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Lyric Opera of Chicago in the black for 2012/13 season
Jun 18, 2013

Lyric Opera of ChicagoAnthony Freud, general director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, announced today that the company is projecting a breakeven operating performance for fiscal year 2013. Lyric has operated in the black for 25 of the past 26 years-a record among the country's major not-for-profit music and performing-arts companies.

The company will surpass its $22.9 million fundraising goal and as budgeted, will use approximately $4.8 million reserve funds from its Campaign for Excellence. Ticket revenue for the season is $26.6 million-$1.6 million higher than for the previous season.

Lyric's operating expenses for 2012/13 were $64.7 million. Fully audited financial statements will be issued in October.

The season comprised 68 regular opera performances of nine operas-Elektra, Simon Boccanegra, Werther, Don Pasquale, Hansel and Gretel, La Boheme, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, Rigoletto, and A Streetcar Named Desire. Lyric also presented a song recital by Renee Fleming and Susan Graham; a piano recital by Lang Lang; a sold-out family event, Popcorn and Pasquale; a sold-out The Second City Guide to the Opera performance; a Streetcar Named Desire Student Night at the Opera; one sold-out Civic Opera House performance of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna; four performances of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna in Pilsen and Waukegan; 16 public performances and 1 student performance of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma! in the Civic Opera House; and 23 performances of The Second City Guide to the Opera cabaret onstage at the opera house.

A grand total of 264,000 tickets were sold for the season-a 15% increase over the number sold in the previous year (229,775). Of these additional 34,000 tickets sold, more than 27,000 were purchased by people who were attending a Lyric event for the very first time.

Lyric sold 80% of its seating capacity for all events in the 2012/13 season.

Anthony Freud credited the year-end results to the outstanding generosity of Lyric's many donors and to its boards, under the extraordinary leadership of President and CEO Kenneth G. Pigott.

Freud commented on the 27,000 new people who had purchased tickets to Lyric for the first time. "I firmly believe that companies like Lyric must become more relevant to larger sections of our society-both audiences and funders. To do that we must reach more of them through our mainstage opera activities as well as new activities such as those offered through Lyric Unlimited and our American Musical Theater Initiative."

Freud said that of the 36,100 who had attended Oklahoma!, more than 18,000 were seeing a Lyric Opera performance for the first time. "This was the largest number of individual tickets Lyric has ever sold for a single production," Freud said. Lyric Unlimited events such as the The Second City Guide to the Opera January performance and cabaret shows, and the Midwest premiere of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna at the opera house and in the communities of Pilsen and Waukegan, attracted some 9,000 people to Lyric for the first time.

In addition to Lyric Unlimited programs that were available to the public, a host of other activities took place in public schools, music schools, community centers, colleges and even a hospital. In 2012/13, more than 122,000 children and adults participated in Lyric Unlimited activities-an increase of more than 10,000 attendees over the previous season. Lyric Unlimited includes all of Lyric's education programs.

Freud began the meeting by praising the incalculable contributions of Bruno Bartoletti, Lyric's artistic director emeritus, who died in Florence on June 9, 2013, one day before his 87th birthday. "Bruno Bartoletti was a giant in Lyric's history, nurturing and developing the fledgling company when he first joined Lyric in 1956, and overseeing its artistic and musical growth. By the time he retired as artistic director in 1999, Lyric was recognized around the world as one of the great opera companies. He continued to actively enjoy the fruits of his achievements until 2007, when he conducted the company for the last time. Bruno conducted nearly 600 performances of 55 operas here at Lyric. His contribution to the company was unique in its importance and longevity, and his death truly marks the end of an era."

Freud praised Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric's music director since 2000, as "the heart and soul" of the company who memorably demonstrated his range and virtuosity conducting the works of Strauss (Elektra), Verdi (Simon Boccanegra), Massenet (Werther), and Wagner (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg) during the 2012/13 season. "Andrew's brilliance on the podium combined with his exceptional commitment to the company makes him one of the world's truly great music directors," Freud said.

Freud also spoke about the contribution of Renee Fleming to 2012/13, both as a performer and in her role of creative consultant. Fleming starred in Andre Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire, which closed the season, and appeared in a wonderfully received recital of French music with her friend and fellow artist Susan Graham. As creative consultant, she initiated the idea of collaborating with The Second City, and then starred in the resulting show The Second City Guide to the Opera. She also continued her work with the Merit School of Music as curriculum advisor and conducted master classes for the Ryan Opera Center. She unveiled the new arts liaison program for the Chicago public schools at the opera house, and was also a key participant, along with Yo-Yo Ma, in the new Chicago public schools Arts Education Plan to which Mayor Emanuel has committed $1 million in funding.

In discussing the season, Freud also highlighted the contribution of the Ryan Opera Center whose members sang 31 roles and understudied 39 in the 2012/13 season. He thanked Gianna Rolandi for her enormous contribution to the Center; Rolandi ended her tenure as the Ryan Opera Center's director in April and continues her association with the program as vocal consultant.

Board President Kenneth G. Pigott announced that the company's new strategic planning process and resulting plan, begun last season under his leadership and that of Anthony Freud, had been unanimously approved by the Board of Directors. Pigott said that the implementation of the plan "is now in full swing" with investment in new productions of key classics from the repertoire, the launch of Lyric Unlimited, and the presentation of the first musical-Oklahoma!-in Lyric's American Musical Theater Initiative. As a part of the strategic plan, the Lyric Board of Directors has just instituted a "Breaking New Ground" capital campaign to recapitalize Lyric's balance sheet for the long term.

Total operating expenses for fiscal year 2014 are set at $67.7 million dollars with a fundraising goal of $23.6 million.

Receiving the company's highest honor, The Carol Fox Award, were Richard P. and Susan Kiphart, two of Lyric's most steadfast supporters. Richard Kiphart served as Lyric's president and CEO from 2006 to 2011, and is now both chairman of the board and chairman of the nominating committee. Susan Kiphart serves on the Lyric Unlimited committee and is a board member of the Ryan Opera Center. The couple has sponsored five new Lyric productions, endowed the Costume Director Chair, provided funding for five DVDs on the company, and joined in a sponsorship consortium to return Lyric Opera to the radio via the WFMT Fine Arts Network. Dick Kiphart also chaired Lyric's highly successful Campaign for Excellence in 2005-06. The Kipharts also initiated the idea of bringing Renee Fleming to Lyric as creative consultant, and are sponsors of the Renee Fleming Initiative.

Lyric Opera's Board of Directors Annual Meeting, which took place at the Four Seasons Hotel, was sponsored by Susan M. Miller and Booz & Company. The Annual Meeting Dinner is a project of the Women's Board. Annual Meeting chairman: Ellen Stirling. Women's Board President: Mrs. J. Christopher Reyes.

To conclude the Annual Meeting dinner, soprano Ana María Martínez performed for the guests. Martínez will make her role debut as Desdemona in Verdi's Otello to open Lyric's 59th season, and will also star in the title role of Dvořak's Rusalka later in the season.

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