Opera in Federal spotlight
James Clayton in the recent WA Opera production of The Magic Flute.

The WA Opera has welcomed the first national review into the art-form as a chance to shine the spotlight on an inequity in Federal funding.

WA Opera general manager Carolyn Chard said the review announced by Federal Arts Minister George Brandis yesterday came at a challenging and changing time for opera internationally.

Opera Australia receives almost $20 million of the $32 million distributed to Australian opera companies through the Australia Council.

Ms Chard said the WA Opera received less than $500,000 in Federal funding and required extra money to achieve a deeper market penetration in the State through a fourth main-stage season, regional touring, new work and more collaborations.

The State Government, through the Department for Culture and the Arts and Lotterywest, and the City of Perth had enabled a number of new initiatives and collaborations for which the company was very grateful, she said.

"WAO is keen to see more equality in Federal funding to the State opera companies," she said.

The WA Opera's Federal grant of $453,000 was less than a third of that received by the State Opera of South Australia ($1.44 million) and $173,000 less than the $626,000 received by Opera Queensland.

"Opera Australia receives almost $20 million in Federal support or 40 times more than WAO's grant."

Helen Nugent, who chaired the 1999 Major Performing Arts Inquiry, will lead the National Opera Review, assisted by former Opera Australia artistic director Moffatt Oxenbould and independent producer Andrew McKinnon, a cousin of Senator Brandis.

They will examine the artistic vibrancy, engagement with audiences and financial positions of the four companies.

"The purpose of the enquiry is to ensure that Australian audiences continue to enjoy opera of the highest quality and that the opera companies can operate in a financially sustainable way," Senator Brandis said.

"Public consultation will be a key part of the review and I encourage those in the arts sector and anyone who enjoys opera to make a submission."

Ms Chard said the latest review followed a 2012 review into the Opera Conference which underscored the importance of the art-form and continued the concept of collaboration in the sector.

Senator Brandis has written to WA Arts and Culture Minister John Day and other State arts ministers to seek their comments on the terms of reference for the review.

The Nugent review panel is expected to report back to Senator Brandis early next year.

The West Australian

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