The Royal Swedish Opera counts 2017 as one of its most successful years

By on May 10, 2018

New productions fill the house to the very last seat. The Royal Swedish Opera is reaching larger audiences and first-time visitors. New productions, such as the opera Dracula and the ballet Julia & Romeo by Mats Ek have filled the house and attracted younger audiences. Myriads of worlds, aimed at the youngest visitors – from 3 to 18 months – is a part of the Opera’s long-standing efforts for children and youth. A national innovation contest gave resulted in an app through which visitors, among other things, can enjoy performances via assisted-listening and sign-language interpretation.

The Royal Swedish Opera’s position at the forefront of digital technology is also demonstrated by the dance work Half Life in Virtual Reality. Moreover, as a national stage, the Opera has made its extensive history accessible through an archive in which every single production since 1773 is searchable in a digital database, launched in 2017.

Almost 300,000 visitors enjoyed the Opera’s performances in 2017, as well as onsite and offsite Opera activities. And every fourth visitor (23 per cent) is under the age of 40, an 8 per cent increase compared to 2015. More than 40,000 children and youths participated in and visited Opera’s activities in 2017. These are just a few of the highlights of the Royal Swedish Opera’s Annual Report, available in print and via our website

“From an artistic perspective, the Opera has had one of its most successful years with a broader repertoire that has attracted more young people and first-time visitors than before,” says Birgitta Svendén, CEO and Artistic Director, the Royal Swedish Opera. “It’s phenomenal that not a seat was left in the house for the newly-written opera Dracula and the ballet performance Alice in wonderland, at the same time as The Merry Widow, with a cast that included the renowned comedian Henrik Dorsin, drew a completely new audience to the Opera. Young at the Opera’s ingenious performance Myriads of worlds for our very youngest audienceis yet another step in our artistic development.”

In addition to the Royal Swedish Opera’s regular repertoire, opera productions staged from a children’s perspective are also presented.

“It’s vital that children get to experience the performing arts at an early age, bringing them close to music, song and dance,” says Anna Karinsdotter, Artistic Director, Young at the Opera.

Young at the Opera strives to continuously offer a wide range of Creative School projects, inviting students and educators to participate in various activities. In 2017, a total of 381 activities were conducted (2016: 320), engaging around 43,000 children and youths in Young at the Opera activities.

Young at the Opera also conducts projects using funding from donations and corporate sponsorships. Following two successful school projects, Wallenius Lines and the Royal Swedish Opera have decided to further develop and deepen the collaboration in a three-year project together with a school in Hässelby, and has also begun a research project with Stockholm University.

Since 2008, the Royal Swedish Opera also offers a 50 per cent discount on all performances to visitors under 26 years of age.

As a measure to extend the availability of performing arts to more audicences, digital broadcasts have also helped to ensure that a greater proportion of the Swedish public can enjoy opera and ballet. In 2017, Folkets Hus & Parker’s cinemas welcomed around 17,000 visitors across the country when productions from the Royal Swedish Opera were broadcast live from Stockholm. Furthermore, several productions were broadcasted from the opera house on Swedish Television (SVT) and on Swedish Radio, reaching over 600,000 viewers and 320 000 listeners. In autumn 2017, Sharon Eyal’s dance work Half Life was filmed using Virtual Reality (VR) technology, enabling visitors to experience it in a VR environment in 2018.

“As a national stage, we should be at the absolute forefront when it comes to using new, digital technology,” says Catarina Falkenhav, Communications Director, the Royal Swedish Opera. “What’s more, opera and ballet lend themselves easily to digitalisation. Ultimately, it’s about conveying our productions in different ways so that we constantly reach new audiences.”

Another digital project is the digitalization of the Operas enormous archive with artefacts dating back to 1773. Everyone can now enjoy Royal Swedish Opera productions from seasons past. In 2017, the Opera embarked on an ambitious project to digitalise its entire repertoire under the name Arkivet. Every work since the funding of the Opera in 1773 is searchable in the database, and digitalization of the Opera’s extensive repertoire, including costumes and set designs, will continue in 2018 and 2019.

In 2017, work continued within the framework of the Swedish Post- and Telecom Agency’s “Active-Future” themed innovation contest, in which the Royal Swedish Opera was a prize-winner in 2016. The Opera’s project was awarded SEK 1.2 million in financing, earmarked for improving accessibility of the Opera’s website, and the development of a smart phone app. Via the app, visitors who are visually impaired, dyslexic, or on the autistic spectrum can enjoy selected Opera productions via assisted-listening and sign language interpretation. The website and app were launched in early autumn 2017 and were well received. In 2018, the app will be further enhanced to expand accessibility.

Every two years, the Opera conducts an audience survey; in 2017, it was conducted in conjunction with eight different productions. The results show that almost every fourth visitor is under the age of 40. They also show an increase in the number of first-time and infrequent visitors from 12 to 15 per cent.

The staging of Dracula contributed to an increase of the number of visitors in the 15-39 age bracket. The Opera received an award from the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce for actively working with “new and creative approaches”, for example a special “Evening of the Vampires”, arranged prior to the world premiere.

“The results of the audience survey reflect our long-term efforts to diversify our repertoire and offer something for a wider range of audiences,” Birgitta Svendén concludes.

Customer satisfaction related to the performances is also measured in the survey. Here, the Royal Swedish Opera continues to have a high rating of 86 on a scale of 100. By way of comparison, a rating of 75 is considered good.

Helena Olofsson, Culture & Music | Stockholm