It’s Official: Age of Entitlement Over at Opera Australia

It’s early morning the Friday after New Year. Lyndon Terracotta, Artistic Director of Bopopera Australia, has come in early to his waterfront office to be greeted by a curt text from his PA: “Mr T! You’re on Slipped Disc again. That dreadful Norman DeFect still doesn’t like us!”

It’s been a tough year. Lyndon feels he needs to unburden to someone……..


Dear David,

Compliments of the Season. Came in early today to give some quiet thought to important matters such as my ideas for a new Comps. Policy and suddenly I find that nice Flack we have, you know the one with a pretty name, has had a fat finger incident. Hit the “reply world” button : ” Hi All, Comps are off Darlings. Happy New Year.” I mean, all I asked her to do was get a bit stroppy with that critic lady for the left wing press, Harry Cunningplan! Pommy Bastard I think. Did you see what she wrote on Crikey a few days back? No? Well I guess it’s no surprise you don’t read Crikey. Never known a board member who did, all those inner city white lefty journos who’ve never had to make a profit or meet a wages bill.

Did I mention the season? It’s all about the bloody season. I thought it was all done and dusted last August when we launched, but the media’s on it again. Bland they say; nothing by women composers, nothing Australian, nothing contemporary in the main stage program, anything goes. And “Anything Goes”. They’ll dredge up anything to prove a point, particularly regarding my artistic integrity. A couple of pars, years ago, in the NT News and the career’s on the skids the way the press sees it. Memories like elephants. And it’s a bit rough to have both sides against us. Did I mention that other bird (I think she’s a Pommy import too, with a touch of colonial arrogance) Cinders Rella. Calls me Eeyore! And just because I cast a guy named Jones. I reckoned anyone called Jones was a good bet? Gwynneth Jones. Aled Jones. Alan Belford Jones?

Trouble is, David (and I’m sorry if this a bit disorganised, but I did drown my sorrows yesterday in a couple of bottles of Dom Perignon I took home after New Years), it’s not only the critics who don’t love me. It’s the Opera Club.

I know, I know, we don’t have an Opera Club, but the people exist. And with enough factions to take on the Terrigals. You’ve just head the refrain. Play more Australian work, they say. Then they don’t bring their friends. Play more women composers! You can count the Australian women opera composers on one hand. The subscribers bitch too. Book the best seats year after year. And then they die. Certainly won’t return for Bliss reruns. Why can’t they just cancel their subscriptions to “Allerta” if they don’t like me.

It may be, David, that after two years with us you are learning some of the issues I have to deal with. Had Senator Branding Iron on the phone the other day. At least he’s a “bums on seats” man, so he doesn’t mind how many times we run Carmen. He told me times were tough and we’d have to tighten out belts. Said living standards are falling and the age of entitlement is over. I tell you, he’s never invited me to an $11,000 tête-à-tête dinner. I bet they drank Grange. But that’s it. You board guys seem to think it’s all about bums on seats too. Never got past Nessun Dorma, eh? (Sorry. Cheap shot.) And don’t seek too much advice from that gallerist, Porcini. They’re all crooks in that game, from Sotheby’s down. Or should that be up. It’s just not fair: everyone forgets I have to plan long term, four, five years out. Just as well I programmed a bums on seats schedule for 2015, just as the downturn strikes. At least they’ll come to Aida and Boheme. Elephants and a bit of tit always bring in the punters. (Had a go at me for bare breasts, too, did prissy Ms Harry. For god’s sake! They’re so far upstage you need field glasses to see anything.)

And everyone seems to have forgotten our triumph with The Ring. Am I a tall poppy to be slashed after delivering that gem? Well, I know, there were a few personnel issues. Houston have always been prickly with me, and running with an Australian conductor did seem like a good idea at the time we booked him. Filled the State Theatre, we did, including a great program to screw our regulars by offering “inducements” to get punters the best tix. Pity about all those subscribers who missed out on decent seats, but they were mostly from Melbourne and as you know we don’t really care much about our Melbourne audiences, never-ending mob of bitchers that they are.

I mentioned The Ring to Branding Iron. I think he knew what I was talking about. Wanted to get a message back to Tony Grabbit about red tape (and reputation). Red tape costs money. Did you know we had to cast an extra Valkyrie? I’d never seen so many ROFLMAOs in emails replying to our request for a soprano with Work Cover certification in the construction industry. And now we are a laughing stock with world wide Wagner Societies for our casting. Had to provide a second cherry picker too because you can’t have people on them unless driver trained or with someone to ensure they are hooked on. Does no one remember our heritage? Next they’ll be demanding nets every time anyone enters on a trapeze. Bloody OH&S. I said to Neil at the time the cherry pickers were a bit too much just for a dragon reference, but he did a great job on the whole, even getting in a Bondi Beach reference and bikini girls. That must be a first for The Ring and it kept the tourism people happy.

Did I mention singers? People seem to forget I spend my life working with one of the most difficult persuasions in the world: musicians of the vocal variety. And do I cop it! Am I so wrong not to want Cio-cio San two metres tall or Afro American? “Suspend belief all ye who enter here” can only go so far. I’m a sensitive guy who understands our anti-discrimination policies. I’d never call a singer “fat”. But it’s not just body image: I’m under the gun for not running ASIO and other political checks on our principals. I mean, we book talent, not opinion. I can’t see how I’m supposed to know four or five years out when a contracted singer will have a gin too many and blow her mouth off to the fourth estate about oil prices, gay rights or whatever. Then, before I know it, you’re on the phone, David, saying “something must be done”. The ensemble singers are pretty difficult, too. Suggest a few weeks off while we run the Lisa and Teddy show and there’s hell to pay. Singers say they can’t make ends meet and have to take jobs doing burlesque in Newtown. If they just drank Vickers like the average Australian instead of bloody Hendrick’s they could probably pay the phone and fag bills.

Haven’t mentioned orchestras yet have I? They’re all inveterate complainers too. Pit’s too small; brass is too loud; calls schedule too difficult. And those guys in Victoria and their union mates! The Australian Ballet is welcome to them.

So, David, you see, I’m feeling a bit unloved. But I have addressed some of the immediate issues by having Mesdames Harry and Cinders told they are persona non grata. The fact we can’t get a reputable critic along to the opening of Faust is irrelevant. As long as we stay popular we don’t need those arty farties. And Faust has enough JK Rowling to sell itself, not to mention The Jewel Song.

I feel a little better now that I have explained some of my problems. I was contemplating resignation, but have just had a great idea for 2017/18. We can do a Three Tenors Spectacular with The Best of Lehar as theme. And then we’ll book Andre Rieu for Opera on the Harbour. That’ll put the bums on seats!




About johnofoz

An occasional correspondent, with particular interest in music.
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2 Responses to It’s Official: Age of Entitlement Over at Opera Australia

  1. Well you got the colonial bit right – takes one to know one eh what? I am NOT a pommy, thank you very much, I’m from Kenya.

  2. johnofoz says:

    Like junior ministers, some of us have to use Wikipedia as a research tool. Your correspondent was (also?) born in England but is likewise certainly NOT a Pom!

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