Happy finale for opera loan

December 5, 2012 

Things are looking up for LA Opera, which just repaid a county-backed $14 million loan. Photo/Robert Millard

Talk about ending on a high note. LA Opera announced this week that it has fully repaid a $14 million loan that the county had guaranteed in 2009 in order to help the company through a financial crisis.

The loan’s final payment was announced by LA Opera’s general director Plácido Domingo. Nearly a year ago, Domingo appeared before the Board of Supervisors to thank them for guaranteeing the loan, from Banc of America, and to announce that the company had repaid the first half of the loan early.

On Wednesday, he announced that the payback was complete. “This is a direct testament to the generosity of our donors and the dedication of our ticket buyers,” Domingo said in a statement. “Thanks to their support and commitment to LA Opera, we will continue to grow and thrive. I am profoundly grateful to the Board of Supervisors for their longstanding trust and confidence in LA Opera, and for recognizing the important and prestigious role that a world-class opera company plays in the greater Los Angeles community.”

Christopher Koelsch, the opera’s president and chief executive officer, echoed that thanks, calling the supervisors’ action “an amazing leap of faith when one of their assets was in trouble.”

The opera was about to unveil an ambitious and long-planned staging of Wagner’s Ring Cycle just as the great recession hit—creating a “perfect storm” of fiscal strains that made the bridge loan necessary, Koelsch said.

While there are still challenges ahead, the outlook now is brighter, Koelsch said, noting that ticket sales revenues are $1 million ahead of where they were last year at this time, with a 21% increase in single-ticket sales and subscriptions up 8% to 10%.

The final performances of the current production, Madame Butterfly, are playing to sold out crowds (the opera ends with a matinee on Sunday, December 9.) But enthusiasts and passersby alike can enjoy two free holiday-themed Songs of the Season recital performances in Grand Park on Tuesday, December 11. The Opera’s also bringing its program to local hospitals and to two Salvation Army residences. (Details of the free performances are here.)

Meanwhile, Koelsch said the company, which will announce the lineup for its next season on January 8, is planning to ramp up its programming gradually as the economy improves.

Paying off the loan, he said, “is a wonderful opportunity for us…it allows us to build toward the future.”

Posted 12/5/12

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