To friends and supporters of Seattle Opera,
As you may know, Seattle Opera has recently had to make some difficult decisions in order to ensure we have a sustainable future.
I am writing to explain more about the decisions I’ve had to make, which include closing our Renton Scene Shop and restructuring our artistic, production and technical departments. This restructuring has included the elimination of some staff and employees. Making these changes has been extremely painful for me, and the impact of these changes has been painful and challenging for people at every level at our organization. Unfortunately, the reality of Seattle Opera’s financial situation has called for difficult decisions.
For a decade, the company has been spending more than it makes, operating with a yearly gap of $2-3 million between annual revenues and expenses. Several large, one-time donations along with special fundraising campaigns allowed us to keep a balanced budget during the recession. Since then, we've grown our donor base substantially; however, it hasn’t made up for the gap between expenses and revenue. As you can imagine, relying on the generosity of a few individuals with the means to give so generously is not a long-term, sustainable business model.
The Seattle Opera Board has mandated a balanced budget by the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017, and this is something I will deliver. I believe we owe it to our audiences, subscribers, and donors to be responsible with their dollars.
In addition to the restructuring of three departments, the Renton Scene Shop will be closed. For the time being, this facility will be used to store sets previously housed in another rented facility. This consolidation will save us just shy of $500,000 annually. Rather than selling the Scene Shop property, we will reassess the future of the space in several years, after we’ve moved into our new civic home.
This will not affect the style or quality of performances on our stage. As always, you will see a mix of production designs: some will be rented, some will be revivals, and some will be new productions created through a partnership with another opera company. In fact, in the next two years, we are presenting five co-productions—a new model for how we will produce opera. In all cases, the production will originate at one of our partner companies.
I want you to know that maintaining artistic quality was a guiding principle of this restructuring. Seattle Opera has looked to its peers—the best opera companies in the US—as a guide for making the changes that will ensure our future.
While incredibly difficult, the Scene Shop and restructuring decisions create a one-time fix—so long as our revenues and expenses continue on the projected trajectory. We will save approximately $2 million per year for now, and the savings will continue with greater efficiencies in our new rehearsal and administrative building (being paid for by funds given specifically for this project). In other words, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Ultimately, this all comes down to ensuring that our art form is able to continue in the Pacific Northwest, not just for right now, but for years to come. As far as we’re concerned, a Seattle without the Opera is simply unacceptable.
Should you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.