Feb 16, 2008

The state of opera audiences

Last year, for the Tous à l'opéra !-day, Le Monde (daté du 15 février 2007) published a special edition with a very interesting article about the opera goers. Here it is:
My translation: A study in ten European Opera Houses shows the audience keeps getting younger and intellectual middle-classes are more present.
30% of the audience is 45 or younger.
My [partial] translation: A 2001 study by consultant Gérard Doublet for the Réunion des Opéras de France had previously already shown the audience is younger in the French Opera Houses. A new study, made by the same consultant, ordered this time by Opéra-Europa, made during 2006 and published on Feb.17, 2007 reveals the same trend. Conducted in 10 European Opera Houses (Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bologna, Brussels, Cardiff, Oslo, Paris Garnier and Paris Bastille, Strasbourg and Vilnius), the study shows more and more intellectual middle-class opera-goers, as well as women, occasional spectators. It also confirms the audience is getting younger, though only 30% is under 45. On the other hand, 23% of the spectators are older than 65. 30% are between 55 and 64, although this age group only represents 17% of the general population in the countries where the study was made.
53% of the seats are occupied by subscribers, a high figure that shows how traditional the public still is. At the Paris Opera, the public younger than 35 went up from 24% in 2003 to 32% in 2006 (compared to the 34% this age group represents in the general population). 58% of the public is made of women, mostly junior managers, teachers or even factory workers. And they tend to be younger than men. "Women first come to the Opera House to see a ballet, and via that way, attend an opera two or three years younger than men" says Gérard Doublet. "They often bring their partner." Adds Gérard Doublet, "if you don't go to the Opera before 35, chances are you won't come later."
58% of the audience are women. In 2005-2006, the Paris Opera sold 62% of its individual tickets (not counting subscriptions) via the Internet.
In 2001, 56% of the spectators went to the Opera based on the piece played, 42% based on the composer, 13% because they simply wanted to go out with friends, 4% because of the ticket price, 2% because they heard about the performances via friends, 2% via publicity and 1% because they heard about it in the medias. All over Europe, a drop in the number of subscriptions has been noted, except in Barcelona where 17 types of subscriptions are offered, some of which including B-cast performances (therefore cheaper). In Paris, subscriptions represent 200 000 of the 800 000 tickets sold each year (25%). Far from the European average. The main concern for spectators? Flexibility.
To draw more people to the Opera, Bordeaux director Thierry Fouquet scheduled longer runs for popular pieces: La Traviata, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Tosca... "We went from 4 to 8 or 10 performances. The 4000 subscribers still have their seats, but 6000 others are available for others. We loose 15 000 euros per performance, but we attract a larger audience" he adds.
In Rennes, director Alain Surrans opted to keep the tickets cheap, between 5 and 48 euros (8 to 75 euros in Bordeaux, 9 to 130 euros in Paris). He also focused on working with schools and social centers. He also introduced the happy hours system: two one-hour sessions, at 6pm and 8pm when you can approach the piece played for 3,5 euros including a nursery. Finally, he chose to play performances in difficult neighborhoods.
Spectator's profile: Left column: Opera-goers by age Red line: Opera-goers % Brownish line: Overall population % Right column: Opera-goers ranked according to their social status A - CEOs, executives, MDs, lawyers B - Junior managers, engineers, state employees, teachers, storekeepers, craftsmen C - Employees, factory workers D - Students E - Retired people

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