Lyric Opera of Chicago in the Black for 2013/14 Season with Ticket Sales Increasing 8%

By: Jun. 30, 2014
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Anthony Freud, general director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, announced today that the company is reporting a break even operating performance for fiscal year 2014. Lyric has operated in the black for 26 of the past 27 years-a record among the country's not-for-profit music and performing-arts companies.

Ticket revenue is $28.8 million for fiscal year 2014-up significantly from $26.6 million the previous year. Both subscription and individual-ticket sales increased, with a total of 284,440 tickets being sold-an 8% increase over the previous season. Of that total, 71,074 tickets were sold for The Sound of Music, making it the top-selling production in Lyric history.

Freud also reported an important increase in the number of new Lyric buyers. Of the 284,440 tickets sold for the 2013/14 season, 67,485 were purchased by people who were attending Lyric for the first time. Of that new-to-Lyric total, 41,223 were Sound of Music buyers.

Fundraising results were also excellent. Lyric will surpass its $23.6 million annual fundraising campaign goal. In addition to its annual campaign, Lyric receives support from its annual endowment draw and its new Breaking New Ground fund.

Lyric's operating expenses for the 103-performance 2013/14 season were $69.4 million. Audited financial statements will be issued in October.

The 2013/14 season comprised 67 performances of eight operas, which sold at 85% of total seating capacity: Verdi's Otello, Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Wagner'sParsifal, Verdi's La Traviata, Strauss's Die Fledermaus, Rossini's The Barber of Seville, Dvo?ák's Rusalka, and Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito.

Lyric also presented a sold-out concert by Renée Fleming and Jonas Kaufmann, a recital by Itzhak Perlman, a sold-out family performance of The Family Barber, one student performance of Rusalka, two sold-out performances of Canciones y Ariasin Pilsen, and 30 performances of The Sound of Music, including one sold-out performance for students.

Freud reported that 111,725 children, students, and adults had participated in additional Lyric activities through the company's Lyric Unlimited initiative, which includes Lyric's community engagement and education programs.

In reporting on the results of Lyric's 2013/14 season, Freud stated that "opera companies everywhere are facing new realities and challenges in the 21st century. Lyric's strategic plan addresses those issues through proactive steps to recapitalize the company's balance sheet, expand the company's audience base, generate more ticket revenue, and reach larger and more diverse publics through programming and community engagement. The highly positive results of the 2013/14 season show that we are making significant progress on all fronts, with an 8% increase in the number of tickets sold in 2013/14."

Freud stated that "opera companies must become more relevant in their communities and reach out to new audiences in new ways. Integral to ensuring a vibrant future for Lyric Opera is Lyric's expanded activity through its Lyric Unlimited and American Musical Theater initiatives. I thank our unions for their partnership in helping to make Lyric's expansion of activity possible."

Freud explained that the 2013/14 season had been significant from many points of view, including the number of new productions offered to audiences. Lyric created five new productions for the season-Parsifal, La Traviata, The Barber of Seville, Rusalka, and The Sound of Music. Madama Butterfly, Die Fledermaus, and La Clemenza di Tito were presented in new-to-Chicago productions from Houston, San Francisco and Aix-en-Provence respectively.

"One of the goals of Lyric's American Musical Theater Initiative is to encourage new audiences to enjoy all the resources that a major opera company can bring to these great works of the American musical stage," Freud said. "The Sound of Musicachieved that in remarkable fashion, with 58% of the ticket buyers experiencing Lyric for the first time."

Freud reported that the number of young people attending Lyric is also increasing, with 15,467 tickets purchased-a 16.2% increase over the previous year. These included student performances, Lyric's popular NExT discount ticket program for college students, student tickets sold for The Sound of Music, and discounted children's tickets for the company's mainstage The Barber of Seville.

In addition to mainstage performances, Lyric Unlimited continued to expand the company's civic footprint through a wide variety of community engagement and education activities. New to Lyric Unlimited in 2013/14 was the Community Ambassador program, through which Lyric artists work in communities and schools in a variety of ways to ensure that opera reaches as many people as possible. Soprano Ana María Martínez and bass-baritone Eric Owens inaugurated the program with visits to several schools in the Chicagoland area. Building on Lyric's ongoing commitment to Chicago's Latino communities, which began last season with performances of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, Canciones y Arias, an inventive presentation of mariachi and opera, played to sold-out houses in Pilsen's Benito Juarez Community Academy.

Board President Kenneth G. Pigott reported that the company's Breaking New Ground campaign, an integral element of Lyric's strategic plan adopted by the Board of Directors in 2012/13, was now underway. "The Breaking New Ground campaign is designed to support the strategic initiatives we have put in place and adopted as integral to our mission," Pigott said. "While building the endowment to a level representing best practice, we must at the same time modernize Lyric's stage and equipment; update media, marketing and audience development programs; produce new and revived major productions of the highest caliber; and strengthen the balance sheet for the long term."

Pigott stated that while no current total or goal had been announced for the Breaking New Ground campaign, excellent progress has been made to date. "We are already receiving broad-based support from the Lyric Board of Directors. In 2014/15, we will expand the campaign to include all Lyric's patrons and donors."

During the annual meeting Freud spoke glowingly of Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric's music director since 2000. Sir Andrew was on the podium for three operas in the 2013/14 season. "He gave us brilliant performances of Parsifal, Rusalka, and La Clemenza di Tito-all of them superlative examples of his many achievements at Lyric," Freud said. "He is one of the opera world's great music directors and his partnership with our celebrated orchestra and chorus-remarkable in their versatility and virtuosity-remains the foundation of Lyric's artistic excellence."

Freud also praised Renée Fleming, both as an artist and in her role as creative consultant. In 2013/14, for the first time ever, Fleming appeared in concert with tenor Jonas Kaufmann, which Freud described as a musical event of global significance. In 2013/14, Fleming took on the expanded role of advisor to The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, where her work includes master classes, mentorship, and counsel on the Ryan Opera Center's programming and activities. "She is also spearheading Lyric's collaboration with the Chicago Public Schools to build on the restoration of the arts as part of CPS's core curriculum-work she is doing in collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra," Freud said. Fleming continues her work with her Vocal Partnership program, which gives high-school students at five institutions the opportunity to learn about opera and develop their skills through access to the expertise of Lyric artists and staff.

In reviewing the season, Freud also highlighted the contributions of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, whose ensemble members sang 36 roles and understudied 42. In Lyric's 2013/14 season, Ryan Opera Center alumni sang 13 principal roles and understudied four.

Freud credited the year-end results to the generosity of Lyric's many donors and to its boards, under the outstanding leadership of President and CEO Kenneth G. Pigott, who was honored as one of OPERA America's 2014 National Opera Trustee Recognition Award winners.

Receiving the company's highest honor, the Carol Fox Award, was Nancy W. Knowles. A member of the Board of Directors since 1999 and the Executive Committee since 2008, Knowles is one of Lyric's most ardent supporters. She is President of the Knowles Foundation and Chairman Emeritus of Knowles Electronics. The Knowles Foundation is a leading contributor to Lyric's annual campaigns and provided Lyric with its assisted-listening system for the Civic Opera House to aid hearing-impaired patrons. Ms. Knowles has cosponsored three Lyric Opera productions. In 2007, Lyric named the Nancy W. Knowles Lobby in recognition of her extraordinary gift to the company's Campaign for Excellence.

Board President Kenneth G. Pigott announced that total operating expenses for fiscal year 2015 are set at $74 million with a fundraising goal of $29.9 million.

Lyric Opera's Board of Directors Annual Meeting, which took place at the Four Seasons Hotel, was sponsored by Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP and Strategy&, now part of PwC.

The Annual Meeting Dinner is a project of the Women's Board. Annual Meeting Chairman: Mrs. Jerry K. Pearlman. Women's Board President: Mrs. Todd D. Mitchell.

The meeting concluded with a performance by soprano Amber Wagner, a Ryan Opera Center alumna who is now forging an outstanding international career. Wagner will make two role debuts in Lyric's 60th Anniversary season: Leonora in Verdi's Il Trovatore and Elisabeth in Wagner's Tannhäuser.


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