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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Canadian Opera Company again covers deficit with cash transfer from Foundation

By John Terauds on October 28, 2013

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The Canadian Opera Company released its 2013 annual report on Monday afternoon, declaring a $15,000 surplus — achieved thanks to a transfer of nearly $1 million from the Canadian Opera Foundation.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

This is the second consecutive year the country’s largest opera producer and presenter has had to cover substantial revenue shortfalls with donor bequests in order to show a balanced budget.

The good news is that the $990,000 shortfall in 2013 was substantially less than the $1,325,000 deficit the Company ran in 2012.

The headline trumpeted at the annual meeting was a record amount of money raised from all of its private and corporate patrons: $10.83 million — about $1 million more than a year earlier.

The downside is that ticket revenues continued a three-year slide. The box office brought in $986,000 less in 2013 than in the previous year, despite 90 per cent attendance overall.

It is no coincidence that the additional transfer from the Foundation is the same as the box office decline.

Other declines in revenue included $760,000 less from parking, event and bar receipts and a small decline in facility rentals.

Government grants also showed a small decline, now representing 16 per cent of the Company’s overall revenues. One quarter of income comes from the box office, and 26 per cent from fundraising — 80 per cent of which comes from private individuals.

The Company clearly made an effort to cut costs, including removing $1.1 million from its production budget from 2012 to 2013.

To the credit of people who take a long-term view of the artform, the COC actually increased slightly the amount of money allocated to its young-artist COC Ensemble Studio and to its educational outreach programmes.

Even with the additional transfer of funds to cover operating expenses, the Canadian Opera Foundation has continued to grow, reporting $2.8 million more in its fund balance at the end of 2012, for a total of $28,125,000.

The Company also carries no debt, either as an organization or on its wholly owned buildings on University Ave. and Front St E.

The Canadian Opera Company in a press release reported that 114,133 patrons attended 61 performances of seven mainstage productions during the 2012-13 season. Of these, 73,606 were subscription tickets.

The Company also continues to present free weekday concerts in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, claiming a cumulative attendance of 15,000 for 77 concerts and presentations last season.

At the annual meeting, this is what was said by COC board president Tony Arrell:

Under the dynamic leadership of our general director, Alexander Neef, and our music director, Johannes Debus, opera is in very good hands at the Canadian Opera Company. Our future is bright. We have an extremely loyal subscriber base, a whopping 90 per cent average occupancy of our world class opera house, the Four Seasons Centre, a balanced budget, no debt, a strong balance sheet with ownership of three valuable pieces of real estate, extraordinarily generous donors, a foundation worth more than $28 million, and a rolodex of the greatest artists and companies in the world who want to work with us. We are a very strong company by any measure.

That being said, the economics of opera are challenging. It cannot exist in Toronto, or anywhere elsewhere for that matter, without donor support because ticket sales and our relatively stable funding from all three levels of government cover only slightly more than 40% of our operating costs. To be successful in opera, we must be successful in fundraising, too. The $10.83 million that was raised helps to create new productions, put great artists on stage and support the COC’s young artists, all of which help secure the COC’s future and the future of the art form generally. We couldn’t have achieved this record fundraising year without our amazing supporters and those individuals who have the confidence in the COC and what this company produces.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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