Tue, Aug 30, 2016 - Page 4 News List

Taichung Opera House faces big deficit

REVISION:The National Audit Office said that there are only 21 international shows planned for this year, calling for better utilization of the establishment’s resources

By Huang Chung-shan and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Taichung Metropolitan Opera House, designed by award-wining Japanese architect Toyo Ito, is pictured on Thursday.

Photo: Liao Yao-tung, Taipei Times

The Taichung Metropolitan Opera House, which is to open on Sept. 30, will likely run a considerable deficit, the National Audit Office said, drawing the ire of city officials.

The Taichung City Government on Thursday last week donated the National Taichung Theater (Metropolitan Opera House) — designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning Japanese architect Toyo Ito — to the Ministry of Culture.

The theater is likely to operate at an annual deficit of NT$150 million (US$4.7 million), the office said in a report and made suggestions for improving the theater’s operations.

The report was based on last year’s assessment of the theater’s financial plan. It suggested that the theater completely overhaul its financial plan to improve the use of resources, adding that only 21 international performances are planned for this year.

The office said that the quality of performances should also be improved to appeal to a broader audience.

The ministry separately anticipated an annual loss of NT$200 million for the theater.

Democratic Progressive Party Taichung city councilors Chiang Chao-kuo (江肇國) and Yang Tien-chung (楊典忠) said the arts are not meant to be business endeavors, calling the office’s report “unbelievable.”

“The nation should be investing more resources to promote education in the arts. The National Audit Office views the government’s responsibility in promoting the arts as just running a business: They only pay attention to profits and losses. This is a narrow-minded approach,” Chiang said.

“The government should be thinking about how to use the resources at hand to develop the arts at a level appropriate for the population of central Taiwan,” Chiang said.

“And this is to say nothing of the superior quality of the facilities at the theater. The Ministry of Culture and the Taichung City Government should be thinking about how to positively develop soft resources,” Chiang added.

The office on one hand says that the financial losses by the theater will be a drain on the treasury, while on the other, it says that the number of international performances is too low, Yang said.

International performances are big expenditures and the office’s comments lead to a confusing situation in which it seems it is “wrong to spend money and wrong to save money,” he said.

He said he hopes that the office will not elevate arts in “Taipei while looking down on central and southern Taiwan.”

The theater is an official center for the performing arts and operates according to public policy, the theater’s vice supervisor for promotional affairs Lin Chia-feng (林佳鋒) said, adding that the policy comprises more than just selling tickets.

The Taipei National Theater and Concert Hall operated for more than 20 years before turning a profit, he said.

“Those outside of the arts should see the function of the arts as more than earning money. Although it is a venue for the performing arts, the theater also has a mission of assisting and fostering the development of local and national performance troupes,” he said.

“Initially we were aiming for a ratio of 40 percent international performances and 60 percent domestic. Some of that would account for programs held cooperatively with international performers. It is our hope to bring recognition to Taiwanese performance troupes,” he added.

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