Blimey! What a gift. Hacks have charted how the ROH events have
unfolded in terms of ’acts’ and ’scenes’ and, of course, parallels have
been made with the tragedy and farce of opera plots themselves.
And there has been no paucity of the elements common to all brilliant
stories: conflict, controversy and contrast. There is the contrast
between elitism and populism. For example, can - or should - opera ’be
taken to the people’, or is it by definition a minority activity? Does
public money justify mounting an educational PR campaign to the general
Opinion is divided.
Then there is the conflict between artistic excellence (or expense may
be a better word) and commercial reality: a dragon on stage for eight
minutes costs more than the entire annual subsidy of regional
And does it make sense to slash seat prices on the altar of
accessibility - a bit like Rolls-Royce selling its cars below cost price
in order to extend the experience to everyone? Opinion is divided.
Also, although vital, would a wise management rely only on rich donors,
lottery money and the Arts Council? Surely they would seek to increase
income by developing their brand. Where are those strategic alliances
with businesses? Where is that merchandising?
Finally, controversy. Enter, stage left (as Old Labour) Gerald Kaufman
whose colourful rhetoric ’bears the unmistakable odour of revenge’
according to the Sunday Times, in whose columns he himself talks of ’the
stifling aura of exclusivity that made me feel I was intruding into a
Does he demonstrate a little bitterness?
The report ’would be actionable if not protected by Parliamentary
privilege’ says Lord Chadlington, whose actions by falling on his sword
are entirely honourable (aided paradoxically by Kaufman’s vitriol).
’It is better to do what is right, right away,’ he told me as PR Week
went to press. And he is right. The issue has ramifications for all PR
people for no matter how glamorous a product appears, if the management
structure behind it is convoluted; if the brand ethos is muddled; and if
a coherent, consistent marketing plan owned by all is not in place -
then no amount of PR campaigning will work.
All these are dilemmas that still remain unresolved.