Significant growth in subscriptions, increased overall ticket revenue, and more audiences traveling in from out-of-town are bolstering the financial position of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as the company enters the final week of its acclaimed 2018 Festival Season. Major recent fundraising milestones are also strengthening the company’s balance sheet. The season, which is Timothy O’Leary’s last as General Director, ends on June 24, 2018 with the final performance of a much-lauded production of Regina. As always, the closing night celebration will include OTSL’s long-standing tradition of garden lights, as well as audiences and artists singing “Auld Lang Syne” together in the OTSL gardens.
During the 2018 Festival Season, Opera Theatre has seen both revenue and audience growth. As of June 17, 2018, new opera-goers accounted for over 34.9% of all single ticket buyers for the season. Subscription revenue is also on the rise – 3.4% ahead of the company’s 2017 final numbers. In total, ticket sales revenue to date is up 5.6%.
This growth stems partly from increases in OTSL’s popular Young Friends subscription packages and specialized “weekender” subscription packages for out-of-town audiences. To date, ticket buyers from 48 states, 7 Canadian provinces, and 8 countries have purchased for the 2018 Festival Season. This state count matches OTSL’s highest ever, which was achieved in 2017. Ticket buyers from only two states, Vermont and Wyoming, are currently not represented in OTSL’s 2018 audience.
OTSL has also been in the national spotlight this season as a result of its ground-breaking world premiere of An American Soldier and its star-studded new production of Marc Blitzstein’s Regina. The New York Times published features stories on both operas in June, and wrote glowing reviews:
On An American Soldier – “A powerful opera… convincing, driven by Mr. Hwang’s rueful libretto and Mr. Huang’s arresting music… rendered vividly in Matthew Ozawa’s strikingly spare production… Danny [is] sung with raw emotion and poignant boyishness by the remarkable Andrew Stenson… compelling.”
On Regina – “Regina may be a piece whose time has come, especially as presented here in James Robinson’s production… performed by an exceptional cast led by the mezzo-soprano Susan Graham in the title role… Ms. Graham, who has sung a lot of bubbly roles in her day, seized on Regina to show her flair for fiercely dramatic singing.”
Other national reviews have been equally strong, including The Wall Street Journal, which called Regina “excellent” and An American Soldier “beautiful and full of raw feeling,” The Financial Times (of London), which called Regina “delectable” and “authoritatively conducted,” and The Dallas Morning News, which called An American Soldier “powerful theater, with music to match.”
Tickets are still available for the final two performances of Regina on June 20 at 8 p.m. and June 24 at 7 p.m. The final performance of An American Soldier on June 22 at 8 p.m. is currently sold out. Patrons may call the box office in the event any tickets become available for resale.
OTSL also hosts OPERA America’s annual National Opera Conference this week. The conference runs from June 20 – 23 and will be the largest in OPERA America’s history, with more than 700 attendees registered. Renowned American composer John Adams speaks at the conference’s keynote session in the form of an on-stage interview with Mr. O’Leary, who is also the chairman of the board of OPERA America.
Several other significant fundraising milestones have been reached during the 2018 Festival Season as well:
- Opera Theatre’s endowment has grown to in excess of $34.5 million, representing 209% growth over the course of Timothy O’Leary’s 10-year tenure at OTSL, providing important financial stability given limited ticket revenue from OTSL’s intimate theater and short festival season.
- Opera Theatre produced its most successful gala in company history in 2018, grossing over $1.4 million at A Toast to Timothy O’Leary and Opera Theatre. The gala, chaired by Cathy & Jim Berges and Marsha & Bill Rusnack, was held on May 12 at the Sally S. Levy Opera Center. Fundraising for the event included a generous $250,000 challenge gift from Cathy & Jim Berges and Noémi & Michael Neidorff that required OTSL to raise $250,000 in new and increased support for the event. In response to the challenge, Opera Theatre donors contributed $440,820 in qualifying gifts, achieving 176% of the challenge goal. Revenue raised above the net event goal will be designated for a new operating capital fund, the Next Generation Fund, designed to recognize Timothy O’Leary’s leadership and support OTSL’s role as an artistic innovator.
- Opera Theatre of Saint Louis received a $90,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in support of the 2019 production of Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons’ new opera Fire Shut Up in My Bones. OTSL was one of only three organizations nationwide to receive a grant amount of this size, which is the highest amount awarded from the NEA for opera in this funding cycle.
After Mr. O’Leary’s departure for the Washington National Opera, incoming General Director Andrew Jorgensen assumes leadership responsibilities at Opera Theatre on July 2, 2018.
Eight performances remain in the 2018 Festival Season, including the annual young artist showcase concert Center Stage (June 19), Verdi’s iconic romance La traviata (June 20 and 23), Marc Blitzstein’s 20th century American masterpiece Regina (June 20 and 24), Gluck’s shimmering retelling of Orfeo & Euridice (June 21 and 23), and the world premiere of An American Soldier (June 22). Limited tickets remain for most performances. For tickets or for more information about the 2018 Festival season, visit ExperienceOpera.org or call the Opera Theatre Box Office at (314) 961-0644.