Florida Grand Opera to cut back productions in 2009-2010

By Lawrence A. Johnson

FGO opened its season in November with Verdi's "La Traviata"

Florida Grand Opera will eliminate one production from its 2009-2010 season, presenting just four operas for the first time in decades.

 The cost-cutting move is in response to the deepening recession, and subsequent downturn in ticket sales and the loss of large donor gifts, factors that are affecting major arts organizations in South Florida and across the country.

 While FGO officials said that no final decision had been made, in a written statement general director Robert Heuer said that in light of the current economy, the company is “exploring various options.” He cited two reasons why dropping one production next season would be advantageous: “One, the reduced cost of subscribing to the season would make it easier for many of our audience members to renew their subscriptions, and two, in the event, as some predict, that the economy gets worse before it begins to recover, the Opera would not have been financially committed to programming that was a challenge to fund, even in good economic times.”

 The scabrous economy is also having an effect on other South Florida cultural institutions.  In December, Miami City Ballet announced that they would use recordings rather than a live orchestra for the rest of this season to save money, and last week the dance company acknowledged that it had depleted a $2 million reserve fund.

 The sharp economic downturn also appears to be increasing pressures at the Concert Association of Florida, which continues to struggle to find financial support and sell tickets. The Concert Association’s new financial benefactor, P. Daniel Orlich, reportedly asked board members to fire CEO Al Milano for his failure to bring in more fund-raising in the wake of Orlich’s estimated million-dollar bailout contribution.

 Concert Association board chairman Robert Hudson would not confirm Orlich’s move, saying that board meetings are private, but reiterated his support for Milano.

 “Al’s taking some heat now, but I think he’s doing a fine job,” said Hudson. “It’s no secret that all the arts groups are suffering right now. Our ticket sales are down and our contributions are down.” He added that if financial support fails to emerge to support South Florida’s cultural organizations, in the current climate, few of them “are going to last.”

 In a related development, Project Copernicus, the feisty chamber-music startup that debuted in 2007, has announced that they will not present any events this season. Composer Stephen Danyew, Copernicus co-founder, said that in addition to the harsh economy, the fact that he and conductor Chung Park are no longer living in Miami and that many of their core musicians have scattered complicates things.

 Danyew held out hope for a concert this summer and said the ensemble may return in the 2009-2010 season. “We have some plans up our sleeves but we’re not sure where or when,” he said.

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One Response to “Florida Grand Opera to cut back productions in 2009-2010”

  1. Posted Jan 27, 2009 at 5:18 pm by Barry Mintzer

    I wonder if next year’s shortened season portends even more drastic measures such as the elimination of the FGO presentations at the Broward Center altogether. After the loss of the Florida Philharmonic and now the suspension of future season performances at the Broward Center, it appears that nothing is safe. This is a cultural disaster for the Palm Beach/Broward community.

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Wed Jan 14, 2009
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