Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago in the black for 2010/11 season.

Press Release Letterhead

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lyric Opera of Chicago in the black for 2010/11 season.
Kenneth G. Pigott becomes new president and CEO
of Lyric’s Board of Directors, replacing Richard P. Kiphart.
William Mason presides over final Annual Meeting Dinner as general director;
Anthony Freud addresses Board as general director-designate.
Allan B. Muchin receives Lyric’s Carol Fox Award from creative consultant Renée Fleming.
William Mason Rehearsal Hall named in honor of retiring general director.


Lyric Opera of Chicago sold 91% of its seating capacity for the 2010/11 season and surpassed its $17.2 million fundraising goal.

The world-renowned opera company will report a breakeven operating performance for the year by using approximately $4.4 million in reserve funds from its Campaign for Excellence Fund, which was established in 2005.

Lyric’s operating expenses for 2010/11 were $53.7 million. Ticket revenue for the season (68 regular performances plus two student matinees and one subscriber-appreciation concert) was $23.8 million. The company raised more than $17.2 million in contributions. Fully audited financial statements will be issued in August.

Lyric has operated in the black for 23 of the past 24 years—a record among the country’s major not-for-profit music and performing-arts companies.

A grand total of 229,775 tickets were sold for the season, which comprised 68 performances of eight productions: Macbeth, Carmen, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Masked Ball, The Mikado, Girl of the Golden West, Lohengrin, and Hercules; plus two student matinees of Carmen and a subscriber-appreciation concert featuring soprano Renée Fleming and the Lyric Opera Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.

Commenting on the company’s year-end results, William Mason, general director of Lyric Opera, said, “Arts organizations all over the country are facing a new reality that includes significant economic, cultural, and demographic challenges. But I believe that Lyric Opera is in a better position than most to face those challenges as we go forward. 

“Marrying artistic excellence with fiscal prudence has always been the company’s hallmark,” Mason continued. “We have a strong audience and donor base. We have tailored the length of our season to match current audience demand. We continue to employ new strategies to maximize ticket sales, and we are meeting our annual fundraising goals. We are one of the few major opera companies in the country without an accumulated deficit. 

“That said, Lyric’s economic reality is now much more complicated,” Mason acknowledged. “Subscription sales, while strong, are not at the level they have been in the past. Fortunately, several years ago, our Board had the foresight to establish the Campaign for Excellence, and for the second year, it has been necessary to use those funds to balance the budget.

“But this is not an evergreen fund. Among other initiatives, the company is putting more emphasis on raising more contributed income,” Mason noted. “Our 2012 goal has been increased to $20.6 million, an ambitious increase of $3.4 million over the current season. Needless to say, we are also continuing to work hard at maximizing operating revenues while meticulously managing expenses.

“I have complete confidence that Lyric will continue to prosper in the future,” Mason said. “Our Board leadership is exemplary. Our management group is strong. And the new leadership team of general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and creative consultant Renée Fleming is both formidable and unique in our field.”         

Mason reported that total operating expenses for fiscal year 2012 are projected at $57.4 million, with the fundraising goal increased to $20.6 million.

Lyric’s Board of Directors unanimously elected Kenneth G. Pigott as its new president and chief executive officer. Previously, Pigott served as executive vice president of Lyric’s Board and chairman of Lyric’s production sponsorship committee (for 11 years). He chaired the eight-month international search that resulted in Lyric hiring Anthony Freud as general director, replacing William Mason, who is retiring.

Pigott is managing partner of Vaduz Partners LLC, a private investment company specializing in information technology services. He is Lyric’s eighteenth president.

Richard P. Kiphart, Lyric’s president and CEO since 2006, is now Lyric’s chairman. Over the past five years, Kiphart led and participated in the very successful Campaign for Excellence, which raised $36.3 million; cosponsored three productions with his wife Susan; played a major role in bringing Lyric’s Opening Night broadcasts back to the radio (plus internet via streaming); was influential in launching two new restaurants in the opera house; and funded the production of five original short documentary films, among many other accomplishments. Kiphart also convinced his friend, the rock star Bono, to pose for the Operathon catalogue cover, and initiated the idea of bringing opera superstar Renée Fleming on board as Lyric’s first-ever creative consultant.

Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director-designate, paid tribute to his predecessors Ardis Krainik and William Mason and spoke enthusiastically about the artistic planning sessions he’s already had with Sir Andrew Davis and Renée Fleming.

Additionally, he said, “I believe passionately in great opera companies such as Lyric, their focus on excellence in everything they do, and their need to engage proactively and dynamically with the cities they are in existence to serve. Through a combination of excellence, relevance, and fiscal responsibility, opera companies in general and Lyric in particular can fulfill their potential, and thrive both artistically and financially.

“We are living in a time of incredibly rapid change – cultural, social, economic, technological, and political,” Freud continued. “In order to thrive into the future, we must develop an understanding of these changes, and the opportunities and challenges they offer. We must ensure that the work of our company is relevant and made accessible to a larger, wider public. To do that, we must bring more people into our opera house, and take the art form to a broader audience, both inside the theater and in the community at large.”

Allan B. Muchin, chairman of Lyric’s Board of Directors, received the Carol Fox Award, which honors those members of the Lyric Opera family who have made extraordinary contributions to the cultural heritage of Chicago through their distinguished service to Lyric Opera. Lyric creative consultant and Board vice president Renée Fleming presented the award. A member of Lyric’s Board since 1993 and Executive Committee since 1995, Muchin co-chaired the Building on Greatness capital campaign to purchase and renovate the Civic Opera House. He served as Lyric’s president and CEO (2001-06), and oversaw the Look to the Future endowment campaign, which increased Lyric’s endowment by $50 million.

Kenneth G. Pigott commended William Mason for his lifelong service to Lyric Opera, first as a member of the children’s chorus and soloist (the Shepherd Boy in Tosca, 1954 and 1956), later as an assistant to artistic administrator Pino Donati (Mason’s mentor and “second father”), stage manager, production director, director of operations, artistic and production, and finally as general director. In recognition of that extraordinary career, Pigott announced that Room 200 backstage at the Civic Opera House would henceforth be known as the William Mason Rehearsal Hall. “Anybody who knows Bill knows that what ultimately goes on the stage is what is dearest to his heart,” said Pigott. “In light of this, we felt the most appropriate tribute we could give Bill would be to name the rehearsal hall in his honor.”

Fleming gave the audience an update on the Renée Fleming Initiative, including the world premiere that Lyric plans to present in its 2015/16 season. She also noted that Lyric’s January 7 Subscriber Appreciation Concert will honor Mason. She and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky will perform with the Lyric Opera Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis conducting.

A short documentary narrated by Fleming, “Lyric’s Unsung Heroes,” was shown during the Annual Meeting Dinner. This is the fifth behind-the-scenes video presentation sponsored by outgoing president (now chairman) Richard P. Kiphart and his wife Susan.

Soprano Alyson Cambridge performed at the close of the Annual Meeting Dinner. She will make her company debut in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, which opens Lyric’s 2011/12 season on October 1 starring Matthew Polenzani and James Morris. Cambridge will return later in the season for the Lyric premiere of Show Boat.

Lyric’s Annual Meeting Dinner, a fundraising event for the company, took place May 23 at the Four Seasons Hotel and was cosponsored by Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. The Annual Meeting Dinner is a project of the Women’s Board. Annual Meeting chairman: Mrs. Christopher Murphy (Eileen). Women’s Board president: Mrs. J. Christopher Reyes (Anne).