Dallas Opera Announces Emerging Turnaround For Finances
The Dallas Opera, after taking the difficult step last July of cancelling one of the five mainstage productions of the 2011-2012 "Tragic Obsessions" Season, in order to preserve cash and accelerate the company's quest for financial balance, is now meeting key milestones in its turnaround plan. This is credited to both significant cost reductions and an outpouring of generous financial support for the company in the wake of that cancellation. Key milestones include the following:
· TDO has secured $7.5 million in multi-year commitments to the Dallas Opera from donors willing to commit for a minimum of three years. These individuals will be recognized as members of a new giving category at TDO, the "General Director's Circle."
· TDO has secured four commitments for the current year of $250,000 or up, bringing the company closer to the average of six-to-eight such gifts received each year by U.S. opera companies of similar size and artistic merit.
· The deficit for 2011-2012 (Fiscal '12) is projected to be less than half that of the fiscal year just ended, and expenses for the current year are budgeted at nearly $1.4 million less. The Dallas Opera is firmly on-course to achieve financial balance by the 2014-2015 Season.
· Total transitional expenses to bring the company back into balance over the course of the next three seasons (FY12, FY13, and FY14) have been cut nearly in half since the beginning of the 2011 calendar year, from over $10 million to just over $5 million.
· The Dallas Opera has raised over $7 million towards an anonymous $10 million match (the Cultural Renaissance Endowment Fund), and continues to work with major donors in anticipation of the imminent October 31, 2011 deadline.
· The company, in recent weeks, has paid-off all of its seasonal line of credit, and has enough cash remaining to meet its operating needs for the foreseeable future (assuming TDO continues to raise its usual expected annual gifts and funding, and hits season ticket sales goals).
· The Dallas Opera has received more than $72,000 in donations from our loyal and generous subscribers, who asked that the refunds due to them, in connection with the cancellation of Katya Kabanová, go to provide operating support instead. Roughly half that figure has come from Friends-level donors to the Dallas Opera.
All of these are strongly positive signs of the community support necessary to stabilize TDO and ensure artistically successful future seasons in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House.
"Under Keith Cerny's leadership, the Dallas Opera has developed an innovative yet highly practical artistic and financial strategy, which has been warmly received by our Executive Committee, the full TDO Board, and the community-at-large," explains Dallas Opera Chairman Dr. Kern Wildenthal. "The Board and I would also like to express our appreciation to all of our union partners-especially the Dallas Opera Orchestra and Chorus-for their professionalism and support for the company throughout this difficult time.
"While we are all very gratified by the company's progress, I want to make it clear that we still need to raise additional funds to cover the remaining transitional deficits and to pay back approximately $3.5 million in existing debt. The Board and I are also tremendously grateful for the support TDO has received, to date, from donors at all levels, and we will continue to approach both proven and potential benefactors to complete the implementation of this carefully planned strategy."
Since joining the Dallas Opera in 2010, General Director and CEO Keith Cerny has embarked on a major restructuring plan to preserve and increase the company's artistic reputation, while at the same time, making extraordinarily deep cuts in its operating budget. This plan is projected to completely eliminate TDO's $4 million structural deficit over the next three years.
Key highlights of TDO's new strategy include:
· Cutting the number of fully-staged productions performed in the Winspear Opera House from five to three, beginning with the current season.
· Reducing the core TDO season from six performances per production, to five performances per production; accomplished by combining audiences for two Friday evening performances into one.
· Presenting an opera-in-concert with reductions in the number of available performances: four rather than six.
· The presentation of chamber operas, in the Wyly Theatre and elsewhere, alone and in partnership, anticipating three-to-four performances per production.
· Restructuring TDO's education program to double the number of students served.
· Eliminating more than 15% of TDO's full-time administrative staff, including two director-level positions.
Total expenses for the company are expected to decline from $16.9 million in the 2010-2011 Season to $15.5 million in 2011-2012. They are expected to continue to decline thereafter, reaching a level of $12.9 million in 2014-2015. The anticipated expenses for the 2014-2015 Season essentially match those of the Dallas Opera's final seasons in the Music Hall at Fair Park, adjusted for inflation.
Once the company achieves consistent financial stability at this new level of production, it can start to expand its season once more-to four and, eventually, five mainstage productions.
"In working on the company's new business and artistic strategy," says Mr. Cerny, "I have been able to draw upon my extensive background in finance, arts management and operations.
"In the course of my career, I have designed and implemented corporate restructuring and organizational redesign, outsourcing, large-scale cost reduction and shared-service agreements for Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies. I was brought in by the board of the San Francisco Opera in 2004 to design and lead a turnaround, following an institution-threatening downturn. Working with the board chair and president, as well as the general director, we achieved three years of balanced financial results.
"At Sheet Music Plus," Mr. Cerny adds, "I led a complete turnaround of the company's IT strategy and operations, which included designing and constructing a new data center, closing the previous data center, and completely re-platforming the website to dramatically cut both operating expenses and capital requirements."
Besides aggressive fund-raising, extremely lean staffing levels, and tight controls over expenditures, the company's new strategy incorporates a strong community outreach and education component designed to encourage and develop new and more diverse opera audiences. This includes free, public simulcasts one or more times each year, as well as additional low-cost or no-cost public performances aimed at children, families, students and opera newcomers.
The Dallas Opera is also pursuing more artistic, marketing and creative collaborations than at any time in our history. These partnerships go beyond the expected opera co-commission to include other, less-obvious collaborations with world-class museums, theaters, sports organizations, and additional performing art and science non-profits within the Arts District itself-and across North Texas.
"A centerpiece of our new strategy at TDO," explains Keith Cerny "has been to develop mutually beneficial relationships and ventures with other members of the arts and science community.
"Over the past year, we have taken the lead to initiate significant artistic collaborations with the Dallas Museum of Art, the Dallas Theater Center, and the AT&T Performing Arts Center. We have forged new educational and outreach partnerships with the Dallas Children's Theater, Museum of Nature and Science, and the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra. We have also developed a new touring opera program with UNT, to expand our reach and complement our long-standing relationship with SMU.
"Our collaboration with the Theater Center, in particular, has allowed us to bring to life a thrilling new production of a contemporary opera, at a considerable saving over mounting the production on our own. Our close ties to SMU and UNT, on the other hand, make it possible for us to introduce superb young talent into a high-quality, low-cost touring program that will connect with the broader community in a wide range of venues, including the purpose-built stage at the Dallas Children's Theater."
Despite planned financial reductions in the near future, the company is continuing to pursue artistic innovations. The FY12 Season will include a brand-new production of Peter Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse, with new sets and costumes (directed by Dallas Theater Center Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty in his opera debut), as well as a new production of Tristan & Isolde by Richard Wagner, to be staged by German director Christian Räth with video projections by Elaine J. McCarthy, who created the landmark projection design for the Dallas Opera's 2010 world premiere production of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer's Moby-Dick.
Single tickets for the four mainstage productions of the Dallas Opera's "Tragic Obsessions" Season are on sale now, starting at just $25, through the Dallas Opera Ticket Services Office at 214.443.1000 or online at www.dallasopera.org.
Full Season Subscriptions are still available, beginning at just $76 for all four productions. Subscribers will have the first chance to purchase tickets for the limited engagement of The Lighthouse by Peter Maxwell Davies, inaugurating the Dallas Opera's new chamber opera series next spring. The work will be produced in collaboration with the Dallas Theater Center and will mark the opera debut of director Kevin Moriarty, Artistic Director of the DTC, who will stage this new production of a work that originally premiered in 1980.
Student Rush best-available tickets can be purchased at the lobby box office for $25 (one per valid Student I.D.) ninety minutes prior to each performance.
Tickets for the Dallas Opera's 2011 Opening Night Celebration, FIRST NIGHT, are available through Dallas Opera Special Events Manager Morgan Vaughn at email@example.com.