4 October 2013

New York City Opera Has Filed for Bankruptcy

New York City Opera has officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following the failure of an emergency fund-raising appeal that would have allowed it to continue its current season. 

The move, which amounts to a death knell for the 70-year-old company that  Fiorello La Guardia dubbed  "the people's opera," came after company failed to generate $7 million by September 30 in order to continue its current season. The company would have required an additional $13 million by the end of 2013 to fund its next season. "It is with much regret that we announce the end of our fundraising campaign on Kickstarter and the cancellation of the 2013-2014 season," read a message on City Opera's Kickstarter campaign page. "New York City Opera did not achieve the goal of its emergency appeal, and the board and management will begin the necessary financial and operational steps to wind down the company including initiating the Chapter 11 process."

The New York Times reported that court papers filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York indicate that CIty Opera's assets currently stand at $7.7 million — which includes its endowment and pending donations to the company — while its liabilities total nearly $5.6 million, including pension obligations. City Opera's endowment reportedly stands at just $4.5 million, down precipitously from its one-time high of $55 million following accumulated deficits of nearly $44 million.

"Because of N.Y.C. Opera's lack of liquidity, pension obligations and the many other issues listed above, N.Y.C. Opera made the difficult but necessary decision to file for Chapter 11 protection," George Steel, the company's last general manager, writes in the bankruptcy filing. 

After its pension obligations, City Opera's biggest creditor is the New York City Ballet, with which City Opera shared Lincoln Center's onetime New York State Theater for decades. According to the bankruptcy filing, City Ballet has a $1.6 million claim owing to the end of City Opera's tenancy and its departure from Lincoln Center in 2012. Additional creditors reportedly include  former chorus members who are owed severance pay; the musicians’ health benefits fund; and the owner of the office space leased by the company following its departure from Lincoln Center. The Times reports that City Opera's bankruptcy filing also seeks permission to give $323,000 worth of refunds to patrons who had purchased tickets to the performances that had been scheduled to play this season. 

City Opera's other productions this season were to have included Johann Christian Bach's Endimione, Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle  and The Marriage of Figarospacer 

More information can be found at New York City OperaThe New York Times, the Associated Press and the OPERA NEWS Archives ("The Ballad of NYCO,""Last Man Standing" and Breaking News).

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