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Opera Australia chief bars Daily Review

Opera Australia’s controversial artistic director Lyndon Terracini has lashed out over news coverage of the company in Daily Review by revoking Deputy Editor and critic Ben Neutze’s media tickets.

Neutze has not received an invitation for the company’s upcoming Sydney production Two Weddings, One Brideopening on Saturday, April 29. Yesterday, Daily Review inquired as to whether he would be invited, and Opera Australia confirmed that Terracini had ordered Neutze be removed from the company’s media ticketing list.

The Trump-style executive order comes two years after Terracini famously barred senior critics, Diana Simmonds from Stage Noise and Harriet Cunningham, who reviews for the Sydney Morning Herald. Earlier this year, reviewer Jade Kops from Broadway World was taken off the company’s lists for negative reviews.

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Opera Australia hasn’t stated specifically what coverage resulted in Terracini’s order, but we recently published an investigation by Neutze into the company’s internal workings, its rapidly increasing use of international artists, and its apparently “disrespectful” treatment of senior creative talents. Neutze also made criticisms of the company in a generally positive review of its production of Carmen on Sydney Harbour.

It’s standard practice in Australia and around the world that critics are provided with complimentary tickets, enabling them to review live performances. It has long been a convention in democratic countries that the provision of review tickets does not guarantee positive coverage. In fact, in many democratic societies the media are expected to report fearlessly on the arts, especially when those artistic endeavours and the salaries of its staff are paid for with taxpayers’ funds. (Opera Australia receives about $25 million a year in government funds – vastly more than any other performing arts company in the country).

Neutze has been reviewing Opera Australia productions for more than five years, and has covered the company and its productions extensively.

“I’ve had a good professional relationship with Opera Australia for quite a few years and love a lot of their work,” Neutze said. “But I’m not really surprised I’ve been taken off the list. There seems to be a certain climate of fear at the company about being too critical or speaking out in certain ways. And Lyndon has revoked other critics’ tickets when he hasn’t liked what they’d written.

“But I still think the issues I’ve raised are important, and ones which should be brought to light. I’m very glad we were able to publish those pieces on Daily Review.

Daily Review still plans to report on Opera Australia activities given it’s the largest and wealthiest subsidised arts company in Australia and Neutze will review the company’s new productions premiering in Sydney, but we will be looking into alternative ticketing.

We’re also asking our loyal, opera-loving readers to support us in purchasing tickets for Neutze for review purposes. If you’d like to make a contribution, please visit our Support page. Once you’ve made a payment, however small, send us an email at info@dailyreview.com.au, with the subject line ‘Opera Australia’ to advise that your support is specifically designated for review tickets. Any surplus funds will be dedicated to Daily Review‘s ongoing campaign to pay for independent art journalism as arts coverage declines in mainstream media.

26 responses to “Opera Australia chief bars Daily Review

  1. Mmm yes, it’s clumsy again of Opera Australia, not known for their good comms. But meanwhile other things surely demand attention. This story, a bit like the Section 18 C issue of the arts …

  2. Yes, you can buy your own ticket to attend and review Opera Australia performances. But that isn’t the point. Reviewers hold a valuable and important roll in advising the Public about the worth of theatrical performances without fear or favour. Your ban on being provided with free tickets to review performances says nothing about your work, but says legions concerning the poor behaviour and decisions of the Artistic Director of Opera Australia. Keep up the good work. It is appreciated. For what it is worth, your ban finds you in good company with other excellent reviewers who have similarly be banned for no other reason but writing an unfavourable review or making unfavourable but appropriate comments concerning management and artistic decisions.

  3. Discussion on social media is healthy, but I doubt if the decision makers connect with social media or if they read reviews. If you’re unhappy about what is happening at OA, as numerous people are, for whatever it is worth please continue write to the board and keep up the pressure, keep mobilising public opinion but let the decision makers know. There was a petition sent last year. Don’t ease up.

  4. Waaa waaaa Daily Review, go buy a box of tissues and buy your own ticket.
    This article reeks of nothing better to write about. We’re really scratching around the bottom of the barrel of stories here.

  5. According to Wikipedia: “In 2011, Lyndon Terracini gave a controversial speech as part of the annual Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address, in which he announced that Opera Australia had to change in order to survive. “Opera companies and orchestras of significance world wide are closing at an alarming rate … We can blithely ignore the fact … or we can change….brave programming is having the courage to programme what critics will criticise you for, but will make a genuine connection to a real audience”

    But not so brave as to accept criticism or questions about the organisation? As a taxpayer I contribute to Opera Australia so I do have a say. Ban all free tickets if they like but not just a selective few.

  6. Nobody is entitled to a free ticket to a production as a flat out rule – unless perhaps you’ve somehow contributed to the production existing in the first place (either through financial or non financial means). It should be up to the discretion of the person who heads that company and is responsible for its bottom line (and paying for the opening night party the reviewer presumably attends). As it is in this case. With so many online reviewers/bloggers/self-appointed critics feeling so entitled to free tickets to ANY production these days, why can’t companies draw a line? What is the benefit of these reviews to the company (especially if it is clear via past reviews that a particular reviewer favors a particular type of production and the show in question doesn’t fit that mold) and how is the public to know the agenda of the reviewer? Does a negative review mean a production is shit and therefore people should not support it? I think it’s great a company so in the public eye has the balls to call out this blatant entitlement from people who’s opinion really isn’t that important. And why the heck does Daily Review need to crowdfund the cost of tickets?!?! Buy them yourselves like everyone else or use the money you are paid for writing the review to purchase tickets.

  7. You’re not banned. You just need to buy your own ticket like most people do as the company sees little value in your reviews towards their productions. The cost of doing business. Your organisation should buy them and continue to critique the company and its productions both positively and negatively.

  8. So what? Buy your own ticket, like the rest of us. Theatre companies, sport teams, and public presenters of all types give out free tickets as part of their promotional activities, and are free to withhold comps if they perceive some recipients add little or no value to the company’s work. Ideally, all media companies should buy tickets for their reviews. That way, they would only review what is valuable for their own brand. And the general reader would have more reason to feel assured that a review is independent and honest. Otherwise, publish a rider under each review to the effect that the reviewer was the beneficiary of a complimenary ticket, like the many airplane and travel destination reviews (“the writer was a guest of X airline and Y resort”). Such entitlement!

    1. I’m glad you asked that question Frank. Daily Review has 70,000 subscribers and averages between 150,000 and 180,000 unique visitors per month. Cheers, Ray Gill

      1. I am one of the 70,000 – and glad to pay a subscription. I live in the UK and it keeps me in touch with the arts in Australia – an antidote to the generally meagre exposure and review they get in this country, as well as a measuring rod against the excellent arts and cultural coverage available in the UK. The Daily Review is a valuable publication.

  9. He has not banned them, just saving the expense of a ticket. Every little helps where funding is concerned.
    Every passenger on a bus is a critic of the transport system but do not get free travel.

    1. He has withdrawm them from the complimentary ticket list NOT to save money however little. If that was the goal all complimentary tickets should be withdrawn. He is retaliating to press coverage he didn’t like.

  10. Distressing story. Is Opera the bear going around in a little car or is that ballet? Seriously though, the man is a dictator not a director

  11. I’m behind “Mark” in helping foot the bill for Daily Review to attend and review Opera Australia’s season. Crowdfunding?

  12. Sounds like Opera Australia is being dramatic – and not in an entertaining way. Bad look for them. Lose the rotten wood, put someone with integrity at the top, rebuild a relationship with the public, lose the snobbery. It doesn’t do anyone favours OA.We don’t want Prima Donnas – not in Opera anyway!

  13. This happened once in Wellington NZ. We were gathered for the annual theatre awards. Two critics told the rest of the judging panel they had been banned from reviewing Downstage productions in response to their reviews of Sweeney Todd. One was an opera buff and had found fault with some of the singing. The other had confessed he was not a great fan of musicals but this show converted him. The then Artistic Director was outraged that inapproriate people were being sent to review a musical (despite both being the designated Wellington reviewer for their publication). The gathered panel of critics agreed there and then to boycott Downstage until both critics were reinstated. I crossed the room to inform the chairman of the board. He convened a quick meeting there and then – and five minuted later came over to say they were reinstated. Nothing like solidarity!

  14. Lets be clear. An arts company that publicly bans a critic earns only negative points in the public sphere. So doing so can only be to assuage what must be a significant issue behind closed doors. SO who got so testy as to do this publicly stupid and petty thing? The Board? The artists? The corporate or funding backers? Or just one person?
    Hey surely critics can claim ticket purchases off their tax? But if not I’m happy to buy Daily Review some tix to the opera – just to find out if they ever do a decent production!

  15. But isn’t this show in a smaller theatre? Is the show already over sold? The article doesn’t mention how many critics were actually invited – if there’s no room for everyone, the lesser critics are cut – this is standard practice as well. Five years isn’t a long time for a theatre critic to get cred – they have to make way for more senior reviewers.

    Also, you mention “tickets”. One or two? Standard practice in Broadway and all over the US is that they only get one ticket each. I ought to know, having handed out enough of them over there in my time…

    1. The show is in a smaller theatre, but the decision doesn’t just apply to this production. It’s not an issue of overbooking, it is specifically an objection to some of the coverage.

      It is standard practice in Australia to give two tickets (although I often only accept one — the second is very nice to have, but obviously not necessary) to reviewers unless there’s a capacity issue.

      1. Surely invitations are issued on a show by show basis – this is how it works in the US – so how would you know if you have been cut off for good? My understanding is that there are no more shows in the Opera Theatre this year, so nobody would be invited to anything else.

        Have any of your colleagues received invitations to any other shows this year?

        Sounds like a storm in a teacup, and someone’s feeling a little upset that their enjoyment at the expense of taxpayers has been cut off.

        1. I know I’m off the list for good (or at least for so long as Lyndon decides), because I had a conversation with a representative from Opera Australia yesterday who told me as much.

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