Norwich Theatre was one of the regular venues on Glyndebourne's touring circuit for more than five decades and was a cultural highlight for thousands of people every year.

Away from the stage, for 25 years Norwich Theatre also delivered a schools opera project, which saw 3,500 children and 350 teachers from 123 Norfolk schools engage with world-class opera-makers, including those associated with Glyndebourne.

When Glyndebourne announced at the start of 2023 that funding cuts meant the end of its regional touring, Norwich Theatre undertook a survey – Opera Voices – of its audiences to gather their views. The survey highlighted four main trends: audience levels in opera and demand for the genre have not dropped since Covid; the perception of opera is the challenge, not the art form itself; 25% of opera audiences, pre-Covid, were from Arts Council levelling up areas; and the decisions to cut funding have adversely been discriminatory towards those with access needs and disabled audiences.

Speaking about the research, chief executive and creative director of Norwich Theatre, Stephen Crocker, said: 'Our research shows that audiences crave opera and that they want to see it nearby. While we welcome independent analysis being conducted by Arts Council England, it must be swiftly followed with an inclusive action plan that represents touring companies, venues and audiences alike. We are calling on Arts Council England to reconsider and recognise the impact cuts to organisations like Glyndebourne have on access in the regions.'

One of the key findings from Opera Voices is that the audience's perception of opera is potentially more harmful to the art form, and not the art itself. Thirty nine percent of participants felt that it was not for them, referring to price, lack of ability to understand the storyline, and feeling out of place at the performances. Much of this perception leads to the idea that opera is generating audiences from affluent areas, with people of high socioeconomic backgrounds, whereas the study shows a quarter of the audiences of opera-goers came from places deemed priorities for levelling up.

There needs to be a more general understanding of the diversity of opera as an art form, with varying languages and lengths, as well as topics and themes explored. Norwich Theatre's work calls for action to be taken to rebrand the art form as an inclusive space fit for purpose for all audiences. In terms of the perceived price barrier, although the average price of opera pre-Covid was £36.64, rising to £41.39 post, musicals have had a larger increase in cost, with pre-Covid tickets averaging £39.26 and post-Covid averaging £43.40 at Norwich Theatre.

As part of their commitment to introducing audiences to opera, Norwich Theatre is collaborating with Buxton International Festival to bring Peter Brook's La Tragédie de Carmen to their audience in Norwich in July this year.

As well as this, Norwich Theatre works with partner English Touring Opera (ETO) to bring outstanding live productions and education and community projects to Norfolk.

This month, ETO will be staging two operas to Norwich Theatre Royal: A Rake's Progress (March 8) and Manon Lescaut (March 9), both performed in English with surtitle screens to understand the singers and follow along with the plot. Tickets from £10-£40.

And Norwich Theatre Stage Two will play host to The Great Stink, a newly commissioned opera for children aged 7-11. Set in Victorian London it is a hilarious, fun-filled family show about poo… lots of it! Brought to life by singers, musicians and puppets, The Great Stink explores the impact of pollution on our waterways and other environmental issues. At 45 minutes long, the show is the perfect length to introduce opera to children. Tickets £8-£10.

For more information about Opera Voices or to book an English Touring Opera performance, visit or call the box office on 01603 630000.