A press release sent out late Tuesday afternoon brought some bad news, as Seattle Opera cuts back a little on plans for its upcoming seasons. For the fiscal year ending Saturday, June 30, a shortfall of $1 million is predicted. Internally, there will be cutbacks: "Operational reductions include leadership salary cuts, artist fee reductions, and the elimination of a net of four full-time staff positions (two new positions will be added to focus on fundraising and major gifts)"--which seems to suggest six current full-time staff will lose their jobs.
Onstage: Nothing in place for 2012-13 is affected, including next summer's Ring; but, perhaps most disappointing for audiences, the summer 2014 production of Wagner's vast Die Meistersinger, which would have been a triumphant climax to general director Speight Jenkins' tenure, which ends in September 2014, had to be canceled. Silver lining: The popular International Wagner Competition, showcasing promising singers early in their careers, will return for a third time that summer.
The number of productions will be cut from five to three in the 2013-14 season and four in 2014-15. Starting in 2014, there will be no August shows (except for future Rings, scheduled quadrennially). Also: "Seattle Opera's Young Artists Program . . . will produce a concert with orchestra instead of a fully-produced opera in the upcoming (2012/13) season, and will go on hiatus for the 2013/14 season . . . assuming economic recovery and community support, the Young Artists Program may re-emerge in future seasons."
SO has operated without a deficit for 18 of the past 19 seasons, and is taking pains to continue its tradition of fiscal prudence: "A special task force comprised of members of the Board of Trustees and company management" made the cuts "proactively . . . based on the assumption that the economic downturn will continue and recovery will be slow and uncertain." But there is room for optimism: Jenkins asserts that "When the financial situation improves, we will move as quickly as possible to restore what we have at this time either eliminated or put on hold."