Why contributions to the Royal Opera House are such a vital part of our income.
7 February 2014 at 6.02pm | Comment on this article
Sometimes people are surprised to see a fundraising appeal from the Royal Opera House. The idea of such a luxurious venue asking for money can initially seem absurd. ‘Isn’t it enough that I buy a ticket?’, you may ask. And, of course, it is enough – there is no requirement to contribute to our fundraising. So, why are we asking?
The reality for the ROH is that money raised by ticket sales and other commercial activity, combined with the support of Arts Council England, is not enough to fund what we do. Without the support of the Friends and Patrons of Covent Garden, generous sponsorship and money donated to fundraising appeals, we would not be able to balance the books, and this is the reason we run appeals.
What are we doing then, that makes us so different from a commercial theatre in London’s West End?
New work and innovation
At the Royal Opera House we don’t just have one blockbusting show on for months or years, we are continually producing new productions and new work. Tonight, we have the world premiere of a piece by our Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor, one of the leading creators of dance in the world. In April, we will stage two new works by Luke Bedford and Matthew Herbert, commissioned by The Royal Opera in response to Gounod’s Faust on the main stage.
Excellence and tradition
This brings us to another key way in which the Royal Opera House is different from a commercial theatre – we have a duty to preserve levels of excellence and tradition for which we are internationally renowned. As well as Wayne’s new piece, tonight’s mixed bill includes classic ballets by Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan, pieces that were created for The Royal Ballet. Our resident orchestra, chorus, music staff and backstage teams are among the best in the world, and we can attract the greatest international artists to sing, dance or direct for our stage. Although we are always conscious of saving money, working at this level is expensive, but the value it contributes to the UK’s international standing in arts and music is significant.
Learning, participation and job creation
We are constantly working with schools, families and community groups to open up the world of ballet and opera. Not simply because of the enjoyment our art forms can bring, but to broaden horizons. Each year our activities – from special schools’ matinees to community choirs, from teacher training to Family Sundays – reach more than 20,000 participants. We also invest through paid apprenticeship programmes and schemes to develop young artists so that we can nurture the next generation of talented performers and craftspeople.
Although we do sell expensive tickets, we ensure that there are tickets available from £4 for most performances. In fact, 40% of our tickets are £40 or less. We also have a well-used student scheme and ‘Welcome Performances‘ when first-time visitors can come to the ROH for a low price. We want as many people as possible to be able to come to our performances and so putting up prices significantly isn’t an option for us.
The Royal Opera House is a registered charity. All the income we generate, together with our funding from Arts Council England, goes towards putting on the very best possible performances of opera and ballet, sharing our work as widely as possible, and encouraging people to get involved. The need for us to ask for voluntary donations, grants and sponsorship is more pressing than ever as the uncertain economic situation continues with further cuts to the Arts Council. Every donation, however large or small, makes a tremendous difference to what we can achieve.
This is why we invite audience members to contribute through fundraising appeals, as do many other arts charities. At the moment we are asking for help with two specific projects: providing the shoes that are so fundamental to every Royal Ballet performance; and our continued efforts to stage ambitious, inspirational performances of Wagner’s operas. You certainly don’t have to contribute, but please don’t be offended if we ask.
To all of those who support us, sincere thanks – we couldn’t do it without you.
You can find out more about how the Royal Opera House uses your donations in our Annual Review.