Keeping an orchestra or opera company running in the black — sometimes, just keeping it running — is no mean feat in the best of times. In the current economic climate, the folks who put on concerts for us, in the US and around the world, mostly have little choice but to hunker down and wait for the clouds to part.
It’s been a rough week in the music world.
• The Cincinnati Symphony, faced with a massive 3.8 million dollar deficit and a 25 percent drop in their endowment fund’s value, announced drastic measures. Since September they’ve released eight administrative staff members. Nearly everyone left has swallowed pay cuts — staff, music director Paavo Järvi, and now the musicians. Yesterday (Monday 2 February 2009) the orchestra’s players agreed to an eleven percent reduction in salary.
Cincinnati’s recording program has been relegated to limbo. Cleveland’s Telarc Records was scheduled to record The Pops Goes British next week in Music Hall. It’s cancelled, as are all future recordings, though three already in the can are still slated for release.
• The Philadelphia Orchestra asked next season’s guest conductors and soloists to accept lower fees. Large-scale works such as Richard Strauss’s Elektra were axed from the programs. They’d already cancelled their 2009 tour of European festivals, and decided not to renew their innovative relationship with Finland’s Ondine Records. Internet concert simulcasts are out, too.
• The Rochester Philharmonic joined the red-ink crowd, announcing a deficit of $161,000 on an annual operating budget of $10 million. They blamed staff turnover, an increase in programming and administrative costs, and a $280,000 revenue hit.
• The Met expects a double-digit deficit. Their endowment, like many, has declined precipitously, as have donations and ticket sales. San Francisco Opera, faced with the end of their city subsidy, is looking at a $71 million shortfall.
• The Opera Orchestra of New York was to perform Wagner’s Rienzi on 19 March (2009) and Cherubini’s Medea on 21 April, but this week they cancelled both. They’d already axed a concert with bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, originally set for the 27th of February.
• LA Opera pink-slipped 17 staffers and announced pay cuts of 6-8% for the rest. They hope to slice their budget by 25% for next season, mainly by renegotiating union contracts and reducing the season from 64 to 48 performances.
• The Bolshoi Theatre cancelled a Mexican tour and a new performance of Verdi’s Otello.
But wait! Amid all this darkness, we find a couple of glimmers:
• The LA Philharmonic, riding a giddy wave of elation over its new, much-discussed young music director, Gustavo Dudamel, has no plans for any cutbacks at all.
• Chicago Lyric Opera is forging ahead with their long-range plans and won’t need to change a thing in next season’s programming. General director William Mason gets much of the credit; he’s carried forward the lean, fiscally cautious policies of his predecessor, Ardis Krainik. Although Mason’s been criticized for musically conservative programming, he thinks his approach has now been “vindicated.”