Cash Crisis Threatens New York City Opera Season

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New York City Opera will be forced to cancel most of its current season and all of next season if it does not raise $20 million by the end of the year, company officials said on Sunday.

The company revealed the steep shortfall just before its season opens on Sept. 17 with the American premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera Anna Nicole, a co-production with the Brooklyn Academy of Music. That highly-anticipated production has enough funds to proceed, City Opera said in a statement, but the rest of the season will be scrapped if it cannot raise $7 million by Sept. 30.

Specifically at stake are three productions: J.C. Bach's Endimione, Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. The entire 2014-15 season will be cancelled as well if an additional $13 million isn't raised by the end of this year.

"We have reached a crossroads," said George Steel, City Opera’s general manager and artistic director in the statement. "Simply put, we need capitalization, both for the rest of this season and for the company to continue forward on solid financial footing.”

The emergency fundraising appeal comes as the company appeared to be returning to some measure of stability. In an Operavore interview in April, Steel said the company was on track to its second straight balanced budget. But the current problems came to a head two weeks ago, after some pledges expected over the summer fell through, Steel told the Wall Street Journal.

In 2011, City Opera embarked on a painful – and controversial – period of downsizing after a financial crisis. It moved out of its longtime home at Lincoln Center and became a touring outfit. It renegotiated musicians' contracts (cutting salaries by some 80 percent), laid off staff and auctioned off decades' worth of old sets and costumes in order to trim costs. It is currently presenting four shows a year, down from as many as 16 a decade ago.

City Opera has launched an online Kickstarter campaign to raise $1 million of its $7 million goal for September.