Payback is sweet for L.A. Opera

January 17, 2012 

Team L.A. Opera, led by Placido Domingo, left, and Marc Stern is all smiles after early loan repayment.

When L.A. Opera was singing the blues, L.A. County chimed in with an urgently-needed high note, guaranteeing a bridge loan to help see the company through some deep financial woes.

On Tuesday, the opera company—led by its world-renowned maestro, Plácido Domingo—said thank you in a big way.

As in $7 million big.

Domingo announced to the Board of Supervisors that the opera company had repaid half of the $14 million bridge loan a full year early. The early payment, negotiated with lender Banc of America by the county’s Chief Executive Office, will save the opera $350,000 in interest.

“I am really very deeply touched by you having confidence in our company, trusting us,” Domingo, the opera’s general director, told the board. The loan, he said, came at a “most critical time in our young history, helping to stabilize the company during the first part of the economic downturn.”

Even on a day when reserve Sheriff’s Deputy Shervin Lalezary was being honored for his role in apprehending the New Year’s arson suspect, Domingo’s presence sent a thrill through the Board of Supervisors’ hearing room. Domingo posed for photographs with everyone from secretaries to chief deputies to Sheriff Lee Baca.

For one fleeting, only-in-L.A. moment, the longtime musical superstar (who will appear in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra next month) greeted and shook hands with the suddenly famous reserve deputy hero (who appeared on “Ellen” this week) as both men awaited their turns before the board. (Both received proclamations from the supervisors but only Domingo received a serenade in honor of his upcoming birthday.)

Accompanying Domingo in his supervisors’ boardroom debut were L.A. Opera board chairman Marc Stern and CEO Stephen Rountree.

Supervisor and board chairman Zev Yaroslavsky praised the three leaders for successfully managing the company under “very difficult circumstances” and for paying back part of the bridge loan ahead of schedule.

“If we had not had confidence in you, we probably would have been fools to guarantee that loan,” Yaroslavsky said. “Keeping the opera going is a very important thing for us because you are one of our important tenants at the Music Center and we can’t afford to lose you…We’re glad we were able to help and we’re glad that you made us look good.”

“There were many skeptics who said we shouldn’t have made this loan,” added Supervisor Gloria Molina. “We’re so grateful that not only was it repaid, it was repaid early.”

The accelerated payment was made possible by donors making good on their pledges to the opera company. Rountree said the opera is on course to repay the remainder of the loan when it comes due in January, 2013.

The loan guaranteed by supervisors was a “very, very important bridge to our continued success,” Stern said after the meeting. “In retrospect,” he added, “it was a good bet.”

Don’t I know you? Shervin Lalezary, left, meets up with Placido Domingo in the boardroom.

Posted 1/10/12


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