Why Did Sacramento Opera’s Season End?

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December 19, 2010; Source: Sacramento Bee | An interesting thing happened on the way to the opera. At the end of last year, the Sacramento Opera was the only one of six major performing arts groups in the area which had not seen its revenue decline—it had, in fact, increased its income by 6.5 percent. But in 2010, ticket revenues are so far below projections that the board has elected to close down for the remainder of the season while it reviews its options.

So why has this occurred to the one performing arts organization that had been doing relatively well? As the Sacramento Bee article states, the two major sources of revenue for the six performing arts organizations in the Sacramento area are ticket sales and contributions—both are waning generally for the performing arts. Each production for the opera in a revenue-scarce economy is a risk, and as a spokesperson for the opera says, operas cost a great deal to stage but, so, says the director of the local ballet, does ballet.

Apparently the sparking mechanism for the closing of the season was low ticket sales for “Orlando,” a Handel Opera. Ticket sales comprise 65 percent of the organization’s budget. Each production is high stakes and this one did not do well against projections. Of course, according to the Sacramento Bee, as other local arts groups were writing grants to fund concentrated audience development work, the Sacramento Opera allowed the positions of marketing director and outreach coordinator to remain unfilled. But it is hard to know exactly what combination of ingredients—beyond the recession—caused the break in stride.

The article details some comparative information about the six major arts groups over the past two seasons and the measures that many of them took to reorganize in the harsh economy. Sadly, the next production for the Sacramento Opera was to have been Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” which, due to its popularity, may have been able to regain some ground in terms of audience, but the board felt it was too much of a financial risk and chose instead to turn off the lights.

But this is not, the Sacramento Bee says, a closure but a suspension. In the immediate future for the Opera is consideration of their reorganization options – including a possible merger with a colleague organization like the Philharmonic. While ticket holders will be reimbursed, local musicians have lost an expected source of income this year.—Ruth McCambridge