LSM Newswire

Friday, November 13, 2009

Canadian Opera Company Overcomes 2008-09 Operating Deficit by Accessing cash Reserves

Toronto, Canada Today at the Canadian Opera Company's (COC) Annual General Meeting, COC Board President Paul Spafford announced that the COC is riding on a wave of success: the last three seasons have played to capacity houses; its subscription rate is among the highest in North America; and, in 2009/10, only the Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago will perform more than the COC. Critical and popular response to the 2008/09 season was outstanding and the season played to 99.7% capacity and reached a new single season revenue record of $12,634,000, a 2.7% increase over the previous season.

In spite of these successes, the COC's fundraising programs were not immune to the effects of the global economic crisis. After six consecutive years of surpluses, the COC has incurred an operating deficit of $1.6 million for the 2008/09 season, directly attributed to a shortfall in the company's annual fundraising programs. Although the COC received contributions from over 5,000 patrons in 2008/09, the company was $1.1 million behind in its fundraising goals budgeted for the year. In addition, the company did not receive $500,000 in endowment earnings expected from The Canadian Opera Foundation (COF) due to a shortfall in investment performance.

Fortunately, the COC is able to overcome the deficit and finish the year with a modest $25,000 surplus by accessing an allocation from a special cash fund held by The Canadian Opera Foundation. This cash fund was created from the COC's prior operating surpluses and is specifically earmarked to support artistic goals for future seasons.

"There's no question it has been a challenging year financially, but the good news is that the COC is an extremely successful company by all other measures. We pride ourselves on cost efficiency with no loss to artistic achievement. Fortunately, we've been able to access some reserves this year from past surpluses," said Paul Spafford, President of the COC Board. "The COC's success is the result of hard work, prudent fiscal practices, a passionate commitment to producing the best art possible and thankfully, a loyal audience and many generous donors. We are greatly energized by the support we receive and future opportunities to improve the company's already-high artistic standards."

"It has been an extremely exciting first year for me as General Director. I am very pleased and proud to lead a company that produces opera at a level as high as, or higher than, any other North American company with a much smaller budget than those of our North American peers," said Alexander Neef, General Director. "And, I have been particularly encouraged to see enthusiastic and full houses in the opera house for every performance. I'm glad that we can engage audiences with the breadth and depth of repertoire we produce because it bodes very well for the future of the COC and opera in Canada."

During the 2008/09 season, box office revenues represented 41% of total operating revenues, with fundraising and sponsorship accounting for 33%, government funding accounting for 23%, and the remaining 3% coming from other income sources such as space and production rentals.

Artistically, the 2008/09 season saw 64 performances of seven operas on the mainstage of the
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and four performances of the Ensemble Studio production in the Imperial Oil Opera Theatre. The 2008/09 mainstage season included company premieres of Prokofiev's monumental War and Peace, Dvok's dreamy Rusalka and Britten's magical A Midsummer Night's Dream, as well as a new production of Beethoven's Fidelio, a moving and powerful production of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, a witty take on Mozart's Don Giovanni, and the COC's beloved production of Puccini's La Bohme. Overall, the subscription season was performed to a record level of 99.7% of capacity.

In January 2009, General Director Alexander Neef appointed conductor Johannes Debus as the COC's new Music Director. Mr. Debus had conducted the company's enormously successful production of War and Peace in the fall of 2008. Maestro Debus begins his tenure at the COC in November 2009 as conductor for the company's Diamond Anniversary concert featuring tenor Ben Heppner and the COC Orchestra. He also conducts the company's production of The Flying Dutchman in April 2010.

In 2008/09, the COC's successful Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre celebrated its third year with 75 free events ranging from classical, jazz, world music, and contemporary dance. The Free Concert Series attracted approximately 18,000 audience members of all backgrounds and ages who experienced the artistic excellence and cultural diversity of the city.

In the 2008/09, the Canadian Opera Company saw an overall decrease of 11.6% in its annual fundraising programs, with the most affected campaigns being Corporate Performance Sponsorship and Individual Major Gift fundraising. Individual giving campaigns accounted for 67% of overall fundraising in 2008/09, and approximately $9 million was received from over 5,000 subscribers and donors, corporations and foundations. Commitments to mainstage productions and artist sponsorships, in addition to annual support through the President's Council, Golden Circle and Friends of the COC patron programs including two lead gifts from Anonymous donors for the Year-End Matching Appeal totaled over $5.5 million.

COC fundraising efforts through special projects and events raised over $325,000 from generous individual donors and supporters.

Notwithstanding the overall decline, corporate sponsorship in 2008/09 continued to receive support from several loyal sponsors. The company maintained significant relationships with Jaguar Land Rover Canada, Sun Life Financial, Andrew Peller Limited, Delvinia, CTVglobemedia, Hilton Toronto, and St. Joseph Print. Production sponsors for the season were CIBC and CIBC Mellon, National Bank Financial Group, and RBC Financial Group. Other returning sponsors were Xstrata Nickel, TD Bank Financial Group, BMO Financial Group, and Scotiabank Group.

Recently, the 2009/10 season at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts opened with outstanding reviews and sold out houses for Madama Butterfly (which has, to date, sold 30,000 tickets for 15 performances) and the world premiere of The Nightingale and Other Short Fables by Robert Lepage, set to the music of Stravinsky. Demand for The Nightingale and Other Short Fables was so high that the COC added a performance to its original run of eight, and the run has almost sold out.

In January, the COC presents a revival of its production of Bizet's Carmen, and a new production of Verdi's Otello. The spring run opens with Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, followed by Donizetti's bel canto classic and the COC premiere of Maria Stuarda, and Mozart's exquisite Idomeneo. The Ensemble Studio performance of Idomeneo on the mainstage takes place on May 19, 2010.

About the Canadian Opera Company
Based in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and fifth largest in North America, and celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2009/10. Under the new leadership of General Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Johannes Debus, the COC continues its international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation. The COC currently enjoys a remarkable 99% attendance rate and one of the highest subscription rates in North America. The COC performs in its new opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, designed by Diamond and Schmitt Architects Inc. From its inauguration in 2006, the Four Seasons Centre has been internationally hailed as one of the finest opera houses in the world. The Four Seasons Centre is also the performance venue for The National Ballet of Canada. Į



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