For the first time since its founding in the 17th century, the Paris Opera has organized a fund-raising auction.
France’s premier opera and ballet company receives less than half of its annual budget of about 200 million euros ($215.1 million) from the national government, and it has been struggling with the lingering effects of the pandemic on ticket sales, soaring energy prices and inflation.
Now some of Europe’s luxury houses, collectors and artists are coming to the rescue through “Auction For Action, Bid For Creation.”
The opera’s charitable organization, Friends of the Paris Opera, in partnership with Sotheby’s, has scheduled a digital auction of about 75 lots from Jan. 23 to 31. The most exclusive items are to be auctioned live at a gala on Jan. 30 in the opulent Grand Foyer of the Palais Garnier, the opera’s 19th century theater in central Paris.
The German artist Anselm Kiefer, who created an installation in 2009 at the Opera Bastille, the institution’s other, modern theater in Paris, donated a painting, while Chanel pledged what it called a couture experience and Rolex provided a Cosmograph Daytona watch with an estimated value of $16,000 to $32,000.
Jewelers have joined the effort, too. The Italian house Buccellati offered a pair of yellow gold earrings and a matching necklace from its Opera collection; the antique dealer Bentley & Skinner donated a silver tiara linked to Queen Victoria and the ballerina Irina Baronova; and the Chinese design firm Feng J created a pair of earrings and a bangle in white enamel rimmed with purple, gray and black spinels.
Chaumet offered a Joséphine Aigrette Impériale necklace in diamonds and cultured pearls. “Through the projects it supports, Chaumet shares the same values of commitment and social responsibility as the Paris Opera,” the French company’s chief executive, Jean-Marc Mansvelt, wrote in an email. “We therefore enthusiastically rallied around this institution, both eminently French and with worldwide outreach and fame.”
Alexander Neef, the opera’s director since 2020, said in a recent phone interview that “the donations we have assembled are beyond my expectations, and I am overwhelmed in a very positive way.”
He said the opera would use the money for its educational outreach programs, including affordable tickets for people younger than 28, and to lay the groundwork for a youth orchestra that was to be formed in collaboration with conservatories in and around Paris.
Reflecting on that project, Mr. Neef said, “It is a nine-year journey, but we have to start now to ensure the future of the opera.”