Record year for Flanders’ opera and ballet


Kunsthuis has announced that 2015 was a record year for Opera Vlaanderen and the Royal Ballet Flanders, following a very “turbulent” period

Nutcracker on stage now

Kunsthuis, which represents Opera Vlaanderen and Royal Ballet Flanders, had a record year in 2015, with more than 97,500 combined tickets sold. The organisation also announced a record 160,000 visitors total, including other activities.

Among the highlights was the ballet’s season opener Van Manen/Cherkaoui, featuring new and updated work by the company’s new artistic director Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. It consistently sold out the official opera houses in Antwerp and Ghent and in smaller venues where it was performed in Flanders, making it the most successful production of recent years.

Customers for the opera and ballet are becoming younger, the organisation reported, with the average age of a ticket buyer for the opera now 47 and for ballet 44. In addition, 22% of all buyers of single tickets had never bought a ticket to the opera or ballet before. One in eight visitors to the opera in 2015 came from another country, up from 9% in 2014. For the ballet, the number of foreign visitors doubled to 8.5%.

“Culture houses are usually pretty humble, but we can be justifiably proud of these results. We have been able to put several turbulent years behind us,” said Kunsthuis general-director Lena De Meerleer, referring to the departure of the ballet’s former artistic director, Kathryn Bennetts, who left in 2012 in protest at the fusing of the opera and ballet, and to the ballet’s decision to end the contract of her successor, Assis Carreiro, in 2014.

“These figures are proof of the enormous effort made by our artists and by the staff behind the scenes,” De Meerleer continued. “The public appreciates the high-quality opera and ballet productions we offer. The loyal public keeps on coming, and the new public is growing more loyal.”

The company also announced that it was extending the term of Aviel Cahn, intendant of the opera, until 2019. Cahn was originally brought in in 2009. The opera will begin a procedure to find his successor later this year.

The ballet’s production of The Nutckracker (pictured) is on stage in Ghent until 14 February, while the opera’s next production, Othello, premieres in Antwerp on 12 February.

Photo: Filip Van Roe

Royal Ballet of Flanders

The Royal Ballet of Flanders is the only classical ballet company in Belgium. Based in Antwerp, it has long been considered one of the top dance companies in Europe.
Merge - The ballet company is set to merge with the Flemish Opera by 2014.
Budget cuts - The Australian-born artistic director Kathryn Bennetts is credited with reinvigorating the company after it languished in the early 2000s but left in 2012 due to budget constraints.
Award - The ballet company won the Critics’ Circle Award for Outstanding Company at the 2013 National Dance Awards in London.

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