Image: Opera Australia's Ring Cycle/Jake Terrey

From the Crikey grapevine, it’s the latest tips and rumours…

Phantom audiences of the opera. Arts journalist Ben Neutze discovered something odd in The Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday – the paper reporting “more than 350,000 people” saw Opera Australia’s the Ring Cycle. Not bad for a venue that holds 2079 people. The online version later significantly corrected this number down to 35,000, but there is still something off.

SMH deputy entertainment editor Nathanael Cooper compared these numbers for the Ring with OA’s last new Australian work, Kate Miller-Heidke’s The Rabbits, which “sold 25,370 tickets”, in support of artistic director Lyndon Terrancini’s saying audiences “hated” the music in contemporary operas. 

Let’s take a closer look: OA’s annual report gives us 35,268 “admissions” to the season of the Ring – not “people” or “tickets sold”. Tickets could only be bought for the whole cycle: this brings us down to 8817 people each attending four times. 

With three full cycles of the four parts, we have an average of 2939 at each performance – around 140% of venue capacity. We can assume this discrepancy is accounted by attendances at dress rehearsals. So let’s take out the dress rehearsal attendances and assume all other performances were sold out: we have a maximum of 6237 people seeing the Ring Cycle during its season. 

Now, if we look at one of the biggest classics in opera and compare it with a new Australian opera and its 25,370 attendances, we have 300% more people for Miller-Heidke over Wagner.

Which really begs the question: who, exactly, is Terrancini talking about when he says audiences hate contemporary operas – and why did the SMH take these remarks at face value? 

Your hard earned tax dollars at work, people. While Labor MPs did absolutely nothing to stop the Coalition’s $158 billion income tax cut package, they at least had some fun prior to cave-in. One of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s failed amendments included changing the legislation’s incredibly on-the-nose Treasury Laws Amendment (Tax Relief so Working Australians Keep More of Their Money) to Treasury Laws Amendment (Tax Relief So Working Australians Keep More of Their Money But Not For a Really Long Time). Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was predictably incensed that Labor would “make light of the fact that hard-working Australians are counting on this parliament to pass our tax package in full”, although Crikey wonders how serious anyone was expected to take a bill named after an actual party slogan.

Ah yes, the old billionaire private jet mix up. On her best days, Ms Tips aspires to the savage wit of the Australian Financial Review‘s Rear Window column. So trust that it is with affection we observe yesterday’s correction is possibly the most Rear Window thing possible. We had been told that Morry Fraid and Zac Fried — who are not, as their names suggest, an awful comedy duo coming to a fringe show near you, but billionaires who made their fortune in haberdashery, camping and commercial property — had bought a new Gulfstream 650ER private jet. Turns out it was actually plumbing supplies billionaire Jonathon Munz who bought it. Aston notes in his apology Fraid and Fried are “quite content with the 2009 Bombardier they purchased in December 2016“. We only add that we’d put “being described as owning more private jets than you actually do” in the category of “good problems to have”. 

Westpac back at it. A property conveyancer in Sydney tells us that the interest rate on deposits in a Westpac trust account (to hold funds such as deposits on home purchases) is now 0.5% a year, down from 1.5% a couple of years ago. Seeing most variable rate home loans are around 4% a year, that’s close to banking banditry. Westpac only passed on 0.2% of this week’s 0.25% cash rate cut from the Reserve Banks to home owners holding a variable rate home loan — variable home loans are where banks like Westpac make the largest proportion of profits. The full 0.25% though was passed on to investors (Commonwealth did the same). If the RBA cuts by another 0.25%, the rate on the trust account might fall to zero.

Good to know that the RBA has a contingency plan. Not re. interest rates of course, but travel arrangements. Philip Lowe’s address at Darwin community dinner on Tuesday noted that the board had not met in Darwin for 50 years, and reflected on the many changes that had occurred since. For example, he said, in 1968 “almost the entire board travelled together on a private chartered plane. Today, our risk management guidelines wouldn’t allow this. They don’t allow us to travel all together and we certainly don’t take private planes”. Not even the Australian government has that kind of “designated survivor” set-up.

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Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey