About eight months ago, the Pulitzer Prize for music was awarded to Chinese-American Zhou Long for his opera Madame White Snake. Sadly, two weeks ago came the surprising announcement that the Opera Boston, the ensemble that premiered Long’s opera, would be shut down due to a budget deficit in the “tough economic climate.” The news was delivered without warning on December 24th, shocking Bostonians and opera fans throughout the world.
It seems, however, that the story is not quite over. The Boston Globe reported this week that the decision, through a vote on December 23rd, was made without the presence of over a third of the board’s seventeen members, some of whom had been optimistic about the company’s ability to overcome its $0.5 million deficit—a fifth of its annual operating budget. Those absent included the company’s general director, Lesley Koenig, who was in California when she received a phone call indicating that her position would be eliminated by 2012.
Many opera attendees were angry to have been kept unaware of Opera Boston’s financial straits. Still, Donald Vaughan, president of the Boston Early Music Festival, wrote in a letter to the Boston Globe that the Opera Boston had been soliciting donations by postcards, phone calls, and emails for the past few years, and that the company’s disbanding should serve as “a wake-up call to help those companies that are still trying to survive.”
Opera Boston was known as the experimental sibling of the Boston Lyric Opera, which presents more mainstream works. The BLO is reportedly financially secure. Opera Boston’s final show, Mozart’s one-act opera Bastien und Bastienne, will be performed twice today at Emmanuel Church in Boston.