Being away from home for a long while and losing touch with Japanese ballet scene, I myself couldn't give any material, 'insider's views' ..... but thought perhaps I could contribute a bit too, sharing some objective info. - hard facts dept.
Ah no, not everything is private - far from it! In fact, New National Ballet Theatre (NNBT) for instance is one of high-profile government-subsidised institutions. But precisely how much is being spent on them from Japanese taxpayers' money, I had no idea, so have done a quick research - here follows what I've discovered:
* NNBT, alongside 6 other performing arts institutions carrying 'national' status, is run by Japan Arts Council, and grant come through its sub-org. Japan Arts Fund. (Approx. 83% of Japan Arts Fund's capital came from the government; the rest from Corporate/Private donors) The seven national institutions are:
- National Theatre (for traditional Japanese performing arts: Kabuki, Bunraku, Buyo, Hougaku - traditional Japanese music, etc)
- National Engei Hall (for traditional Japanese spoken entertainment: Rakugo, Koudan, Rokyoku)
- National Noh Theatre (for Noh and Kyogen)
- National Bunraku Theatre (for Bunraku - puppet theatre)
- National Theatre Okinawa (for traditional 'Ryukyu' dance/music)
- New National Theatre Tokyo (for 'modern/contemporary' performing arts: Opera, ballet, modern dance, drama/play)
- Traditional Performing Arts Information Centre
* According to the disclosure report, the subsidy for the above 7 national institutions totalled JPY11.6bn (equivalent to approx. US$112mn) in FY2006 (Apr06/Mar07). New National Theatre, the home to NNTB, had the biggest shares - JPY5.1bn (approx. US$49mn). This accounted for 60% of their total revenue for the period, JPY8.4bn (approx. US$81mn).
* Japan Arts Fund also provides grant to medium/small scale performing arts organisations/groups, as well as more general cultural activities. In FY2007 JPY2bn (approx. US$20mn) was granted to 911 applicants located across the country. Beneficiaries included numerous ballet/dance/opera companies/groups, orchestras, drama/play groups, film creators, traditional performing arts groups, museums, preservers of cultural heritage - the list goes on and on! (I have a feeling that on top of this there should be other sources of subsidies as well, from local governments, private cultural foundations, etc.)
Going back to New National Theatre.... the government subsidy of US$49mn - is this good enough or not? Surely not a small number, but again I had no clue so took rough measures and compared it with that of Covent Garden's (now my 'home' theatre). This has led me to a revelatory (or rather shocking) discovery...
The state subsidy given to NNT, US$49mn, is roughly the same level ROH currently receives from Arts Council England!
According to what the national daily The Independent reported in December 2007, ROH gets c.GBP25.5m (approx. US$51m) from Arts Council, and that makes up c.30% of their total revenue. A further 40% comes from Box Office, and c.15% each from fundraising and commercial activities. (That brings annual revenue of ROH to c. US$169m)
Why the surprise? I certainly don't want to step in the danger zone being too simplistic to compare the two very different institutions, however, the contrast between London and Tokyo is a bit too stark. One very obvious difference is its scale; compared to Covent Garden, Japan's NNT is seemingly a lot smaller operation. They do not have their own orchestra, nor Music Director. Their ballet troupe, excluding ones on 'registered-base' contract, consist of just under 60 dancers. Then the biggest difference, the number of performances at the two theatres. In Tokyo it looks like the main auditorium at the theatre remains dormant most of the time, as there are about (or less than) 1/3 of the performances that takes place at ROH. (During 2006/2007 Season the number of performances given at NNT were: Ballet - 7 works/36 performances; Opera - 10 works 46 performances).
All along, I thought it's lack of public money that caused the small-scale operation at NNT, but the state subsidy given to them doesn't particularly look 'disrespectful' level. (The findings leave me much to ponder....)