The following survey was performed one year ago. It was initially intended for French audiences, although its scope was by no means limited to this particular country. We thought it could be of interest to the readers of OperaGlass to have access to it and to compare it to other sources of statistics, if any. The information seen in 1995 does not seem to render these results obsolete. Comments are the sole responsibility of the author.

This survey might not fully satisfy American audiences, in terms of data relative to the United States. Hopefully, someone will give it a try.

Author : Alain P. Dornic,

Today, which are the most performed operas in the world? La Bohème? Carmen? Il Barbiere di Siviglia? Don Giovanni? Who is at the top : Wagner? Verdi? Mozart? Are German operas more popular than Italian ones? What about Baroque operas : are they really played? Which cities are most interested in operas?

The way to answer these questions would be to obtain all the programs from a season for the greatest number of lyric theaters, from all corners of the world. That would be, even before sorting out the results, quite a considerable task.

The traditional approach, in case there are huge amounts of data, is to proceed by sampling. Obviously then, the results won't be perfect, since, in our particular domain, the criteria to establish the selection are anything but scientific. However, that is what we have tried to do.

Base for the research : the catalog of programs listed by the magazine "OPERA International", covering France (approximately 30%), Europe besides France (50%), rest of the world (20%). Therefore, the coverage goes from Avignon to Sydney, via Houston and Oslo. This sample already demonstrates the limits of our survey, for ex. : - only operas in the "western" style are considered - programs from the former USSR are not given, among others - some entire sections of vanguard works, some performances of limited reach or created with meager means, remain outside of the major circles of national and international stages. Consequently, the statistics and results shown hereunder only cover the western opera community, with a strong predominance for the traditional European heritage.

BUT, wouldn't it be what the reader is going to remember anyway?

We have selected the issue of February 1994 of Opera International, listing programs for February and March 94 (i.e. middle of a "season", stable conditions for theater life). We have added the operas reviewed in the same issue -performed over the 2-3 previous months- in order to widen the sample even more, without altering the criteria. Overall, we have here 180 different works, corresponding to 422 productions and performed approximately 1500 times over the period. After all, those numbers are large enough to give some credibility to the results.

The analysis of the raw material raises certain problems : what do we count? The number of actual performances or the individual productions (i.e. based on a specific staging)? Our choice was to count the productions; its specificity being the artistic and financial unity of a show, independently of the venue of a performance (ex. a tour of Porgy and Bess presented in several towns would still count for one production). Other decisions were difficult to make : - we eliminated operettas and musicals (though Fledermaus and a few others made it with the arbitration of the Kobbe) - voluntary elimination of a half dozen works, of which Opera International only quoted the title giving no clue as to their proper identification - selection or not of works bordering what can be defined as an opera, etc...

All that being said, let us look at the results.

What are the Operas most often performed?

	Opera                        Productions Performances

 1  Tosca                           12         48
 2  La Bohème                       11         52
 3  Die Zauberflöte                 11         37
 4  Madama Butterfly                 9         42
 5  Don Giovanni                     9         31
 6  Otello                           9         30
 7  Il Barbiere di Siviglia          9         27
 8  La Traviata                      8         24
 9  Un Ballo in Maschera             8         35
10  Les Contes d'Hoffmann            7         29
11  Lucia di Lammermoor              7         23
12  Così Fan Tutte                   7         19
13  Der Fliegende Holländer          7         17
14  Salome                           6         24
15  Carmen                           6         23
16  Turandot                         6         23
17  Le Nozze di Figaro               6         21
18  Fidelio                          6         20
19  Die Fledermaus                   6         13
20  Cavalleria Rusticana             5         21
21  Pagliacci                        5         21
22  Rigoletto                        5         19
23  Aida                             5         16
24  Elektra                          5         13
25  Nabucco                          5          8

Note : There are 180 entries in the complete list.

Which are the Composers most often performed?

                      Operas                        Productions
 1  Verdi               14              Verdi           58
 2  Wagner              10              Puccini         44
 3  Rossini              9              Mozart          40
 4  Donizetti            9              R. Strauss      23
 5  Mozart               8              Rossini         23
 6  Puccini              7              Wagner          22
 7  R. Strauss           7              Donizetti       21
 8  Händel               7              Janacek         10
 9  Britten              7              Offenbach       10
10  Smetana              7              Bizet            9
11  Massenet             7              Smetana          8
12  Janacek              7              Massenet         8
13  Henze                7              Gluck            7
14                                      Britten          7

Note : a total of 73 composers appear at least one time in the complete list.

What are the main characteristics of the repertory?

180 different operas (as a matter of reference, Kobbe reviews 500 of them). 422 distinct productions.

What is the distribution by Century?

(on the basis of the date of creation of the operas)

     Number of       Number of       Number of
     Composers	      Operas        Productions

XVII     3               5               5
XVIII    8              24              60
XIX     31              89             239
XX      31              62             118

Total   73             180             422

What is the distribution by National Schools?

    Composers               Operas                Productions

Germany        17       Italy          55      Italy           173
Italy          16       Germany        45      Germany          84
France         15       France         23      Austria          56
Austria         7       Austria        17      France           46
England         5       Czech Rep.     11      Czech Rep        21
Russia          4       England        10      Russia           14
Czech Rep.      3       Russia          9      England          11

Note : Händel asked for English citizenship and composed operas in the Italian style. That being said, we have included him among the German composers. Dilemmas...

What are the National preferences?

Are Italian opera houses mostly performing the Italian repertory, are German theaters enclined to concentrate on the German heritage, etc... to adapt to the public taste?

	                Percentage of Productions of

        German* Operas   Italian Operas   French Operas    Other Operas

World         33%              41%             11%             15%

Germany       50               35               6               9
Italy         12               71              10               6
France        30               32              21              19

(*) i.e. Germany & Austria, whose composers all belong to German culture.

The sample covers programs from 29 French cities, 26 German cities, 16 Italian cities. We can draw a few conclusions:

Which are the cities most appreciative of operas?

Here, we made a quick side survey. The methodology did not apply any more; we have only used the information supplied by the magazine. We could just say that the following list gives an overall idea of the lyric activity of these cities. But there is nothing exhaustive or rigorous about the results.

                 Number of Operas

 1      Vienna          32
 2      Berlin          21
 3      Prague          20
 4      Paris           16
 5      Hamburg         13
 6      London          12
 7      Zurich          12
 8      New York        11
 9      Munich          11
10      Hanover         10

The number of Operas counted above is relative to different performances over the 2 month period. It is obvious that cities which maintain the principle of a permanent troupe playing the house repertory display impressive figures. But, in this case, the number of performances for a specific opera is small.


Everyone can interpret the results at will. Obviously, they are not final, each new season bringing new and diverse contributions. Nonetheless, we believe this survey to be a rather accurate and coherent snapshot of the lyric scene today.

Some final comments :

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