Ottawa pays $100 million for new facade, but not a cent to save its operamain
Kevin Mallon, music director of Toronto Chamber Orchestra, has some cogent points to make about the sudden demise this week of Opera Lyra Ottawa:
I am very sad about the fall of Opera Lyra. I was AD there last season and devised a creative season for this year- an innovative Barber of Seville with a young Canadian cast, a double-bill of Canadian operas with Toronto’s Essential Opera, a lively kids show called Operation Superpower, Fidelio in a cutting edge production and lastly a co-production with Thirteen Strings and the Studio of young artists at OL, of Haydn’s opera L’Isola Disabitata. This last, of course has us in panic mode, as I try to save this, the last concert in 13S’ 40th anniversary season. We will see if we can do a concert version of the opera. (OL has already sold tickets—which we hope 13Strings will be able to honour.)
But even with this great season I put forward, it was not to be. I think the viability of the company was already impossible when I was there. With the best will of a Board and staff, both of which inherited an enormous debt and were locked into a structure which included renting an expensive venue for productions, it just couldn’t be done. The company didn’t have the support of enough of an audience to fill the venue and sponsorship had dried up. I saw and worked alongside an amazing staff, who worked their hearts out, and who are now out of a job.
It is a crying shame that such a company could not survive in our nation’s capital- but it is a reflection of the indifference of a government who can come up with $110.5 for a new façade at the NAC, but there is no will or way to save an important opera company which could survive on less than 00.5% of this money! But I suppose it’s more important that an arts building looks good.
It is getting harder and harder for artists and the arts now. Every granting agency has to deliver cuts to its clients because they have not received any new money in years. I do appreciate that there are serious social issues for Canadians and if the arts were losing money because we were assuring that Aboriginal people had clean running water then that would be one thing. But it does rather seem that a philosophy of the “me” is at the fore, and the ideology about how much taxes people will pay is the all. I’m afraid people will wake up one day and ask where all the arts organizations have gone….