New York City Opera files for bankruptcy

Story highlights

  • The New York City Opera filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy Thursday
  • "The People's Opera" was founded on the idea that every New Yorker should have access
  • For the company to break even, all tickets would have to cost $600 each, its GM says
  • The company "did not achieve the goal of its emergency appeal," a statement says
The fat lady finally sang when the New York City Opera filed for bankruptcy on Thursday after the company fell short of an emergency fund-raising goal of $7 million.
The company's projected deficit was $44.1 million for the 2012 fiscal year, according to the Chapter 11 petition filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.
The New York City Ballet was listed as one of its largest unsecured creditors at an estimated $1.6 million, the filing showed.
The opera blamed a "troubled economy, decreased donations, and increasing pension obligations" for its financial troubles, the petition said.
Unless another cultural or educational institution is willing to partner with the opera, or there is a "miraculous increase in donations," the company will be forced to use the Chapter 11 process to liquidate, the affidavit said.
The opera company also needed to raise an additional $13 million by the end of 2013 for future seasons, it said in a news release.
The company had hoped to raise $1 million of the $7 million through an online site, Kickstarter.com, in a campaign that ended Monday. It raised only $301,019 from more than 2,000 donors.
The organization raised $1.5 million outside of the Kickstarter campaign, according to the company's spokeswoman Risa Heller.
"The odds have been against us for a long time, but in the face of that difficulty we have made tremendous progress," George Steel, general manager and artistic director for the company, said in a video for the failed online campaign.
The company, dubbed "The People's Opera" by former New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, was founded on the principle that every New Yorker should be able to afford to go to the opera, Steel said.
He explained that in order for the company to break even, it would have needed to sell every ticket for $600. Instead, the starting ticket price was set at $25 to make the experience affordable.
The New York City Opera received critical praise for its world premieres of works including Robert Ward's "The Crucible" and Anthony Davis' "The Life and Times of Malcolm X."
It opened its current season on September 17 with the opera "Anna Nicole," which turned out to be the company's last production.
"We need the help of the people we were founded to serve to put on our season this year," Steel had said, speaking to New York residents and opera fans everywhere. "We need you to come together and carry it forward into the future. I hope we can count on you."
In a statement from the American Federation of Musicians, President Tino Gagliardi said that despite the musicians making great sacrifices in wages and benefits to keep the opera afloat, they long feared this would happen.
"NYCO management's reckless decisions to move the New York City Opera out of its newly renovated home at Lincoln Center ... predictably resulted in financial disaster for the company," Gagliardi said.
The opera company left Lincoln Center in 2011 in an effort to save money. Since then it had staged performances at various venues.
This year marked the 70th anniversary of the New York City Opera, which opened in 1943 as the second opera house in the city. The Metropolitan Opera was founded in 1880.