For Florida opera, recession means fat lady won't sing

The weight of low ticket sales, flagging donations and dwindling sponsorships was just too heavy for superstars of the classical music world to lift.

The Florida Grand Opera's Superstar Concert Series, launched under the creative direction of longtime South Florida arts presenter Judy Drucker, will not return for a second season.

Robert Heuer, the opera's general director, says the three-concert series -- headlined by luminaries Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Marcello Giordani, and Bryn Terfel -- lost more than $250,000, mostly to low ticket sales and weak fundraising.

The cancellation follows Heuer's January announcement that the opera will shed 30 percent of its $14 million budget for next season by presenting four operas instead of the usual five, freezing wages and discontinuing contributions to employee retirement plans.

Drucker, who founded and led the now-defunct Concert Association of Florida for almost 40 years, says she tried to raise the money for a 2010 series.

"I had raised $250,000 to underwrite these concerts, and they wanted me to raise another $300,000," she says. "I'm quite sure I could've done it had I been given more time."

But time, like money, was in short supply as the opera's board worked to craft a budget for the new fiscal year, which begins in June.

Heuer says the Superstar Concerts cost $740,000 to present and lost $268,000. Paid attendance at the 2,200-seat Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts averaged 750.

The opera already has borrowed about $1.1 million against credit lines and future ticket sales. Losses from the concert series widened its deficit for this year to about $1.4 million.


Related stories from McClatchy DC