A gift of music

Our view: Baltimore's cash-strapped opera company should find a way to repay its loyal fans

December 14, 2008

Cultural organizations are taking a beating during the economic downturn, and to recover, they'll more than ever need to retain the devotion of audiences who have supported them for years. That's why the Baltimore Opera Company, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11, should figure out a way to show its appreciation for all those who bought tickets for scheduled productions that have been canceled.

The company said it was struggling with an accumulated deficit of about $800,000 and disappointing ticket sales for its production this year of Verdi's Aida, one of the opera repertory's most lavish spectacles. As a result of the bankruptcy proceedings, the company informed advance subscribers that it could neither honor their tickets nor refund the purchase price for the canceled productions.

Not for nothing has opera been called "the extravagant art." As a total art form that combines all the elements of theater, symphonic music and dance, it is one of the most expensive entertainments ever invented. Baltimore is fortunate for a city its size in having had a musical organization of such distinction for the last 58 years. But that's been possible only because of the intense loyalty of area opera buffs who have stuck with the company through thick and thin, despite the presence of the Washington National Opera and its world-renowned director Placido Domingo just 45 minutes away.

As cash-strapped as the company is, it could still return that devotion by offering to compensate fans with something less grandiose than a full-blown opera performance. Surely there are artists, world-famous and not, who have appeared here and who might be willing to donate their talents to a recital or concert performance with the BOC chorus to benefit people who bought tickets to productions that have been canceled. That kind of musical gift would go a long way toward maintaining the good will and enthusiasm of disappointed ticket holders for an opera company that everyone wants to see recover as quickly as possible.

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