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Press Release: LA Opera's 30th Anniversary Season wraps with artistic and audience successes

LA Opera 30th Anniversary Season header30th Anniversary Season

LA Opera's 30th Anniversary Season wraps
with artistic and audience successes

Record Ticket Sales
New Audience Growth
Robust Fundraising

(Los Angeles) July 7, 2016 — With the final sold-out performance of David Lang's anatomy theater on June 20, LA Opera marked the close of its 30th Anniversary Season. It was a cause for celebration for General Director Plácido Domingo. (The company's fiscal year closed on June 30, 2016.)

"I am thrilled to report that our 2015/16 season featured record-breaking ticket sales and donations," said Mr. Domingo. "Our success reflects the tireless efforts of the entire LA Opera team as well as our audience's enthusiasm for our productions. We have made tremendous progress in our efforts to reach out to new audiences."

Between audience members attending performances and individuals served by the company's educational and community engagement programs, nearly a quarter of a million people experienced LA Opera programming during the 2015/16 season.

Earlier this year, critic Anne Midgette asserted in The Washington Post that while classical music itself was in no danger, it was “the institutions that perform it that are having trouble.” In the same article, however, Midgette cited LA Opera as one of a handful of “cool companies” that are breaking the mold by emphasizing new works like anatomy theater, a high-profile world premiere by a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer. But anatomy theater was just one of several contemporary works seen in LA Opera's 2015/16 season, which also included Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick, Missy Mazzoli's Song from the Uproar and performances of the Philip Glass score for the film Dracula.

"LA Opera is boldly forging new directions for the art form," said Christopher Koelsch, the company's president and CEO. "Our audiences are energized by their introductions to the operas and composers of our day. At the same time, we are dedicated to enlivening the past through galvanizing productions of opera's foundational works on our main stage. We embrace the challenge of fulfilling our double obligation to be both innovators and stewards of the great traditions of opera."

"All around the world, arts institutions—and opera companies in particular—have felt the double impact of aging audiences and the economic roller coaster," said Marc Stern, chairman of LA Opera's board of directors. "But here in Los Angeles, we have created one of the most dexterous opera companies of our day, earning the trust and support of our audience members and donors. Opera in Los Angeles is a very special experience."

Box Office Success
The national service association OPERA America reported an average of 63% tickets sold to capacity for North American member opera companies in 2014. By comparison, ticket sales for LA Opera's six mainstage productions at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the 2015/16 season exceeded goals, selling at 87% of capacity. Additionally, the company's Off Grand programming in other venues (Song from the Uproar and anatomy theater at REDCAT; Dracula: The Music and Film at the Theatre at Ace Hotel) essentially sold out, substantially exceeding sales goals. In total, LA Opera increased its overall sales by 28% over the prior year, with more than 118,000 total tickets sold, an increase of 20% over the prior year. 

Building New Audiences
During the 2015/16 season, over a third (34.5%) of all tickets sold were purchased by first-time LA Opera ticket buyers. Newcomers flocked to the company’s Off Grand repertoire; 62% of audiences for Dracula were completely new to LA Opera. Ken Turan, a critic for the Los Angeles Times, was impressed by the audience he encountered at a performance of Dracula: “a crowd that defied all categorization…grandparents with grandchildren, hipsters with and without tattoos, and just ordinary folks eager to watch an 80-plus-year old film….a heartening experience.” But newcomers eagerly explored the company's six mainstage productions too, making up nearly a third of the audience.

Exceptional Fundraising
LA Opera's finances were further solidified by a notable increase in donations, making it one of the most successful fundraising years to date. All facets of the company's fundraising grew compared to previous seasons. The company is supported by a loyal and steadfast donor base, with an 87% renewal last season of donors contributing $3,500 or more, more than half of whom have supported LA Opera at that level for more than a decade. The number of supporters contributing $10,000 or more grew by 20%. LA Opera's two largest fundraising events, the Opening Night Opera Ball and the 30th Anniversary Gala, garnered nearly $3.7 million in funds raised.

Outreach into the Community and Beyond
LA Opera's educational and community engagement programs reached a major milestone during the 30th Anniversary Season: the tenth anniversary of Opera at the Cathedral. This initiative has provided an opportunity for more than 4,000 members of the community of all ages to collaborate with professional musicians and singers for performances of family-friendly operas presented free of charge in downtown's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. To date, these performances have been enjoyed by more than 54,000 audience members.

In total, more than 140,000 individuals were served by a wide variety of educational and community engagement programs during the 2015/16 season. This includes over 16,000 elementary students who experienced programs presented at their schools, nearly 4,000 secondary students who attended final dress rehearsals, an estimated 50,000 opera patrons who attended pre-performance lectures, and over 6,000 people who enjoyed LA Opera performances at little-to-no-cost through the Community Circle Program.

On October 3, 2015, the company's second annual free live simulcast—featuring a double bill of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci—drew an estimated crowd of 4,000 audience members to the Santa Monica Pier. The enormous success of this program will result in its expansion to multiple sites in coming seasons.

Beyond its performances throughout Los Angeles County, LA Opera also expanded its outreach to audiences outside the metropolitan area through two major new releases—an audio recording of John Corigliano's The Ghost of Versailles and the home video and European television release of Gianni Schicchi—which, along with the local, national and international radio broadcasts of LA Opera productions further expand the company’s reach and reputation.

The Next Chapter
As it begins the next phase in its journey, LA Opera will build on its current artistic ambitions throughout the 2016/17 season and beyond. After the notable successes of previous community-wide explorations of a single topic (Ring Festival LA, Britten 100/LA and Figaro Unbound), the company will launch a new multi-season celebration of Leonard Bernstein's upcoming centenary. In addition, acclaimed composer/conductor Matthew Aucoin will join LA Opera for three seasons as the company's first Artist in Residence. The Off Grand initiative at REDCAT will feature two west coast premieres of works that address important topics of our time: the Wikileaks saga (in Ted Hearne's The Source) and the plight of women in the Middle East (in Kamala Sankaram's Thumbprint). LA Opera will present its third Philip Glass work since 2013, a new staging of Akhnaten co-produced with English National Opera. And the company's two artistic leaders—General Director Plácido Domingo and Music Director James Conlon—will combine forces to open the season with a new production of Verdi's Macbeth.

"Our audiences are eager to join us on our adventures," said Mr. Domingo. "Over the past three decades, LA Opera has forged a distinctive identity on our stage, but this glorious past is simply a prologue for the bold and bright future that awaits us."

About LA Opera
At its core, LA Opera seeks to serve the public with world-class performances that preserve and advance the art form while embodying the dynamic spirit of the community that it calls home. Founded in 1986, LA Opera is the fourth largest opera company in the United States, even though it is by far the youngest of the country's major opera companies. Two of opera's most highly respected performers are in charge of its artistic leadership. Plácido Domingo—who has performed in every LA Opera season since its inaugural production in 1986—has led the company as its general director since 2003. The celebrated conductor James Conlon joined the company as music director in 2006.

Recognized as a leader in its commitment to expanding the definition of standard repertory—with a special commitment to contemporary works—LA Opera brings together world-renowned singers along with extraordinary artists from the worlds of cinema, fine art, theater and dance to interpret the classical and the new for its audiences. Highlights of recent seasons include the first major staging in two decades of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, the first major U.S. production in four decades of Verdi’s The Two Foscari, the world premiere of Daniel Catán’s Il Postino and the company’s first complete Ring cycles. It also serves as a springboard for the world’s most promising young singers through the highly prestigious Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, which will celebrate its tenth anniversary in the coming season.

LA Opera is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the greater Los Angeles community.

 Yamaha is the Official Piano of LA Opera.

LA Opera Media Contact:
Fran Rizzi, Director of Public Relations
frizzi@laopera.org | 213.972.7554


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