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CLASSICAL  July 2007

CLASSICAL July 2007

Subject:

What Makes Opera Expensive

From:

Janos Gereben <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 22 Jul 2007 20:03:47 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (101 lines)

[The interesting part of this story is where the Korean organizers make
their cost public.  I don't think I have ever seen a US organization do
that.]

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/art/2007/07/143_6918.html

   Expensive Vienna Opera Concert Frustrates Fans
   Korea Times, July 23
   By Seo Dong-shin
   Staff Reporter
   
   Korean classical music fans were delighted when it was announced
   that the Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper), one of the
   world's most reputed opera companies with a 138-year-old history,
   would come to Seoul for the first time Sept. 19-20. However,
   jaws dropped when the price for VIP tickets became known: 450,000
   won [$492 - for a concert performance!  For a rough estimate in
   this story, drop three zeros from won figures to get the dollar
   equivalent (JG)].
   
   The price matched that of the Berlin Philharmonic's performance
   in Seoul two years ago. At that time, too, the debate on expensive
   classical music concerts flared up among classical music fans.
   
   While it is the first time for the world-class opera to visit
   Seoul, their staging of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" will
   not be presented in a full-fledged style, but in the form of an
   opera concertante - which means the costumes, stage settings as
   well as acting of the singers will be minimized - to "focus
   purely on music."
   
   Nevertheless, the VIP seats and the next class, R seats priced
   at 350,000 won, take up more than half of the total seats. Seats
   in the S, A and B class are priced at 250,000, 150,000 and 80,000
   won, respectively. Student chair seats are available at 30,000
   won [3 cents?!].
   
   As one anonymous classical music fan complained in an online
   forum, if a couple plans to go to the concert with VIP seats,
   with dinner and transportation it will easily reach one million
   won ($1000). "Why not just book a plane ticket to Austria with
   that sum of money?" the fan complained. "With less than 200 euros
   (250,000 won) we can buy a fine seat at the Vienna State Opera
   House itself."
   
   As criticism mounted, Credia, a local performing arts company
   organizing the Vienna State Opera's concerts here, made an unusual
   move by making public the balance sheet of the scheduled
   performance.
   
   According to the company, it costs about 1.1 billion won [$1.2
   million] to organize the concerts, with 900 million [$983,537]
   alone going to the Vienna State Opera, including tax. In addition,
   about 80 million won is necessary to cover the expenses of about
   110 orchestra and opera members, who come to Korea for four days.
   Then there is 30 million won to pay to the Seoul Arts Center for
   renting the concert hall, and 80 million won for advertisements.
   
   Without corporate sponsors, at least 1.3 billion won of ticket
   sales must be achieved, considering about 15-20 percent deduction
   of credit card fees, reservation fees or value added tax. That
   would mean selling out 4,800 seats at the concert hall of Seoul
   Arts Center with an average price of 270,000 won, which is
   impossible to do, the company said.
   
   "This is not a popular big-scale opera held at an Olympic stadium
   or outdoors," Credia said in a statement. "We decided to invite
   the Vienna State Opera because it's worth introducing its appeal
   to domestic audiences despite possible losses on our side."
   
   While classical music fans express anger at skyrocketing ticket
   prices, industry insiders largely agree that it is a helpless
   situation.
   
   South Korea is different from Japan, which has a bigger classical
   music market and where renowned European classical orchestras
   can tour several cities holding as many concerts as possible to
   make up the cost, they say.
   
   In Korea, due to relatively small audiences interested in
   classical music, it is hard to hold the same concert more than
   twice.  According to a survey by the Ministry of Culture and
   Tourism, people who go to a classical concert or opera dwindled
   over the years, from 6.7 percent in 2000 to 6.3 percent in 2003
   and to 3.6 percent last year.

   In addition, the more expensive the tickets are, the more people
   tend to regard it as a prestigious performance worth going to
   watch, in line with the "Veblen effect" meaning conspicuous
   consumption. Sales actually go up when the ticket price is
   expensive, many industry analysts believe.

Janos Gereben/SF
www.sfcv.org
[log in to unmask]

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