Every year in late July and early August, and for the 12th time in 2014, Opéra de Baugé puts on 12 fully staged opera performances with high quality professional soloists, chorus and orchestra for under 200,000 euros – i.e. about 16,000 euros per performance.
Benchmark this against other opera festivals and it is ridiculously cheap. We, the organisers, manage to do this by working like slaves, having no salaried staff, accommodating 100+ visiting singers and musicians every year free of charge in our own houses and with local families, and by very tight cost control. The musicians and singers themselves are tempted to Baugé not by large fees, but by non-monetary factors such as the opportunity to learn and perform new repertoire, to work with other talented people, and the douceur de vie of this part of France.
Opera is a magical but expensive pursuit. Typically, an opera festival gains 30-40% of its revenues from ticket sales and the rest from subsidy, private donations and ancillary sales (food, wine, programmes, souvenirs). Opéra de Baugé relies on ticket sales for 84% of its revenues. Unlike almost every other cultural festival in France it has no significant subsidy, and this cannot change under current economic circumstances. In any case the organisers are not pre-programmed to seek subsidies, but many French theatre and opera goers are accustomed to the subsidised prices of state-run establishments and some people reproach Opéra de Baugé for what they see as high prices. By international standards, 63 euros for the best seat in our house represents fabulous value for money.
Many communities derive tangible benefit from the existence of our festival. For instance:
- singers learn and perform new repertoire, which is often key to their winning roles in other theatres. Several singers who made their debuts with us have developed significant international careers, and in many cases the first role they performed elsewhere was the role they had studied with us
- orchestral players learn repertoire which helps them get into opera orchestras elsewhere
- local traders – especially providers of lodgings, food and drink, restaurants – note a big uptick in their turnover during the festival
- Opéra de Baugé generates tax revenues for the French state.
Most of the artists who perform at Baugé are based in London, which does not mean that they are necessarily British. London is a leading international centre for music and opera. In 2014 soloists from Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Greece, South Africa, the USA and South Korea, as well as Great Britain, are singing with us. Two of our three conductors are British (the other is Greek) and most of our orchestral players work in the UK. Our technical staff all come from the UK.
Opéra de Baugé needs to diversify and increase its income base. We have ambitious plans to improve the experience for the public who come to our operas and to create better facilities for our artists. We need to find a small number of people or organisations who believe in the value of what we are doing and are able to assist us financially to place the festival on a sound footing permitting it to realise its plans and have a long-term future.
If you are interested in knowing more about our plans and possibly working with us to achieve them, please contact John Grimmett, president of Opéra de Baugé, by email – firstname.lastname@example.org