Opera Australia

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Opera Australia is the principal opera company in Australia. Based in Sydney, its performance season at the Sydney Opera House runs for approximately eight months of the year, with the remainder of its time spent in the The Arts Centre in Melbourne (where it is accompanied by Orchestra Victoria). In 2004, the company gave 226 performances in its subscription seasons in Sydney and Melbourne, attended by more than 294,000 people.

Like most opera companies, it is funded by a combination of government money, corporate sponsorship, private philanthropy, and ticket sales. The proportion of its revenue from ticket sales is considerably higher than that of most companies, approximately 75 per cent. The company is perhaps best known internationally for its association with Dame Joan Sutherland, and for Baz Luhrmann's production of Puccini's La bohème in the early 1990s.

By the end of 2004, Opera Australia provided employment to approximately 1,300 Australians. OzOpera (Opera Australia's education, access and development arm) presented the La bohème production in Victoria, Northern Territory and Western Australia, attended by 13,350 people, while OzOpera's Schools Company performed to over 63,500 primary age children in more than 360 performances in urban and regional New South Wales and Victoria. Many thousands of Australians also experienced the work of their national opera company through television, radio, video, compact disc, DVD, and the annual free performance of opera in the Domain in Sydney.

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Australian Opera Company, 1956–57

In 1956, the Australian Opera Company was formed in Sydney under the auspices of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust. It commemorated the Mozart bicentenary by presenting four Mozart operas in all capital cities, travelling more than 10,000 kilometres, and giving 169 performances. A truly national company was in place.

Elizabethan Theatre Trust Opera Company, 1957–70

By 1957, it changed its name to the Elizabethan Theatre Trust Opera Company.

In 1959 the company's laid-off singers gave the first of many regional tours (presented by state Arts Councils) with Rossini's The Barber of Seville using reduced scenery and conducted from the piano by Georg Tintner (Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland). Subsequent Arts Council tours included Rigoletto (1960; Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales), Così fan tutte (1961; New South Wales, Queensland) and La traviata (1962; New South Wales, Queensland), all conducted by Tintner. However, by 1963 a permanent nucleus of singers and staff was retained throughout the year and the company had made appearances at regional festivals, including the Adelaide Festival. It was also able to establish the first Elizabethan Trust Orchestra for the company by 1967 with additional government aid.

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