The article titled Vancouver Opera goes from red to black in two years caught my attention because it is refreshingly contrary to many other recent headlines regarding opera companies and orchestras. Two years ago, the Vancouver Opera was over $831,000 in debt. Today, they have a surplus of over $169,000. This is really great news. After hearing about the New York City Opera’s financial situation, it is encouraging to know that there are still people who want to go to the opera. Maybe there is hope for the New York City Opera after all (of course their debt is significantly larger than the one Vancouver overcame).
How did Vancouver do this? First of all, they worked extremely hard to get connected with people. They received almost $2 million in gifts from individuals. Again, this is really encouraging. People do still care about classical music. It isn’t just about listening to the music, either. The people making these donations must understand, value, and support the art of a live performance. I hope these supporters continue to enjoy the opera and the symphony, and I hope they are able to share a love of classical music with those around them.
The other thing that Vancouver did was consider their programs much more carefully, which is the only part of this story that is somewhat concerning to me. One of the reasons the organization ran into trouble during the 2010-2011 season, according to the general director, was that they performed “Nixon in China”. Their first step in bouncing back during the 2011-2012 season was performing “West Side Story”, to which they sold a record number of tickets. Now, I appreciate a good performance of “West Side Story” as much as anybody, but I also appreciate “Nixon in China”. It is disappointing to me that a great work such as this must be avoided in order to keep the necessary support of the audience. Other well-attended operas in Vancouver were “La Bohème” and “The Pirates of Penzance”. These are great works as well, and I’m glad people still want to see them. I just hope that someone will figure out a way to incorporate some contemporary music into a successful season. There are many contemporary pieces which at least deserve the chance to stand the test of time.