“We have worked with the NSW Government and the Sydney Opera House Trust since 2018 to verify the financial impact of the Sydney Symphony’s displacement from its home venue and to develop a solution,” they said.
The amount Sydney Symphony had committed to find through its own sources would match or exceed the government’s investment, the spokesperson said. To date, it had realised savings and new revenues of around $9 million.
As a condition of any payment, Create NSW said a first-stage review of SSO’s operations has been undertaken.
“No payment has been made to date, and Create NSW continues to work closely with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra to consider all options to support the organisation during this redevelopment period where disruption costs may occur,” a spokesperson said.
Create NSW and Australia Council will also monitor the orchestra’s finances during its transition and help set the financial terms for the orchestra’s use of the Concert Hall upon its return to the Opera House in February 2022.
At this time the international conductor Simone Young will take up her role as the orchestra’s chief conductor.
SSO board directors expressed confidence that the $10 million grant along with further “engagement” of its funding partners, cost-cutting and the JobKeeper subsidy would enable it to survive through to May 2021 even if performances did not resume for all of 2020.
Meanwhile, Opera Australia revealed it was in the final stages of securing bank credit and flagged possible asset sales “should the need arise” in its newly released annual report.
In 2019 Opera Australia reported a $198,534 operating surplus in, during a boom year when it staged 775 performances, entertained 660,000 people, and achieved strong ticket sales of $73.6 million – representing more than half of its total income.
But post-pandemic Australia’s biggest arts employer has had to cancel or postpone more than 570 performances. This represented potential lost ticket sales of around $75 million.
Were the COVID-19 pandemic to last longer and the credit facility “not forthcoming, significant uncertainty would exist surrounding the group’s ability to continue as a going concern”, it warned.
Opera Australia’s chairman David Mortimer said there was no doubt the company was suffering a serious financial reversal but he remained optimistic the worst impacts were behind the company.
Last year confirmed OA as one of the busiest and most successful box office earners among the world’s major opera companies, chief executive Rory Jeffes said.
But its high reliance on box office success, combined with its large workforce of more than 1400 people, presented challenges for the company “in a radically changed world”.
Linda Morris is an arts and books writer at The Sydney Morning Herald