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Lyric Opera breaks even, ticket sales up 15 percent

Lyric president   CEO Kenneth G. Pigott (left) Wine Aucti(WA) 2012 chairman Susan Noyes Wilmette Lyric general director Anthony

Lyric president & CEO Kenneth G. Pigott (left), Wine Auction (WA) 2012 chairman Susan Noyes of Wilmette, Lyric general director Anthony Freud (taken at the Sponsor Recognition Dinner at the Casino Club on the eve of Wine Auction 2012)| Photo courtesy of Dan Rest/LOC DAN 3467

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Updated: July 19, 2013 6:29AM

With its 2012-2013 season ending with another balanced budget, its 25th in the the last 26 years, leaders of Lyric Opera of Chicago were pleased at the company’s annual meeting Monday night at the Four Seasons.

Given the many additional post-season and in-season programs via the educational, outreach and community division dubbed Lyric Unlimited, general director Anthony Freud and president and CEO Kenneth G. Pigott can take special pride in this achievement. A total of 264,000 tickets were sold for the season, 15 percent more than last year.

Over-all capacity at the Civic Opera House was down, though, from 88 percent to 80 percent for all events in the season. due to the number and variety of the additional programs. As a result, too, operating expenses for the special 14-month fiscal year were up 12.7 percent to $64.7 million, though this amount was $1 million less than Lyric projected last year.

As with last season, the company broke even by the budgeted tapping of a non-renewable reserve fund, this time for $4.8 million.

The company will surpass its $22.9 million fund-raising goal, which was already $2.3 million higher than last year’s. Ticket revenue for the season was $26.6 million, $1.6 million more than for the 2011-2012 season.

Fully audited financial statements will be issued in October.

The season consisted of 64 regular opera performances of eight operas, plus four semi-staged presentations of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” with Lyric creative consultant and vice president soprano Renee Fleming. Lyric presented many new events: a song recital by Fleming and mezzo Susan Graham; a piano recital by Lang Lang; a family performance, dubbed “Popcorn and Pasquale”; the revue “The Second City Guide to the Opera”; the Midwest premiere of the mariachi opera “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna,” and 23 additional “Second City Guide” cabaret-style onstage performances.

Of the post-season American musical theater series that launched this year, Freud said that of the 36,100 attendees for “Oklahoma!,” more than 18,000 were seeing a Lyric Opera performance for the first time. “This was the largest number of individual tickets Lyric has ever sold for a single production,” Freud said. Nine thousand other first-timers attended other Lyric Unlimited events.

Freud began the meeting Monday by saluting the legacy of Bruno Bartoletti, Lyric’s emeritus music director whose decades-long association with the company began in 1956 and who died in Florence on June 9, one day before his 87th birthday. Freud also saluted Andrew Davis, 69, contracted as music director through 2021, for a particularly strong season leading four works across varied genres. Lyric donors and patrons Richard P. and Susan Kiphart received the Carol Fox Award, named for the company’s founding general director, and Lyric’s highest honor.

Pigott announced a new capital campaign, in the early leadership phase with no goal yet stated, to support the company’s added activities and the many new and new-to-Chicago productions next season and ahead.

Total operating expenses for the fiscal year 2014 are projected at $67.7 million with a fund-raising goal of $23.6 million.

Andrew Patner is critic at large for WFMT-FM (98.7).

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