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Lyric Opera Baltimore, which scaled back from three productions to two after its 2011-2012 inaugural season, is scaling back again. Only one staged work, Puccini's "Madama Butterfly," will be presented during 2014-2015, the company's fourth season.
"The board of directors definitely wants to go ahead with grand opera here, but we want to be fiscally responsible," said James Harp, artistic director of Lyric Opera Baltimore. "We want to have enough money in the bank. This will be a re-building year so we can have two productions again in '15-'16."
Lyric Opera Baltimore was formed after the nearly 60-year-old Baltimore Opera Company went bankrupt and was liquidated in 2009. The former company rented space at the Lyric; the new company was created as a part of the Lyric's administrative structure.
The inaugural season budget of Lyric Opera was about $1.5 million for three productions, Harp said. Costs for two performances of a single production next season will be about $450,000.
"We're just being prudent," Harp said. "There is no shame whatsoever. We don't want to have another scare like five years ago [when Baltimore Opera Company went into bankruptcy mid-season]. Every company in the world is taking another look at the business model."
For Lyric Opera, that model may include co-productions with other regional companies in the future. Harp said he had approached organizations in Philadelphia, Charlotte and Toledo about sharing costs. Those companies would bring their casts and sets. Lyric Opera would provide the chorus and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which has performed in the pit for the company since the inaugural season.
"We are poised to be able to do this with other companies," Harp said, "but we need a bigger financial cushion first. We will be soliciting gifts next season."
The 2015-2016 season will open with "Butterfly" Nov. 7 and 9, featuring soprano Tamura Asako in the title role, tenor Chad Shelton as Pinkerton and baritone Timothy Mix as Sharpless. The BSO will be conducted by Steven White. Harp will be the stage director.
Lyric Opera also plans to hold a fundraising concert in the spring at the theater, as well as two intimate musicales that will be held in private homes for audiences of 75 to 100. One of those musicales will include the premiere of a song cycle written for soprano Elizabeth Futral, Harp said.
Operatic repertoire will also be represented in a gala concert next season to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the Lyric Opera House, now named the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric.
Peabody Opera Theatre, which has staged one work each season in that venue as a complement to Lyric Opera's ventures, will present Mozart's "The Abduction from the Seraglio" next spring. Dates for all of these events have yet to be announced.
Lyric Opera's annual education and outreach activities will increase next season, especially the "Opera-To-Go" programs presented in public schools.
"We do have generous donors who give dedicated funding to that element," Harp said, "and that funding has increased for the upcoming school year."