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La Traviata
©Alfredo Rocha La Traviata

Opera on the Harbour cancelled due to coronavirus measures


Verdi's tragic opera La Traviata has taken on an extra tinge of sadness with the news that this year's Opera on the Harbour extravaganza has been cancelled, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many Sydneysiders, Opera Australia taking to the harbour waters is a major highlight of the city's cultural calendar. Sadly, the prestigious company announced this afternoon that the upcoming Handa Opera rendition, set to play out on a purpose-built stage at Mrs Macquarie's Point from March 27, would not go ahead.

The difficult call was made in line with the government ban on public gatherings of more than 500 people from today, in an effort to help minimise the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opera Australia CEO Rory Jeffes said, "These are unprecedented circumstances for Opera Australia and an extremely challenging time for the performing arts sector as a whole, but we understand how vital it is that we all work together to keep people safe."

The company had already elected to bring the curtain down on all performances of Attila, Carmen and Great Opera Hits, a huge financial hit that will severely financially hobble even a major performing arts outfit like Opera Australia, particularly given the scale of the company.

"We're very proud to be the only major opera company in the world where more than 50 per cent of our revenue comes from ticket sales," Jeffes added. "As Australia's largest arts employer, with almost 1600 employees, this strength is also our biggest challenge through the COVID-19 crisis."

Opera on the Harbour alone has tipped some $66 million into Opera Australia coffers since the event began in 2012, indicating the extent of the losses they will incur. The company is currently in crisis talks about how best to survive the shutdown period, looking at all assets. 

Ticket-holders will be entitled to a full refund but are being encouraged to consider exchanging their bookings for La Traviata to an alternative performance later in the year, or converting them into either gift vouchers or a donation to Opera Australia if financially able and willing to do so.

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