Financially pressed Florida Grand Opera ditches its concert series after just one season

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Renee Fleming was to appear in next season's FGO concert series

Florida Grand Opera is pulling the plug on its Superstar Concert Series, a project launched with much hype and lavish promotion this season, due to the company’s ongoing financial crisis.

 “The Superstar Concert Series had a deficit of $268,000 on a budget of $740,000 for the three concerts,” stated FGO general director and CEO Robert Heuer, in an emailed answer to questions about the series’ status.  “Both ticket sales and fund raising failed to achieve their goals.  Given the current difficult economic times, the Opera cannot take the risk of additional deficits next year.”  Heuer also indicated that the possibility of competition from the Arsht Center’s new classical series, to be announced shortly, was another factor.

 Dropping the concert series—a project Heuer hailed from the Knight Concert Hall stage just weeks ago— means Judy Drucker’s brief tenure as artistic adviser to FGO will end next month. 

 Founder and former president of the Concert Association of Florida, Drucker was hired by FGO to organize the new series and booked a starry trio of singers. The series was a clear artistic success, with rousing performances this season by Dmitri Hvorostovsy, Marcello Giordani and Bryn Terfel, which added cachet and vocal luster to a company whose main-stage productions tend to rely on young, lesser known singers.

Next season’s Concert Series lineup would have provided comparable vocal firepower with Drucker planning to bring in Renee Fleming, Angela Gheorghiu and Sondra Radvanovsky.

 With Florida Grand Opera cutting back to four productions next season, part of a thirty percent cut of overall expenses, Heuer said the company  “cannot justify taking more risk on something outside of its core mission.”  He stated that the FGO is projecting a deficit of $1.4 million this season, which includes the $268,000 loss from the Concert Series.

 While declining to be interviewed, Drucker said she is committed to ensuring that the three concerts featuring Fleming, Gheorghiu and Radvanovsky go on as planned under different auspices.

 Florida Grand Opera’s season-closing production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly opens at the Ziff Ballet Opera House tonight.

Posted in Coming Up

9 Responses to “Financially pressed Florida Grand Opera ditches its concert series after just one season”

  1. Posted Apr 25, 2009 at 6:34 pm by Dave R.

    This is my favorite part of the story: “Heuer said the company ‘cannot justify taking more risk on something outside of its core mission.’”

    Next question, Bob: What is FGO’s core mission? Because from what I’ve seen over the past 10 years or so, it doesn’t have one.

    I don’t know about everybody else, but I’m looking forward to another 10 years of over-performed Puccini and Mozart operas performed by mediocre casts.

  2. Posted Apr 26, 2009 at 8:18 am by Bart

    I think FGO should do the opposite…get rid of the operas with nobodies starring in them and just do these 3 concerts. I am tired of seeing a bunch of nobodies singing major roles! Miami should be able to get one star per opera like Dallas does.

  3. Posted Apr 26, 2009 at 3:41 pm by Katenjammer

    Drucker can lose more money than Carter has little pills.

  4. Posted Apr 26, 2009 at 6:44 pm by David Finckel

    What Miami could use, in my opinion, is a great chamber music series: great music produced on a reasonable production budget and at a reasonable cost to an audience which I’m sure is dying to hear it. I’d be thrilled to bring my quartet, the Emerson, to Miami again.

  5. Posted Apr 28, 2009 at 12:28 am by Jeff Scott

    I agree with Mr. Finckel. In fact I bet there would be a ground swell of support for a Master Chamber Music series of say 25-30 concerts as season. It’s more economical and you literally get more bang for your buck with chamber music.
    Of course I’m a little partial to chamber music…. !

  6. Posted Apr 28, 2009 at 6:33 am by cellochatter

    Jeff and David:
    Miami already has two major chamber music series, Friends of Chamber Music and Sunday Afternoons of Music. They bring in well-established groups from out of town. I would like to see something like Chamber Society of Lincoln Center happen down here whereby there would be a core of top notch local musicans with some distinguished outside guests presenting regular chamber music concerts. As for the opera, serves them right hiring idiotic Judy Drucker who should have nothing to do with classical music, period. I just feel sorry for the musicians who earn less money in light of the reduced season.

  7. Posted Apr 28, 2009 at 1:54 pm by hubert harriman

    Jeff and David. Why haven’t you patronized the Friends of Chamber Music all these years?? He brings in world-class groups year after year. I started going at least 15 years ago. Sadly, the size of the audience has gotten smaller each year. Do you have an answer?

  8. Posted Apr 29, 2009 at 1:53 pm by operarocks

    Thank you ALL for your comments and your concerns about our repertory for the 2009-10 season. Please be assured that all of us here largely share your views. Unfortunately, the most popular operas do materially better at the box office than those that fall outside the 20 most popular works. Our budget for next season will be approximately $10 million (down from over $14 million for the current season) and to balance it, one-half of that amount must come from ticket sales, and one-half from contributions. The challenges before us at this time, given the state of the economy, are truly staggering.

    Already, the opera companies in Orange County, CA, Baltimore, Orlando, Fl and Hartford, CT have gone out of business, and more are said to be on the brink. Scheduling a less popular opera at this time would mean relying on contributions for a greater percentage of the season’s income, and that might badly harm our ability to continue. We have just mailed subscription renewals, and will surely learn over the following weeks how many of our donors will be forced to decrease their contributions, and how many of our subscribers will find themselves unable to renew, due to changed financial circumstances.

    The most popular operas, or “war horses,” have a broad public appeal. Once you move beyond that list to a lesser known piece, even though artistically excellent, you increase the possibility of exhausting the market for it before all of the seats are sold. We are seeing all of the opera companies retreating to popular works in these uncertain times. An improved economic environment will find us branching out more from the standard works, I am sure.

    Again, thank you. We are always happy to hear from our patrons.

  9. Posted May 27, 2009 at 1:00 am by Karma Police

    Why would anyone ruin their chance to hear one of the planet’s best vocalists, by listening to her perform with a hack company like FGO? They put the nails in their own coffins over there, and day by day it’s starting to stink like rotten flesh. Can’t wait for the next cancellation!

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Sat Apr 25, 2009
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