I’m currently reading a very humorous book by Sir Terry Pratchett, namely Maskerade. As a book, it’s many things – a comedic fantasy; centred around an aspiring opera singer; and a great parody of Phantom of the Opera. As all Sir Terry’s books do, behind the mask of comedy is a witty and insightful commentary on people and society.
I’ve often heard people lamenting things about Opera not being ‘profitable’ or art being a waste of money.
Here’s a funny, but startingly good response to the issue, excerpted here for your enjoyment:
Bucket's jaw dropped. 'Is it important?' 'Because,' Salzella went on, smoothly, 'opera doesn't make money. Opera never makes money.' 'Good grief, man! Important? What'd I ever have achieved in the cheese business, I'd like to know, if I'd said that money wasn't important?' Salzella smiled humourlessly. 'There are people out on the stage right now, sir,' he said, 'who'd say that you would probably have made better cheeses.' He sighed, and leaned over the desk. 'You see,' he said, 'cheese does make money. And opera doesn't. Opera's what you spend money on.' 'But. . . what do you get out of it?' 'You get opera. You put money in, you see, and opera comes out,' said Salzella wearily. 'There's no profit?' 'Profit. . . profit,' murmured the director of music, Scratching his forehead. 'No, I don't believe I've come across the word.' 'Then how do we manage?' 'We seem to rub along.' Bucket put his head in his hands. 'I mean,' he muttered, half to himself,'I knew the place wasn't making much, but I thought that was just because it was run badly. We have big audiences! We charge a mint for tickets! Now I'm told that a Ghost runs around killing people and we don't even make any money!' Salzella beamed. 'Ah, opera,' he said.
Seriously though, it’s a really good point. We whinge about art not being profitable. It’s not true, the return for your money is just not fiscal…