Victorian Arts Centre v Sydney Opera House: Although woefully outgunned in terms of state government funding, the Arts Centre certainly takes the cake in terms of visitors to events rather than tourism visitors. It also does the job in terms of the number and diversity of events. A qualified win to Bleak City.
National Gallery of Victoria v Art Gallery of NSW and others: A close call, however the NGV does extremely well in terms of overall quality of collection and its blockbuster exhibitions. The Art Gallery of NSW makes up ground with some of its more specialised collections and the fact that it has the Archibald Prize as a PR tool. Call it a draw.
Opera Australia: Housed in Sydney and tours to Melbourne for short periods but not much elsewhere. A win to Sin City, but it’s really the South Australian Opera kicking goals here with last year’s Wagnerian Ring Cycle an international operatic high point.
Australian Ballet: Genuinely national, strong international profile and a long line of highly regarded artistic directors. Based in Melbourne along with the Australian Ballet School, so Bleak City takes this one hands down.
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Contemporary Dance: Sydney Dance Company v Chunky Move: SDC has a higher profile but has been in financial strife recently, whilst Chunky Move is smaller but seemingly edgier. Sin City must take this prize because it can add the amazing Bangarra Dance Company to the mix – truly national, internationally regarded and highly culturally significant. At a lower level, however, Melbourne’s contemporary dance scene is very vibrant.
Circus: Melbourne all the way with National Institute of Circus Arts, Circus Oz, Cirque Du Soliel’s south-east Asian Arm and the Flying Fruit Flies based in Albury (leaning more Melbourne’s way than Sydney’s).
Comedy: No question Melbourne’s comedy festival is in the top three in the world and our regular week-in-week-out scene is also much stronger.
Arts Schools: VCA v NIDA: Depends on the discipline, but watch out for Perth. VCA is probably a broader church.
Festivals: Melbourne v Sydney v Adelaide: Gut feel says Adelaide owns this market. The numbers might not stack up this way but the Adelaide Festival probably wins the battle for artistic merit and local support, in much the same way that Melbourne owns the Comedy Festival. Castlemaine’s festival and Tassie’s Ten Days on the Island are great examples of smaller areas holding their own against the big guys.
Musical Theatre: This ebbs and flows according to government assistance to win the latest blockbuster.
Classical Music: Every state has a subsidised symphony, at least at the moment! Both Melbourne’s and Sydney’s are of high quality.
Museums: Canberra probably has the best example of a broad national museum, although the biggest goal kicked by a local museum lately is Victoria’s Performing Arts Collection (at the Arts Centre) self-generating a blockbuster exhibition (Kylie) that’s touring nationally and internationally.
Overall, I count this as a 5.5 to Melbourne, 1.5 to Sydney, 1.5 to Adelaide and 0.5 to Canberra. Even if you give Sydney the nod for Film and TV production, Melbourne still wins with Adelaide holding up very well.
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