We’ve all heard that “there are some things money can’t buy.” While we can agree that creativity and artistic expression are priceless, they’re not costless. The reality is that there are substantial costs involved in bringing large and complex opera productions to life.
We love that opera doesn’t require anything of the audience except to be present. Anyone can simply come and enjoy the splendor of the music and staging, entering a glorious world far removed from our day-to-day existence. Amazing, right? Absolutely, but the pragmatic question remains: how much work does this take and how much does it cost?
As a nonprofit, our mission is not to make money, but serve the community and keep grand opera alive in Los Angeles. However, live opera performances are extremely labor-intensive and therefore very expensive. On average, LA Opera spends $6,500 each hour our stage is in use for technical work, rehearsals or performances. Depending on how intricate the set design is, we can spend up to $1.5 million on the physical production alone – not to mention making sure that the artists and artisans working both on stage and behind the scenes (who have trained for years to perfect their craft and bring their creative talents to our stage) are paid fairly and can make a living wage. You may be surprised to learn that ticket income covers less than 50% of our costs – the rest is paid for through the generosity of donors, small and large, who value the arts.
Providing the best operatic experience possible means bringing in the top talent from all over the world to share their voices with us. Every production has its own scenery and costumes, tailor-made by a team of artisans working in collaboration with the designers and stage director. Our esteemed wig department makes each wig by hand with detail and precision, and our wardrobe and costume departments go above and beyond to create each piece of astounding clothing you see on the stage. Fun facts: for The Marriage of Figaro, the costume fabrics were hand dyed and hand sewed to get the specific coloring and designs specified by French designer Christian Lacroix and for our upcoming production of Pelléas and Mélisande, our wig artisans painstakingly created a wig made of human hair that is over four feet long.
Is all of this work and attention to detail necessary? We strongly believe it is. This level of dedication is what separates art from simple entertainment, and to profound impact. David Brooks says it best in his New York Times article “The Power of Art in a Political Age,” when he said that art and beauty “prompts you to stop in your tracks, take a breath and open yourself up so that you can receive what it is offering, often with a kind of childlike awe and reverence.” He goes on to explain that additionally, art widens your emotional repertory. The experience of opera, which uniquely combines all the art forms—visual, dance, voice, prose, costuming, orchestration and more—expands exponentially on this power of arts to impact lives.
Everyone deserves to experience opera. Everyone. It is this core belief that keeps our prices low compared to other entertainment options. You read that correctly. The idea that opera is the most expensive ticket in town is a myth – check our prices against other large-scale productions such as concerts and sporting events and you will see what we mean. Our prices are lower even though our stage costs, judging by labor requirements, are higher.*
Know that every time you buy an opera ticket (they start under $20) you’re not just benefiting yourself by opening yourself to experiencing fine art, you’re also supporting a community of hard-working and talented artists and artisans based right here in Los Angeles.
That’s something else to feel good about.
*We understand the struggle that some have making ends meet and that paying for tickets, no matter how reasonable, is not within their means. To address this, we have created discounts for students, families, active military service members and more. We also have tons of community programs to make sure everyone has access to opera at little or no cost. If you yourself are not struggling financially, we encourage you to consider donating to LA Opera to help keep opera accessible to all.