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Opera chief: Group won't fold

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Indianapolis Opera is staring down a $400,000 budget gap, but Executive Director John Pickett says the company isn't folding.

"We don't want to give any indication the company is going out of business at all," he said Friday morning.

The opera on Thursday said it would cancel its third production of the season, Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado," which was scheduled for March 19 and 21 at Clowes Memorial Hall. The opera is billing the move as a "postponement," saying it will schedule the same show for next season, which begins in the fall.

Ticket holders and subscribers will be offered credit for a rescheduled performance, or a refund. As a third option, the value of the tickets could be counted as an immediate, tax-deductible donation.

Cancellation of "The Mikado" will also impact Clowes, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and various contracted singers. The show was also supposed to include participants in the opera's young artists program. Pickett said his artistic team is working to replace the young artists' performance with a smaller, low-budget show that can be staged at the Basile Opera Center, the former Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.

Cutting "The Mikado," a $275,000 production, will save the opera about $150,000. The difference includes deposits and other expenses that cannot be recovered. Pickett said he'll be looking for other budget cuts and new donations to cover the remaining shortfall.

In the worst-case scenario, Pickett said the opera could tap the assets of its small endowment. He's also hoping for a sale of the opera's office building at 250 E. 38th St.

Indianapolis Opera had already reduced its current season from four shows to three. Then grants that were figured into the current $2.65 million budget didn't materialize or were reduced. Pickett declined to discuss details of the grants because, he said, the grant makers are still very supportive of the opera.

The budget crunch prompted the board of directors to issue a $40,000 matching gift challenge in November. The fund-raising letter that Chairman Garry Fredericksen sent out at the time said the company was in a “battle for survival.”

The campaign was successful, Pickett said, but it wasn't enough to close the budget gap.

"We have some challenges in front of us," Pickett said.

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