The financial procedures and wisdom implemented between 1995 and 2004 can and must be maintained. Cost control has been dramatically improved. It remains a challenge that also applies to the cultural arena.
The challenges of programming in the future will still be a balanced schedule of a number of lyrical and ballet performances which should not be below 350 per season.
Moreover, more performances could take place. Simulations are presented in the book. The weekly number of titles presented could go from 2 to 4. The Bastille Opera could offer up 200 performances shows each year, provided that technical and financial ambitions of designers are kept under control, and that commercial feasibility of the planned programme is ensured. The Palais Garnier could be open from mid-July to the end of August. Even by increasing the Opera’s permanent staff members by 20%, the increase in the production programme could be totally financed by the supplementary income generated. Any implementation of such proposals should go through an in-depth feasibility study, and, of course, agreement with personnel and unions. Attempts to reduce other fixed costs should be followed up and co-productions encouraged. Sponsorship, already well underway, should continue to progress; commercial diversification continue, as should the efforts to diffuse lyrical and ballet productions as widely as possible.
Lessons learnt from the “concession” period (between, mostly, 1831 and 1939), and from the experience of the relationship between Hugues Gall and the successive governments between 1995 and 2004, suggest that a return to a clear and documented contractual relationship between the Opera Director and the State should take place. A multi year business plan would be its the main instrument. A board of directors, with extended responsibilities, could become its guardian. The board should control the budgets, in respect of the business plan. It could also contribute to the human resources policy, another challenge important for the future of the institution.
Is The Paris Opera a microcosm of French society as many people like to say?
Up to a point, yes. What an attractive comparison! (Don’t ask the Paris Opera to do better than what happen in France! - or when the Paris Opera performs excellently, it shows what France can do best!). But this view point has sometimes the inconvenient of justifying leasiness in taking action, and the impotence felt when attempting to change opinions and attitudes. The authors of the book are reasonably optimistic about the capacity of all those involved to help the Paris Opera on its way to success and controlled management of its own development.