Indy Opera planning to cut final show, sources say

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The Indianapolis Opera plans to cancel the fourth and final show of its season amid ongoing financial issues, multiple sources close to the organization said Tuesday morning.

Opera management recently informed cast members that they would cut “Albert Herring,” set for April 25 through May 4 at the Basile Opera Center, from the season’s schedule, said the sources, who spoke to IBJ on condition of anonymity.

Carol Baker, the opera’s general manager, did not respond to voicemails seeking comment.

The cancellation results from poor ticket sales and cost overruns at the 39-year-old arts organization, sources said.

Opera is often one of the most expensive performing arts because of its large casts and elaborate stage sets and costumes.

Nationwide, opera companies have struggled with finances as they reconfigure their business models. The San Diego Opera—launched in 1950 as the San Diego Opera Guild—grabbed national attention last week when it announced it would fold.

The Indianapolis Opera finished its 2011-12 fiscal year about $123,000 in the black, according to the most recently available public IRS records for the group. The year finished with about $2.08 million in revenue and $1.96 million in expenses.

Compounding concerns, the Indianapolis Opera has not hired a permanent replacement for former executive director John Pickett, who left in May 2013. The group also has an unfilled development director’s position.

Indianapolis Opera has tweaked how it operates for the past several years to adjust to the changing business.

Notably, it has downsized, shifting focus from full-scale operas staged at Clowes Hall to a mix that has included concerts, more intimate productions at the Basile Opera Center, and the inclusion of an Indiana University opera production as part of its 2012-13 subscription season.

This is not the first time the opera company called off an entire show. In 2010, the group cut its last opera of the year.

Arts observers say the cancellation is a concerning sign of what may come.

The Indianapolis Opera has gotten into financial hot water because it consistently schedules too many large, expensive shows with out-of-town names at the top of the marquee, said Charles Stanton, a consultant who has is familiar with organization.

The group needs to scale down its shows to ones more suitable for Indianapolis, which is what financially successful opera companies are doing. But that has not happened locally, said Stanton, a former vice president for the Arts Council of Indianapolis.

“I applaud the fact that Indianapolis wants to do big productions, but they’re just not successful at it,” he said.

“If they can figure out the new business model,” he later added, “then it will bring back a company with an incredible legacy.”

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