Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago in the black for 2009-10 season

Press Release Letterhead
For Immediate Release:
Monday, May 24, 2010

Lyric Opera of Chicago in the black for 2009/10 season
James L. Alexander receives Lyric’s Carol Fox Award


Lyric Opera of Chicago sold 86% of its seating capacity for the 2009/10 season, surpassed its $16.6 million fundraising goal, and will report a breakeven operating performance for the year.

To balance the budget, Lyric will use about $2.7 million in reserve funds from its Campaign for Excellence Fund, which was established in 2005.

Lyric’s operating expenses for 2009/10 were $53 million. Ticket revenue for the 77-performance season was $24.3 million. The company raised more than $16.6 million in contributions. Fully audited financial statements will be issued in August.

Lyric has operated in the black for 22 of the past 23 years—a record among the country’s major not-for-profit music and performing-arts companies.

A grand total of 238,391 tickets were sold for the season, which comprised 77 performances of eight productions: Tosca, Faust, Ernani, Katya Kabanova, The Merry Widow, The Elixir of Love, The Damnation of Faust, and The Marriage of Figaro. In addition, the company presented two student performances of The Elixir of Love.

Commenting on the company’s year-end results, William Mason, general director of Lyric Opera, said, “The recession has had a significant and lasting effect on our patrons, particularly in subscription sales. While the company had its third-best year ever in individual-ticket sales, these results did not make up for the lower subscription level. Fortunately, we are in a strong financial position. We were able to cover revenue shortfall with Campaign for Excellence funds, and members of our various Boards—the Board of Directors, Women’s Board, Guild Board, Chapters’ Executive Board, and Ryan Opera Center Board—were particularly generous in this very difficult environment. We are also seeing positive growth in our endowment, which at year end stood at $139.8 million—a 30% increase from the prior year.”

Mason stated that fiscal responsibility was essential to maintaining the company’s artistic excellence. “Like every other business, Lyric must continue to be vigilant about spending and reduce costs wherever possible. As has been necessary for the majority of American opera companies, we have reduced the season to meet current audience demand. Lyric’s 2010/11 season will comprise 68 performances, down from 77 in 2009/10. Through layoffs and not filling vacant positions, we have again reduced our fulltime administrative staff. Nonpaid furloughs have been instituted for all staff. For the second consecutive year, salaries have been frozen—and in my case, reduced—for administrative staff in the top 15% of the pay scale. And recognizing our need for fiscal prudence, our orchestra musicians and stagehands have agreed to reasonable wage contracts, as all our unions must do for the long-term health of the company.” 

Mason reported that total operating expenses for fiscal year 2011 are projected at $52.4 million, with the fundraising goal increased to $17.2 million.

Lyric’s Annual Meeting Dinner, a fundraising event for the company, took place May 24 at the Four Seasons Hotel and was cosponsored by Kirkland & Ellis, LLP and PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP.

Mr. James L. Alexander, Vice-President of the Lyric Board of Directors, and Co-Trustee of The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust and The Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust, received Lyric’s highest honor, the Carol Fox Award. The Trusts have sponsored eleven different Lyric productions.

The Annual Meeting Dinner is a project of the Women’s Board. Annual Meeting chairman: Joyce T. Green. Women’s Board president: Mrs. Richard W. Durkes.

Lyric’s 2010/11 season opens on October 1 with a new production of Verdi’s Macbeth, starring Thomas Hampson and Nadja Michael. It will be directed by Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s artistic director, Barbara Gaines, in her operatic debut.