New York City Opera, Facing Economic Challenges, Is Forced to Furlough Staffers

New York City Opera staffers were furloughed for two days last week because the company - which is currently foregoing a mainstage 2008-09 season while its home, the New York State Theater, undergoes renovation - reportedly feared that it would not have the capital to pay their salaries, the New York Times has reported.

According to an article published in the Times today, the company's entire staff, with the exception of financial officers, was ordered on October 15 to take two days off, and were allowed to returned to work this week after the Opera turned to board members, private donors and other sources for funds. Pascal Nadon, a spokesperson for City Opera, attributed the company's lack of liquidity to the "current economic climate."

"New York City Opera was worried for a very short period of time that it wouldn't meet the payroll," Nadon is quoted as telling the Times. "City Opera has secured additional funds and also has taken steps to maintain the necessary liquidity to operate the company."

News of the furlough came three weeks after the company confirmed to the Times that it had been forced to dismiss eleven members of its administrative staff because of fiscal constraints and a lack of work owing to the company's attenuated season.

In terms of live performances, New York City Opera will present only two concert performances of Samuel Barber's Antony and Cleopatra at Carnegie Hall this season, in addition to five orchestral concerts highlighting repertoire that the company says it will offer during upcoming mainstage seasons. While the Opera's depleted ticket income from a lack of full-scale performances and challenges in fund-raising have reportedly exacerbated its financial woes - the company claims that its total projected deficit will amount to some $15 million - City Opera is still required to maintain the salaries of its orchestra and chorus.

Gerard Mortier, City Opera's general manager and artistic director elect, will not arrive as a full-time administrator at the company until the beginning of next season, as he is currently concluding his tenure as the director of the Opéra National de Paris.

Last month, Mortier and Nike Wagner, one of Richard Wagner's great-granddaughters, presented an unsuccessful bid to the board of Germany's Bayreuth Festival that would have seen the two sharing directorship of the historic, six-week-long summer festival. In an email to reporters, Mortier claimed that his Bayreuth leadership bid was intended as a message to the board of New York City Opera, which he claimed remained unsure about his plans for the company and had fallen behind in essential fund raising.

More information can be found at the New York Times (here, here and here),
and the New York City Opera.

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