Nonprofit Newswire | Washington D.C. Opera’s Misfortune Could be Boon to Metropolitan Opera

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August 7, 2010; Source: Wall Street Journal | You can’t possibly write a story about opera without mentioning C-notes. But this time, the notes aren’t musical, but money, and lots of it.  In the latest chapter of a story the Wall Street Journal has been covering for the last two weeks, it’s now been revealed that if the Washington National Opera Company of Washington DC and the John F. Kennedy for the Performing Arts agree to merge, the opera company may be required to transfer between half to two-thirds of its $30.5 endowment to the Metropolitan Opera of New York City.  The paper says that donations from heiress Betty Brown Casey came with stipulations that if the National Opera Company ever stopped operating independently her gifts would then be passed on to the Met.  For the Met, such a transfer would be a much needed windfall that could help bolster its $247 million endowment that has been hit hard in recent years.  Ironically, the National Opera Company has been pursuing a merger since March as a way to cope with its financial woes.  It currently has debt of $11 million, and its assets declined more than $7 million, or 16 percent, in fiscal year 2009. So far, people associated with both opera companies and the Kennedy Center are keeping very quiet.  In a statement, National Opera spokesman Michelle Pendoley, simply said, “Washington National Opera is grateful for the generosity of all of its donors, and abides by all terms related to all gifts.” The 83-year-old Casey, who serves as the National Opera’s life chairman, has shed little light on the very restrictive stipulations concerning her gifts. Casey is the widow of a Maryland real-estate developer, Eugene B. Casey, who who served as a farm adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Saying he was only speculating, former Kennedy Center President Larry Wilker suggested that Casey might have placed such a restriction on her gift over disappointment that the opera, which has performed at the Kennedy Center since 1971, has not been able to build an independent home.—Bruce Trachtenberg