Lyric Opera of Chicago, Anthony Freud, Andrew Davis
Anthony Freud, general director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, announced today that the company is reporting a breakeven operating performance for fiscal year 2012. Lyric has operated in the black for 24 of the past 25 years-a record among the country's major not-for-profit music and performing-arts companies.
The company surpassed its $20.6 million fundraising goal. As planned, Lyric used reserve funds from its Campaign for Excellence-approximately $3.8 million as compared with $4.3 million in the previous season-to reach a balanced budget.
Lyric's operating expenses for 2011/12 were $57.4 million. Ticket revenue for the season (72 regular performances, plus two student-matinee performances and one subscriber-appreciation concert) was $25 million-$1.3 million higher than for the previous season. The company raised more than $21.1 million in annual contributions-$3 million more than in the previous season. Fully audited financial statements will be issued in August.
A grand total of 233,113 tickets were sold for the season, slightly more than the 229,775 sold in the previous year. Lyric sold 88% of its seating capacity for the 2011/12 season, which included 72 performances of eight productions.
Anthony Freud, who became general director of Lyric Opera on October 1, 2011, said that he "was delighted that the company has ended the year in the black. Thanks to the generosity of our many donors, and extraordinary Board commitment under the inspired leadership of President and CEO Kenneth G. Pigott, contributed income reached its second-highest level in the company's history, second only to Lyric's 50th anniversary season in 2004/05."
But Freud also stressed that the challenges facing opera companies, including Lyric, are significant. "The economic environment in which we operate remains volatile," Freud said. "Our subscription sales continue to be the best on the continent, but the percentage of the revenue budget they cover is not what it used to be. Extraordinary additional marketing efforts were needed to reach our excellent individual ticket sale number this year, and clearly this is the wave of the future. Fortunately, Lyric also had the foresight to establish its Campaign for Excellence, under the leadership of Richard P. Kiphart, Lyric's immediate past president and current chairman. This fund has been indispensible to Lyric's financial stability over the past several years, but it will not last forever. In light of this, the Board and administrative leadership of Lyric are currently developing a new strategic plan that will chart the course for this great company's future. The goal is to generate new revenue streams from both operating and contributed income, ensuring that Lyric remains artistically exhilarating, becomes an even greater resource to the community, and builds an even firmer financial foundation."
Lyric's 2011/12 season featured The Tales of Hoffmann, Lucia di Lammermoor, Boris Godunov, Ariadne auf Naxos, The Magic Flute, Aida, Show Boat, and Rinaldo; plus two student matinees of The Magic Flute and a subscriber-appreciation concert starring soprano Renée Fleming, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and the Lyric Opera Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. A free concert at Millennium Park began the season on September 10, 2011.
Freud pointed out that the majority of individual donors contribute because of the artistic excellence they hear and see onstage. "In 2011/12, our varied season of marvelous opera featuring a galaxy of great artists was enthusiastically received by our audiences," Freud said. "I am particularly pleased by the enormously positive response to Show Boat, Lyric's new venture into the American musical-theater genre. The thirteen performances generated terrific excitement, sold at 95% capacity, and brought in new audiences. Close to 50% of the people who purchased individual tickets for Show Boat were experiencing Lyric Opera for the very first time."
Freud praised the many contributions of Lyric's creative consultant, Renée Fleming. "When Renée took on this new position, she said her goals were to curate a world premiere, expand Lyric's educational and community-engagement programming, foster new community partnerships, and initiate new marketing efforts for Lyric. She accomplished all these things this season. A new partnership with the Merit School of Music is thriving; she was instrumental in Lyric's new branding campaign, which generated impressive buzz for Lyric within the media and the community; she joined with CSO creative consultant Yo-Yo Ma for work in the education sector as well as in a surprise 'pop-up' concert in the State of Illinois's James R. Thompson Center; and in February 2012, Lyric announced its first world premiere since 2004/05. With Fleming as curator, Lyric will present Bel Canto, by composer Jimmy López and librettist Nilo Cruz, in its 2015/16 season. The new opera is based on the prizewinning American novel by Ann Patchett. Sir Andrew Davis will conduct, Stephen Wadsworth will direct, and Danielle De Niese will star."