Deep cut: Seattle Opera lays off six staff

It has been overspending by $2-3 million a year for a decade.

Full story here.

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  • Without a technical director and in-house scene shop, they’ll need a Director of Production even more than before. Maybe they plan to contract one in on a show-by-show basis.

  • I totally fail to comprehend how the Board of any performing company can run up debts of $2-3 million per year and then wait 10 years before doing something serious about it! As for cutting the scene shop, that should surely be its own profit centre. If it makes money, cutting it is stupid. If it has been making losses, it should have been cut years ago!

  • Bill Gates, a Seattle resident, gives away over 4.5 billion (with a “b”) each and every year. It is one of the overarching problems of America’s system of arts financing that the “new” money does not support the arts like the rapidly disappearing “old money.” Europe’s system of basic government support of the arts has not only allowed arts to survive but continue to attract full houses and public attention. Theater, ballet, opera, classical music, museums, etc. have remained high in Europe’s public consciousness while the “empty seat syndrome” continues to afflict America’s performing arts.

    • The situation at Seattle Opera is indeed one for concern for the company and for the community. However to lay the troubles at the feet of one individual – Bill Gates – or the system of tax breaks that has allowed arts organizations to be established and flourish in the USA is just wrong. First, there are opera, theater, Symphonies that are doing just fine in the USA because they are relevant to their communities, program creatively, raise money creatively and live within their means. Opera Philadelphia comes to mind as a company that does all of these things and is a leader in its field. Second, European governmental support is hardly a panacea and there are lots of examples of how this lopsided support from granting councils can devastate a company when budgets are cut for financial or idealogical reasons – look to the woes of the ENO. Third, everyone has to get over the entitled straw man argument of Bill Gates, or other billionaires, not supporting the arts locally – if they don’t support the arts (and how do you know that they don’t and why do you assume it’s his or others personal responsibility?) is it his fault, or the fault of the companies who don’t make themselves relevant to the philanthropic priorities of the wealthy – who, by the way, invest billions of their own dollars in the causes they care about? Like eradicating small pox and malaria – all priorities of the Gates Foundation – going places and funding health in the third world. Look to the Bloomberg philanthropies in New York, or the Getty Foundation in LA, I could go on. Would the US art scene be more stable if there was more government support? Perhaps – but unlikely to happen in a country where basic healthcare for the entire population is still a matter of debate and where poverty and poor health are considered to be moral failings, or someone else’s fault. But the current problems of Seattle Opera are not the fault of the government or Bill Gates – and they should not be looked to to provide the solutions. It’s obviously extremely painful to cut staff and demoralizing for the company as well as the audience and the donors. I wish the Seattle Opera the best.

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