A very successful year for the Royal Swedish Opera

By on April 9, 2018
Micke Sandström

2017 was a very successful year for the Royal Swedish Opera. Almost 300,000 visitors enjoyed the Royal Swedish Opera’s performances and activities, reaching a younger audience than previous years with one in four visitors under the age of 40, according to the Opera’s comprehensive audience survey.

In 2015, those under 40 only made up around 15 percent of the total audience. In the 2017 survey, this figure had increased by eight percent to 23.

“We are very happy with the results of the audience survey. This is the result of a long-term effort to diversify our repertoire and offer something for a wider range of audiences,” says CEO and Artistic Director Birgitta Svendén. The survey, which was carried out in the autumn of 2017, included 1,800 visitors who had seen performances on the main stage.

In 2017, the Royal Swedish Opera focused on a number of new works in order to reach new audience groups. Myriads of worlds, which played in the Rotunda, was a newly written piece of “Gesamtkunstwerk” aimed at our youngest visitors. Dracula, which premièred in October 2017, contributed to an increase in the number of visitors aged 15-39. In conjunction with the opening night, the Opera hosted a special event “Evening of the Vampires”, where a thousand live role players were invited to the dress rehearsal dressed as vampires, while at the same time the Opera house was turned into Dracula’s castle with the aid of projections.

In the past few years, the Royal Swedish Ballet has worked to reach out to new target groups, both in terms of repertoire and new, smaller formats. For example, the audience is able to attend open rehearsals as part of A day in a dancer’s life. The survey showed that the dance production Romeo & Juliet by Mats Ek, the modern dance pieces of choreographers Sharon Eyal & Olivier Dubois, and the production Alice in Wonderland attract a new, younger audience to the Opera.

Birgitta Svendén continues: “We are working to blend the classic with the modern. We are ordering new operas and reworking the old ones to adapt them to contemporary society. I also think that our long-standing efforts with the children’s and youth department Young at the Opera, which started in 2003, are one of the main factors behind our increasingly younger audience.“ 

Anna Karinsdotter, artistic director of Young at the Opera, says:

“It is crucial that children have the opportunity to take part in the dramatic arts from a young age and be close to music, song and dance. Young at the Opera works independently to provide a wide range of creative school projects and invites pupils and teachers to explore and experience different art forms. We also plan daytime performances so that as many schools as possible can visit during the day and experience our art. Since 2008, we have had a special target towards young adults; everyone under the age of 26 can enter for half price. Culture should be for everyone!”

Digital broadcasts also help to ensure that a greater proportion of the Swedish public can enjoy opera and ballet. In 2017, Folkets Hus & Parker’s cinemas received around 17,000 visitors across the country when the Royal Swedish Opera was broadcast live from Stockholm (The Merry Widow and Dracula). In combination with broadcasts via SVT, the Royal Swedish Opera has reached a total of over 600,000 viewers for four productions broadcast from the Opera house. The rewritten work The Merry Widow, with the renowned comedian, scriptwriter and actor Henrik Dorsin as scriptwriter and lead role, has been of particular importance.

“The fact that our art forms opera and ballet are shown on several channels thanks to digitalisation can be a contributory factor to interest now being spread to more age groups,” says Catarina Falkenhav, Communications Director.

She adds:“I receive mails from people who have seen the opera Dracula on SVT and at the cinema and now want to see the piece live on stage. For some time now we have published more and more filmed material from rehearsals, personal interviews, and costume and scenery production in our own channels, which we will expand even further in 2018. This is part of our strategy to invite our audience at as early a age as possible, since research shows a positive correlation between the accessibility of art and its increased consumption. As a national theatre, we have a responsibility and an opportunity to make use of digital technology to reach more people.”

The survey reveals that the percentage of first-time and infrequent visitors has increased from 12 % to 15 %. It is primarily Dracula, The Merry Widow and Alice in Wonderland that have contributed to the increase. The Merry Widow has played a prominent role in the increased attendance of infrequent visitors (more than 5 years since their last visit) and first-time visitors, as more than one in five visitors to the performance represented this group.

What really stands out in the survey is the younger demographic; in 2015 the age group of under 40 constituted around 15 % of the total audience. The 2017 figure has increased by 8 percentage points to an impressive 23 %.

In the same audience survey, customer satisfaction was also measured, and the Royal Swedish Opera continues to have a high rating of around 86 on a scale of 100.

Helena Olofsson, Culture & Music | Stockholm