Good news: Houston rehires all of its staff

Good news: Houston rehires all of its staff


norman lebrecht

May 02, 2020

press release:

Houston Grand Opera (HGO) is pleased to announce that the company has received a PPP (Payroll Protection Plan) loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA) for $2.5 million. The funding will allow HGO to restore all furloughed employees as of May 4 and to cancel salary rollbacks that were set for today.


  • Guest says:

    It should be noted that this applies only to full-time administrative staff. Artists whose contracts were affected by cancellations are still at 50% of their contracts. It has not yet been determined whether or not they will be paid their full wages.

    • wasteland says:

      And even though the orchestra only has about 40 members. All that oil money in Houston, but paltry support for the arts.

      • Guest says:

        HGO has about a $28 million dollar operating budget. According to their tax returns, Music Director Patrick Summers earns upwards of $600,000 per year. They spend about $5 million a year on Artists’ contracts, which presumably are the main stage singers and guest conductors.

        Each member of their 49 member orchestra earns about $20,000 per year based on recent audition advertisements. Their total budget is much smaller than other companies like SF Opera or Chicago Lyric, but they can certainly afford to do better for their orchestra.

      • drummerman says:

        Oil is now about $20 per barrel. I lived and worked in Houston when it was $100, not that many years ago.

    • Arts Admin in Isolation says:

      Houston Grand Opera gave one of the largest “look past the force majeure” settlements of any American company, especially impressing considering the operas cancelled had not begun rehearsals with principals yet. There will not be more money. That’s long since “determined” and accepted.

      The PPP, if you read the regulations from the SBA, is to restore W2 employees, not 1099 independent contractors.

      • Guest says:

        As with most companies, union members (AFM, AGMA, IATSE) are W2 employees. Considering other local arts organizations like Houston Ballet, Alley Theater, and Houston First have all paid their employees their full wages, it would be reasonable to see HGO follow suit. However, I am sure this is to be ultimately determined by their lender and the SBA.

  • CA says:

    Great news, yes, but what happens when seasons start up again and the audiences just aren’t there like before? A short term bandaid, while helpful now, isn’t a long term cure by any means. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that the PPP is anything more than a bandaid over a severely bleeding wound. Not trying to be negative but these are the facts. Just like a one time $1,200 stimulus to Americans does virtually nothing to help. And folks have to risk their life or lose jobs for good now that things are re-opening.

    • larry says:

      The day after I got my $1,200 I had to pay three months of Medicare premiums right back to the Federal government!

    • Bruce says:

      Nobody’s pretending otherwise. Everybody in arts administration is working on ways to stop the bleeding. In the meantime, this, like the stimulus payments, is better than nothing.