Indianapolis Opera cancels season closer 

click to enlarge Indy Opera's 2013 production of The Threepenny Opera at Basile Opera Center.
  • Indy Opera's 2013 production of The Threepenny Opera at Basile Opera Center.

Indianapolis Opera announced late Tuesday that it had cancelled the final production of its 2013/14 season, Britten's Albert Herring, saying it hoped to avoid "risking further financial strain." The company also said that it plans to mount a 2014/15 season and will make a "major announcement" concerning its business plan in the near future.

We've been here before: Indianapolis Opera canceled its final show of the 2009/10 season, The Mikado, in order to "preserve the financial security of the company during the current troubled economy." The operetta was eventually mounted in October 2010.

Former Indianapolis Opera managing director John Pickett, who stepped down last summer and has not been permanently replaced, talked with NUVO in spring 2013 about the company's challenges. "We're doing OK with the budget, monitoring expenses and so forth," he said. "Cash flow is the continual challenge." He noted that "cash flow is especially tough" in the spring and that "raising money is very difficult" for the company, given competition from other arts organizations.

In contrast, Indianapolis Opera artistic director James Caraher told NUVO last fall that he believed the company to be on solid financial footing, noting that the company had recently paid off all outstanding bills.

Indianapolis Opera's media statement is as follows. Two notes: Ballet Internationale, the "professional ballet company" cited below, closed in 2005 after failing to climb out of a $700,000 hole. And while the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra suspended its 2012/13 season for five weeks during a musician lockout, and has subsequently reduced musician salaries and the number of shows it plays annually, ISO leadership never reported that the organization was on the brink of collapse.

Since last season, the Opera board of directors has been working to address systemic and national trends in the opera business model. The board has faced the organization's condition head on, and has already made significant strides towards achieving a solid future for the company with an aggressive business plan to move Indianapolis Opera towards sustainability in a rapidly changing economy. In the coming weeks, Indianapolis Opera will make a major announcement concerning this business plan and announce the 2014-2015 season.

Indianapolis Opera started the 2013-2014 season with a board-supported plan to return to producing four mainstage productions. The company, like many operas in other cities as well as local arts organizations, experienced financial challenges as individual and corporate support for the arts has diminished. Indianapolis lost its professional ballet company and almost lost the symphony last year. Indianapolis Opera spent the past eight months strategizing, and adopted a multi-year plan for financial stability and sustainability. It has taken several steps toward achieving that plan, including its move into the Basile Opera Center, increased board commitment and continuing discussions with grantors. The commitment to the future of Indianapolis Opera is strong, but rather than pushing forward with the final production of the year and risking further financial strain, the company decided to cancel Albert Herring.

"While the decision to cancel the production was difficult, Indianapolis Opera is focused on the future and long term health of the company," said General Manager Carol Baker. "We are blessed with a loyal, enthusiastic audience and a wonderful city, and we owe it to our community to be responsible stewards of the art form," added Baker.

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