In this article it is explored the effect of innovation on Italian opera houses’ performance. Innovation is measured as the number of new opera productions staged by a theatre (i.e., "new" in terms of set designs, costumes and stage directions not previously used by any other opera house). Opera houses’ performance is measured as occupancy rate and ability to attract private grants. Our sample includes two Italian operatic institutions: 1) lyric and symphonic foundations, and 2) teatri di tradizione. Data collected from 2007 to 2009 show that among the sampled institutions, only the lyric and symphonic foundations are able to increase their occupancy rate from new opera productions. Moreover results highlight that the ability of opera houses to collect private grants is positively affected by the number of new opera productions, meaning that innovation plays a key role in strengthening opera houses’ fundraising capabilities. This is particularly important in the Italian opera scenario where the severe consequences of the economic crisis and decreased public funding to opera houses have sharpened competition for scarce financial resources.
Keywords: Italian opera houses, innovation, lyric and symphonic foundations, private funders, performance.