The Baltimore Opera Company says it has received a gift of $100,000 from the family of the late Charles S. Garland Jr., former opera board chairman, and now expects to reach its $1 million goal to avoid bankruptcy.
The gift resulted from an emergency campaign started by the faltering company in October to eliminate a current operating deficit of $840,944, which has accumulated in recent seasons. The company is expected to be able to mount as planned Verdi's "A Masked Ball" in March and Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" in April.
The company says it has begun planning for the 1991-92 season.
The Garland gift "is the turning point in our $1 million campaign to stabilize the company," says Lowell R. Bowen, Garland's successor as opera board chairman. "We hope to be able to announce very shortly that our goal has been reached."
Garland's mother, Mrs. Charles S. Garland Sr., made the $100,000 gift, which was announced by his sisters, Mrs. Perry Bolton and Mrs. Iredell Iglehart.
The sisters said Mrs. Garland made the gift to the Charles S. Garland Jr. Memorial Fund, which she created as a lasting tribute to her son and as a resource to stabilize the company's finances and help secure its future. Mrs. Bolton said her brother "adored the opera; we grew up listening to it. He saw the Met when it came here, went to the Met up there, went on European opera tour, supported and worked hard for the Baltimore Opera . . . it's not a particularly popular interest in Baltimore."
Bowen and Michael Harrison, general director, said they were "extremely grateful" for the gift.
Harrison, in his second full season here, described Charles Garland, who died of cancer on the season's opening night, Oct. 13, as "a tremendous force in the Baltimore Opera for many years, and he is greatly missed. He loved this company and, above all, wanted it to survive and flourish. These gifts are a wonderful tribute to his memory."
Although it had an accumulated deficit, the opera company in three seasons ending in 1986, 1987 and 1988 had annual operating surpluses of $1,293, $41,853 and $75,737, reducing the accumulated deficit to $219,268 by 1988.
However, the next two seasons produced a bath of red ink, annual operating deficits of $145,244 and $475,432, resulting in the total accumulated deficit of $840,944. Finally, on Oct. 19, the company said it needed to raise $1 million by June 31, 1991, or face bankruptcy. Donors had already given $400,000 in cash and pledges with or without strings, so another $600,000 was needed.
The cost overruns, the company acknowledged, were caused by excessively expensive productions prompted by the board's interest in higher quality shows, a lack of comprehensive aggressive fund-raising, no financial officer with all-encompassing authority and thus less than tight control on overhead costs, among other things. Ticket sales, accounting for an above-average 53 percent of income, remained high throughout.