NY Met manager says economy casts pall over opera

Tue Feb 10, 2009 4:51pm EST
 
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By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The economy has cast a pall over U.S. opera companies, but the head of New York's Metropolitan Opera said on Tuesday the show will go on in a new season with stars such as Placido Domingo and Renee Fleming.

General Manager Peter Gelb has already cut senior and administrative staff salaries by 10 percent and canceled three planned revivals of operas to reduce costs in the face of falling ticket sales and a drastically reduced endowment.

At a news conference to introduce the 2009-10 season that starts in September with a new production of Puccini's "Tosca," Gelb said he would be feeling confident "if not for the pall that the economy is casting over opera companies."

"Because of the economy, I feel a bit like Orfeo facing the gates of hell," he said, referring to the Gluck opera "Orpheus and Eurydice" about a legendary Greek poet who descends to the underworld to bring his wife back to life.

The stock market crash has hammered endowments and led to a sharp fall in private and corporate donations to opera companies and other institutions across the United States.

The 58-year-old Baltimore Opera declared bankruptcy last year and canceled its remaining productions, Chattanooga Opera Company in Tennessee suspended productions and Opera Pacific, in Santa Ana, California, closed its doors.

The Met said in a statement ticket sales for this season were only down 1.3 percent on the previous season, despite the "worst economic situation in recent history," and it said most ticket prices would stay the same next season.

One bright spot in financial terms, Gelb said, was the Met's program of live high-definition transmissions of performances to movie theaters in more than 35 countries, which has sold more than 1.1 million tickets this season.   Continued...