4 groups offer tickets to Baltimore Opera patrons

December 23, 2008|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,tim.smith@baltsun.com

In a generous act perfectly suited to the holiday season, four major arts organizations - the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Washington National Opera, Centerstage and the Hippodrome - will offer a gift of free tickets to patrons of the Baltimore Opera Company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Dec. 4 and canceled the remainder of its 2008-2009 season.

Baltimore Opera is unable to provide refunds for tickets sold to the scrapped spring productions of Rossini's The Barber of Seville and Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. "Since we're in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, ticketholders are the same as anybody else in the creditor line," general manager M. Kevin Wixted said yesterday.

But about 3,800 households, representing an estimated 7,200 Baltimore Opera subscribers and single-ticket buyers, will receive in the mail a voucher for a free ticket to one of a dozen performances in the region.

"We were pretty overwhelmed by the offer, believe me," Wixted said. "This was an unsolicited idea from these organizations. It's a good marketing strategy for them, and an opportunity for our opera patrons to sample other performing arts."

Mark Weinstein, Washington National Opera executive director, said he was "shocked by Baltimore Opera going into Chapter 11. We saw that ticketholders were not going to be able to get refunds and we just wanted to do a good thing for a neighbor. Consider this 'Holiday Best Wishes' from Washington National Opera," Weinstein said.

BSO President/CEO Paul Meecham said that "it seemed a natural to do this. There's a degree of self-interest and a degree of goodwill gesture about it. The city and community are poorer for not having the opera. We and the other organizations have an opportunity here to connect with an audience that is predisposed to go to the arts," Meecham said.

The only operatic component in the consortium's offering is Washington National's production of Benjamin Britten's 1945 masterpiece, Peter Grimes, which opens March 21 at the Kennedy Center, with a cast headed by Christopher Ventris and Patricia Racette. The company anticipates as many as 1,000 ticket requests from Baltimore Opera subscribers.

"We had some ticket inventory we felt we could spare for that opera," Weinstein said. "It won't be bad for us for people to see what we do down here, but that was not the motivation for this. We just wanted to make sure that Baltimore Opera patrons had some opera to go to in the spring. We wish the company a speedy recovery."

Four BSO programs are among the ticket options, including three conducted by music director Marin Alsop, starting with her "Off the Cuff" exploration of Brahms' Symphony No. 1 on Jan. 10 at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Two Thursday night subscription concerts, which typically have a larger inventory of unsold tickets, are also on the list - a Dvorak-Elgar program led by guest conductor Peter Oundjian in February and a Dvorak-Chopin program conducted by Alsop in March.

Centerstage is offering tickets to three productions, among them Lynn Nottage's Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine, winner of the 2005 Obie Award for best new play, opening Jan. 28.

Three popular musicals are on the list of four options from the Hippodrome: Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats in March, the Billy Joel/Twyla Tharp collaboration Movin' Out in May, and a single performance of the Charles Strouse favorite Annie in May.

Vouchers are being mailed this week. All ticket requests will be handled by the respective organization, not Baltimore Opera, and only by mail. Seating choices will be at the discretion of each organization.

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