IBJNews

Indianapolis Opera stays afloat as peer companies call it quits

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A collaboration with Indiana University will help keep Indianapolis Opera afloat for another season, but the company is still in search of a business model that will put it on solid footing.

“I would say it’s all up for grabs right now,” Executive Director John Pickett said.

Through cost-cutting and emergency fundraising, the state’s only professional opera company has managed to stay in business while peers nationwide folded in the wake of the recession. One of the most recent was Opera Cleveland, which went dormant last fall.

Indianapolis Opera will be in the black with its $2.25 million budget when the fiscal year ends June 30, Pickett said. That’s after dipping deeper into a small endowment that’s worth less than $1 million, furloughs for its eight full-time staff, and a salary deferral for Pickett.
 

rop-opera-062512-15col.jpg Kevin Short sang the role of Mephistopheles in Indianapolis Opera’s May production of “Faust.” IO is still in business, while many companies in other cities have folded. (IBJ file photo)

The fact that the future remains uncertain begs the question, how long can Indianapolis sustain professional opera?

“We feel a city that’s trying to make the moves Indianapolis is needs a full cultural portfolio,” Pickett said.

Tweaks to the 2012-2013 season will further cut costs, and Indianapolis Opera’s total budget will drop to a little more than $2 million.

After years of discussion, Indianapolis Opera will bring an IU Opera Theatre production to Clowes Memorial Hall in March. IU will stage “Aknahten” by Philip Glass, and the collaboration will save IO about $150,000 in production costs, Pickett said.

Because it uses dozens of singers, an orchestra and sets, opera is one of the most expensive performing arts. A full-scale production costs IO $300,000 to $350,000. In past seasons, IO cut the number of full-scale productions and introduced stripped-down single-act and concert shows.

Next season, IO will produce just two operas, one at the Basile Opera Center, which is a former Greek Orthodox church, and one at Clowes. For “Aknahten,” IO will serve as presenter, paying for the hall rental, travel and housing costs of more than 100 student singers, orchestra players and stagehands.

“The last couple [of] years has really taken its toll on the industry, and so collaboration … really is the way a lot of companies are going these days,” said Tim Stebbins, director of the IU Opera and Ballet Theatre.

IU has worked with professional companies in Atlanta and Minnesota, but this will be its first time in Indianapolis.
opera_facts.gif
Pickett said working with IU isn’t just a money-saving move. The university has one of the country’s top-ranked opera programs, and it will bring local audiences a different experience by staging work by a living composer.

Indianapolis Opera can’t count on an IU production every season, however, so the board continues to discuss business models that would prove sustainable long term, Pickett said. One possibility is a condensed, festival-style season.

For now, IO has decided to delay the start of its 2012-2013 season from October to December. Pickett hopes that will allow more time for marketing and collecting revenue—before shows hit the stage. The first production is the one-act “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” at the Basile Opera Center. IO’s only grand opera will be “The Flying Dutchman” at Clowes in May.

The delay in announcing next season contributed to a cash crunch this spring, just as IO was preparing to stage “Faust,” Pickett said. A plea to core supporters raised about $100,000 in two weeks. Some donors gave more, while others simply wrote their checks earlier than normal.

The opera’s expenses weren’t out of line with revenue forecasts, Pickett said, but about $250,000 in revenue will be in the form of grants that are paid in June, after the last show.

A large factor in the opera’s balanced budget is a heavier draw on the small endowment, which rose from 5 percent of the average value to 7.5 percent, he said.

Arts organizations across the country continue to struggle financially, said Dave Lawrence, president of the Indianapolis Arts Council, which distributes state and local grant money.

IO has made deeper cuts than some groups, but it’s ending 2012 with a balanced budget, and it continues to receive arts council grants, Lawrence noted.

“So they’re doing something right.”•




ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Angela IS the best RD

  2. We are a nation of speed. All of our younger lives are filled with deadlines, quotas and bottom lines. We start to ease out of the pressured rat-race when we finally see "retirement." The most enjoyable travel on the planet is passenger rail service. Indy to Chicago does not beat Megabus or Southwest Airlines in speed. Passenger rail however has the best seating, mammoth legroon, seat backs that recline to more than 45 degrees and employers that really want you to return as a customer. Indiana municipalities need to maintain subsidies to support this transportation mode. Losing it is loss for all of us.

  3. Good day! I just want to testify how i got my loan from Mr. Eric Lefkofsky after i applied several times from various loan lenders who claimed to also testify right in this forum,i thought the testimonies where real and i applied but they never gave me loan. I was in need of an urgent loan to start a business and i applied from various loan lenders who promised to help but they never gave me the loan. Until a friend of mine introduce me to this popular Mr. Eric Lefkofsky who promised to help me and indeed he did as he promised without any form of delay. I never thought there are still reliable loan lenders until i met Mr. Eric lefkofsky who indeed helped me with the loan and changed my belief. I promised to share this testimony after I got my loan. I don't know if you are in any way in need of a genuine and urgent loan,free feel to contact Mr. Eric Lefkofsky via their email{grouponfunding@hotmail.com}

  4. Its a THUG issue. Bleecker Street and NYX are thug bars. They attract thugs of all races. Places that attract thugs need to be kicked out of Broad Ripple. Ain't nobody got time for that!

  5. Hello everyone, My name is Marian Gareth, I am from the Texas, United State, am here to testify of how i got my loan from Mr Andre Frank {frankloancompany@yahoo.com} after i applied Two times from various loan lenders who claimed to be lenders right in this forum,i thought their lending where real and i applied but they never gave me loan. I was in need of an urgent loan to start a business and i applied from various loan lenders who promised to help but they never gave me the loan.Until a friend of mine introduce me to Mr Andre Frank the C.E.O of Andre Frank Loan Company who promised to help me with a loan of my desire and he really did as he promised without any form of delay, I never thought there are still reliable loan lenders until i met Mr Andre Frank, who really help me with my loan and changed my lief for better. I don't know if you are in need of an urgent loan, free feel to contact Mr Andre Frank on his email{ Frankloancompany@yahoo.com} for help

ADVERTISEMENT