Opera Australia AGM 2010 – a retrospective

This afternoon I attended the OA AGM.

This is a classical “tea and bikkies” affair, which is to say the board disclose as little sensitive or potentially embarrassing information as they can get away with in order to have the necessary formal resolutions passed.

The chairman, Dr Switkowski proclaimed: “We are amongst friends here.” Just in case he was mistaken, Dr S had 33 proxies, all of which he indicated he would cast in favour of the formal resolutions on the agenda, including appointment of one retiring and two casually appointed members of the board, and the adoption of the 2009 annual accounts. As, at the commencement of the meeting, there were 29 members present in person, one might fairly say that the meeting was fairly securely stitched up. There was little point in being contrary; no votes were cast against any of those resolutions, though there appeared to be some abstentions on the elections of the board members.

You can download PDF versions of the annual report here, and the financial report (which also appears in the annual report) here. You can also download copies of the 2007 and 2008 annual reports from this page.

The company recorded an operating loss of a little over $900k last year; Adrian Collette indicated that he expected a similar figure this year. Last year started badly (I remember the very disappointing houses for Werther and the well-papered houses for Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk) it was Aida which saved the company’s bacon. The company’s cash position has improved.

The impact of the GFC on consumer behaviour has clearly not yet abated [general indications seem to be that the trough may get deeper once the initial stimulus cash stops sloshing around quite so much]. As Mr C and Dr S both pointed out, the company cannot continue to make losses like this and they will need to be made up. As is reasonably well-known, seasons are planned 2 to 3 years out. Mr Collette said that at present they were running a bit later than that because of the appointment of Lyndon Terracini as artistic director and [my interpretation] a decision to hold back decisions until his arrival. What that probably means is that we can expect a[n even] greater emphasis than usual on box office and less tolerance of risk [than ever] in 2012 and 2013.

There were, as ever, allusions to exciting developments which cannot yet be mentioned. Rather oddly from a point of view of corporate governance, in my opinion, the company and Dr S and Mr C had less compunction when speaking to Raymond Gill and Bryce Hallett of the Fairfax press. I intend writing about that more later, and in particular about what may or may not be in the mysterious management consultants’ report which Opera Australia obtained.

10 Responses to “Opera Australia AGM 2010 – a retrospective”

  1. Panther Says:

    Bring on some Wagner! The Opera have been avoiding him for years now.

    • marcellous Says:

      A rare spotting of the Sydney Panther! wb!

      [PS: for various reasons the part of the post which prompted Panther’s comment has disappeared for the time being. Just so as not to pull out the rug from underneath him, I should mention [and this isn’t quite what I said at first) that the word is Lyndon Terracini would like to do the Ring in Melbourne in 2013, which is the bicentenary of Wagner’s birth. It can’t be done in Sydney because it is thought there is no suitable venue; I suspect they are hoping to pump a bit of money out of Maureen Wheeler in its support.]

  2. ken n Says:

    m: I believe you are correct in your last observation.

  3. ken n Says:

    In the comment.
    I still don’t understand why OA should spend energy on a Ring.
    A great experience, but how many does the world need?

  4. wanderer Says:

    I agree very much with ken n.

    It is no secret that Maureen Wheeler wants a “Melbourne Ring”.

    While one could say that, like going to the moon, the (Ring) experience might be worthwhile for the contingent spinoffs not to mention prestige (especially for LT), providing of course it is a success (a bad Ring is considerably worse than no Ring at all, OA has been there), it is still an enormous diversion of just about every resource there is, especially time.

  5. marcellous Says:


    For myself, I would like to see a Ring here in Australia. I was too poor or too frugal to go to Adelaide the times it was on there. (Too poor the first time; too frugal the second: I went to Beijing in 2005 and saw the Nuremberg production for less than it would have cost me to get to Adelaide.) It would be nice to only have to go to Melbourne.

    Obviously, if they are to do one, it is not for the money, because it is unlikely to make any. And it is certainly a commitment of a big chunk of the company’s resources on the one thing. It’s a matter of eggs in baskets.

    If they put on a Ring will be to gratify people who want to see one here, and for the glory. Not everyone is free to travel far afield for this.

    I’m a bit dubious about your “how many does the world need?” because that could be said of almost any but the rarer operas.


    Our comments crossed. I know it looked a bit dodgy, but I can’t say I thought that the pocket Ring (with reduced orchestrations by Stuart Challender) was as bad as everyone says it was. Admittedly I was young and easily impressed, but I would rather see it done like this than not done at all. That’s the thing: for me the drama is in the music and the singing and the characters, I’d be happy for a quite frugal approach to theatrical effects. That would be a production for the locals, rather than for the international Wagner jet set. Maybe they could get Christopher Alden in and use the set from Tosca but just teutonify it a bit (posters for Hitler rather than Berlusconi) and say it was all set in the basement of the Festspielhaus. I’m only half joking. (Ending: Wotan wakes up; it was all a dream. Hell, they did that to Flying Dutchman.)

  6. wanderer Says:

    You’re a naughty boy for not going to Adelaide mk2. Never mind.

    Re profit – perhaps in buying a production (say, the Adelaide), there is an unusual degree of firmness in budget predictions and with a large endowment they may even be looking to make money.

    I think every attempt should be made to play it as written, including a thousand harpists. My memories of the aborted Ring are unfortunately the production (Andrew Sinclair I think), an attempt at literalism that bordered on the ludicrous, which nothing could save (like the GG).

    We did get Rita Hunter, and they should have let her loose next door, as they did in Turandot, and started out with a semi-staged affair, which seems to be where you could almost be heading. Edo de Waart’s SSO Concert Ring Cycle leading up to the Olympics was enormously successful I thought (especially the Walkure) with a top draw international cast and fine playing.

    A few years ago I went to Budapest for their Adam Fischer semi-staged Ring, alternating casts, the whole cycle over 4 consecutive nights, wham bam, in their new concert hall, astounding acoustics, with variations on a theme of formal dress for costumes, and a giant perspex rear screen for visual projections and special effects, some breathtaking. Now we could do that, and a rear ‘sound board’ may just do wonders in getting the voices out.

    It is all a dream. I was watching Mulholland Drive (again) the other night and decided I want a David Lynch Ring, in my dream that is.

  7. Opera Australia AGM – a further retrospective « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] Australia AGM – a further retrospective By marcellous I have previously posted about the Opera Australia 2010 AGM, and referred to its 2010 Annual Report and Financial […]

  8. ken n Says:

    “I’m a bit dubious about your “how many does the world need?” because that could be said of almost any but the rarer operas.”

    What makes the Ring different is that it is so large and so expensive that it sucks up all resources within reach. A Marriage of Figaro can be franked out at minimal cost and to great pleasure of the audience. The Ring has more in common with the Formula One Grand Prix than anything else.
    But then I have seen 3.75 productions – the .75 was Edo’s concert version which I enjoyed very much. But that’s another hobby horse of mine – elaborate sets n stuff distract from the music and I do believe opera is still primarily a musical art-form.

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