22 July 2011

Dallas Opera Cancels Upcoming Káťa Kabanová Performances Following Budgetary Shortfalls

Dallas Opera announced today that the company was canceling the upcoming production of Káťa Kabanová that had been scheduled to play at the Winspear Opera House in October, following a "significant financial shortfall" of ticket sales and donations from last season. 

The recommendation to cancel the performances of Janáček's opera, which was made by Dallas Opera general director and CEO Keith Cerny in an effort to stabilize the company's finances, was unanimously ratified this week during a joint session by the company's executive and finance committees. While single tickets for Dallas Opera's 2011-12 season have yet to go on sale, the company announced that subscribers who had purchased tickets to the Káťa performances will be given full refunds. 

According to a statement issued today by the company, Dallas Opera's October 2009 move into the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center significantly altered the opera's economy of scale, with a maximum of 2,200 patrons able to attend a performance in the the purpose-built venue — down from a previous seating capacity of 3,400 — and a sharp increase in operating and production costs related to the new theater. Consequently, the company reports that the increased number of performances required to accommodate the same number of patrons, in tandem with the augmented operational costs of the venue, necessitates an annual budgetary increase of roughly 33 percent — or approximately $4 million more than the previous operational budget of $12 million — all of which, according to the company, must be generated from ticket sales and philanthropic donations. 

According to Dallas Opera's chairman, Dr. Kern Wildenthal, the company's board did anticipate the increase in production and operational costs when Dallas Opera entered into the Winspear Opera House, though, "it was generally believed at that time that we could raise the additional monies to balance TDO's budget in the new house, with increased ticket revenues and annual fund donations compensating for the higher cost structure." While the company managed to cover the increased costs during its first season, it found itself unable to sustain the pace of fundraising and ticket sales for the 2010-11 season. 

"Good governance requires us to reduce the number of main-stage productions and performances presented over the next several years, in order to bring the company's financials back into balance," Wildenthal is quoted as saying. "We are determined to accomplish our financial goals while upholding artistic standards worthy of one of the great, new opera destinations in the world."

"During the course of my year with this company, I have spent much of my time working with the TDO board and staff members to develop a workable business model for the company in its new home — one that balances artistic excellence and innovation with fiscal responsibility on an ongoing basis," said Cerny, who who assumed the role of general director and CEO of Dallas Opera in May of 2010. "I believe the company is making a very prudent and responsible decision and I am extremely grateful for the strong support demonstrated by our board members throughout this complex and demanding process." 

Cerny also noted that early analysis had indicated that the company would have been forced to cut two main-stage productions from its planned 2011-12 season, but that an "extraordinary outpouring of philanthropic generosity" had resulted in the company raising some $1.25 million during the past week, thus allowing Dallas Opera to preserve the fifth production of its season, a staging of Peter Maxwell Davies's The Lighthouse, which will play in March in the Wyly Theater as part of the company's newly inaugurated chamber opera series. 

While the company still anticipates generating what it characterized as a "significant" deficit for the 2011-12 season, the amount will be less than last year's shortfall, the press release noted. Dallas Opera hopes that efforts to stabilize its finances will allow it to complete the 2014-15 season with a balanced budget. spacer 

More information can be found at Dallas Opera and the OPERA NEWS Archives

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