US opera retreats from hinterland

Larry Johnson at South Florida Classical Review reports that Florida Grand Opera is pulling out of Fort Lauderdale.

Susan T. Danis, FGO boss, said if she doesn’t receive $400,000 from local donors by January 31, FL gets cut off.

‘It’s not the way I want to do it,’ said Danis. ‘But I’ve tried everything else.’

Losing Fort Lauderdale would confine FGO to Miami base and a shrinking supporter base.

 

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  • Frankly, I wouldn’t call Lauderdale the “hinterland”, rather, it’s a somewhat distant suburb of greater Miami. I think, though, that the article spells out a key problem in that the FGO has raised a mere $1 million out of a projected $17.5 campaign. Anyone familiar with fund-raising models in this country is well aware that such endeavors involve a “soft” campaign in advance of a public announcement and that 50-60% of the funds are banked beforehand, leading potential donors to jump on an already well-floating (and filling fast) ship.

  • Miami is only 30 miles from Fort Lauderdale. I have to wonder why they went to the expense of performing at two venues which are so close to each other. It’s not as if they have to deal with driving in the winter.

  • This seems like a sensible step to me. If there are people in Fort Lauderdale (which Norman charmingly calls the “hinterland” despite it being a sizable suburban city within one of America’s most populous metro areas) who need opera that badly, they can certainly make the 45 minute drive to Miami. Is the Met “confined” to NYC? Are people from suburbs much farther from NYC than Ft. Lauderdale is from Miami in such a poor condition, having no monumentally expensive opera company right in their backyards, and having to take a train into the big city? In what sense does Florida get “cut off” (as Norman states) just because one opera company has to cut back on run-out performances?

    I would especially point to this paragraph from the original article: “The bifurcated company performances in Miami and Fort Lauderdale have been an ongoing financial drain and logistical headache for FGO for more than two decades. Often the company has to plan–and even physically alter–a production to fit the different size stages…. it is often next to impossible to make the dates made available by the Broward Center cohere with FGO’s Miami performances.”

    I am quite certain that FGO has been performing in this manner for 20+ years not because they want to spread opera to the farthest reaches of their state, but because Ft. Lauderdale is a convenient node in the extremely wealthy, relatively cultured landscape of Miami, which has long been infamous as a retirement destination for wealthy New Yorkers/New Englanders, and thus has probably been a reliable source of donations until recent seasons.

  • Thanks for all of your comments and conjectures. There is a formal press release forthcoming with the details. Mr. Hughes, I am not sure where you got your information about our YTD total but it is incorrect. There was a soft campaign with anonymous gifts received. I only wish I could share the information with you and thank the generous individuals.

    Jama11, you got it! The Arsht is the second largest stage in the U.S. and BCPA is a fine PAC stage but much smaller. It poses a huge challenge. We are the only opera company that performs in two cities except for Arizona. If the model worked,(perhaps) others would do it.

    Let’s give Broward a chance. I am.

    Thanks.

  • Ms. Danis is incorrect, Virginia Opera has performed in Richmond and Norfolk, as well as northern Virginia ( suburbs of Washington, D.C.) for decades. They have dropped DC, but never gained hold.

    I find it scandalous that a GD of a company this size lacks basic knowledge of the field, but the news coming out of Miami has been disastrous for a while, so this is no surprise that an attempt to ” spin it” without actually giving the info to substantiate it is attempted here. Sometimes it’s better to not utter a word……

    • Dear Mr. Moseng:
      Thank you for pointing out that I forgot to mention the Virginia Opera. Yes, I try my very best but I do make mistakes. Florida Grand Opera has been more than transparent about our challenges and I can assure you that a very small but dedicated staff work tirelessly each day to continue the tradition of opera in South Florida.
      I hope you have a wonderful day.

  • It makes sense Ms. Danis has to “stop the bleeding”. If tickets aren’t sold and audience isn’t base isn’t financially supportive, then this measure would make sense. I can only imagine the logistical difficulties it takes to stage just 6 performances in Broward. Referring to a comment I read somewhere about the company’s transparency: There is transparency and reality, and then there is doomsday. It seems that recent articles place a lot of emphasis on the worst-case scenario. I don’t know if this is coming from the journalists or from the mouth of Ms. Danis herself, but I would suggest promoting messages which showcase belief in the importance of the product and relevance in the community. The town hall meetings felt a little bit “deer in headlights” to me. Additionally, I feel FGO has not been inclusive and communicative (with the public, audience members, non-employee production staff, artists and musicians) until this very recent campaign, which comes and borderline desperation. If FGO were more inclusive and communicative earlier on, perhaps they would be ahead of where they are in the campaign. PR is crucial, word of mouth goes very far in helping the support of an organization, particularly from within.

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