After a hefty season that included productions of Carmen, Porgy and Bess, and Madama Butterfly with a simulcast, Seattle Opera expects a shortfall of $1 million for its 2011-12 season, the company announced Tuesday in a release. It’s only the second time in 19 seasons that the opera will run a deficit, and though the upcoming season will continue as planned, there are cuts coming.
The 2012 season will still open with Puccini’s Turandot on August 4 (a coproduction with four other companies), and produce three cycles of the Ring in the summer of 2013. But the previously scheduled Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg—Wagner’s grand four-hours-plus performance that’s one of the most expensive operas in the repertory, and was originally intended to cap off general director Speight Jenkins’s 30th and final season with the opera—will be replaced by the International Wagner Competition. The 2014 season will also trim down to four operas instead of five.
Even more disconcerting, though, are the projected layoffs. Four full-time positions are expected to go, with new hires coming on dedicated to fundraising; and the Young Artists Program will stage a concert with an orchestra instead of a full opera this season, and go on hiatus for 2013-14. This isn’t the first time since the recession took hold in 2008 that the opera has been forced to make cuts. And though there was an increase in single-ticket sales this season, the traditional models of funding—subscriptions and multiyear gifts from major donors—were on the decline. The final deficit will be tallied after the fiscal year closes on June 30. In the meantime, a task force will review the opera’s budget and consider initiatives to reach new audiences, including an opera camp for children and "Opera Goes to School" program.