word on the funding powers that be is the reason for this peculiarity.

2 Responses to “Opera Australia or Utopia Limited

  1. Club Troppo » Missing Link Daily Says:

    […] marcellous has been looking over the Opera Australia 2007 annual report. […]

  2. Foiled! « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] By marcellous As I have mentioned before , Opera Australia is a company limited by guarantee. You can become a member (akin to a […]

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