Ben Eltham | The Costly Disease in Our Backing Orchestras

You can’t have an opera or a ballet without a live orchestra. (Well, you can, but it wouldn’t be quite the same, would it?) And you can’t have an orchestra without very large buckets of money.

But the current model is “economically unsustainable”, according to a new report from the Australia Council. Our “pit” orchestras are broke, or close enough to it.

The report’s author Justin Macdonnell bluntly states: “No one having regard to the complexities of this area could avoid the conclusion that it is hedged about with historically derived practice, sectional interests, arcane regulation and, in some cases, sheer inertia.”

“In the end,” Ben Eltham writes today, “something will have to give.” The reverberations around traditional performing arts in this country will be significant.

Has there ever been a report into Australia’s orchestras that has met with their approval? Apparently not.

In 2005, the Australia Council’s current chairman, highly connected company director James Strong, delivered a report into Australia’s professional orchestra companies. It wasn’t pretty. Some of Australia’s orchestras were struggling with static or falling audiences, and rising wage costs. Strong recommended more federal […]

Read the rest of Ben’s article published in Crikey here (subscription required).

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