For years the Baltimore Opera has delighted music lovers throughout the metropolitan region. So successful has it been in building upon the legacy of legendary soprano Rosa Ponselle, whose early encouragement and support helped bring opera to Baltimore, that today the company is ranked among the best regional operas in the country.
But the opera also faces the prospect of becoming a victim of its own success. Steeped in tradition, well supported by ticket sales -- this year's production of Bizet's "Carmen" drew the largest audience in the opera's history -- and by corporate and individual donors, it still finds itself with a cumulative $800,000 deficit that threatens to force it into bankruptcy.
Opera, which combines theatrical with orchestral performance, is expensive to produce. But as Baltimore's renown has grown, so did the public's demand for ever more elaborate productions. Meeting that demand has put the opera in a bind: In order to maintain quality, it has incurred costs that are not currently being covered by ticket sales, private gifts or public grants.