Dear Tulsa Opera Supporter,
We would like to let you know about a new direction Tulsa Opera is taking. We remain more committed than ever to our beloved art form and the patrons who support us. Simultaneously, just like many other opera companies around the country, we are facing serious challenges that require innovative thinking and solutions.
Challenges We Face
First, allow us to summarize the challenges. The Pandemic and resulting economic downturn continue to strain revenues everywhere. OPERA America cites that 20% to 30% of subscribers have not returned to theaters. Some of our nation’s most celebrated opera organizations have seen similar struggles, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Diego and Minnesota. We have confidence they will persevere.
Here in Tulsa, we saw a 39% drop in revenue last year and this year, we’re facing a 44% decline. Further, the average cost of a large production is up by 22%, now costing well over $400,000 per show. As you can imagine, these numbers are simply not sustainable.
Change to the 2023/2024 Season
Given this financial challenge for our upcoming year, we unfortunately must make a significant change to the upcoming season. We have canceled the performances for The Pirates of Penzance in October and La Traviata in May. Please know we share your disappointment in this decision. After all, we are not just staff and volunteer board members at Tulsa Opera; many of us are also artists.
Anyone who has already purchased tickets for these two shows in the Mainstage Season may request a refund and we will gladly return payment. Alternately, we can credit your account for the amount of your purchase for a future Tulsa Opera production. Or, if you’re willing, we would very much appreciate a donation to Tulsa Opera in lieu of a refund. To let us know you’d like to have your account credited, receive a donation letter for your tickets, or to request a refund, you can reach us at email@example.com or (918) 582-3133.
As to our other scheduled events, the Encore Series will go on! This includes Opera Rocks the Country in January, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change in February and Opera Fizz: A Bubbly Night of Music and Mixology in April. Also, our robust education and outreach programming will continue, including Songs By Heart, Tulsa Youth Opera, the Raise Your Voice Tour, Aria Yoga and Tulsa Opera Signature Chorale.
Ken McConnell has resigned as General Director and CEO. The board of directors has appointed Artistic Director and longtime Tulsa Opera staff member Aaron Beck as Interim General Director, effective immediately.
So what’s next? To answer that question, we will involve staff, our board of directors, major funders, key partners and other community leaders to build our strategy. We will explore our own ideas while also leveraging success stories from other companies around the country. Chicago Lyric Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera have seen very positive results after reconfiguring their approach, for example. We know Tulsa will circle together and uplift this art form we all cherish. It will take new ideas, flexibility and patience.
We think of this as beginning a community conversation.
After all, we can only produce shows that attract an audience. Operas around the country often only recoup about 30% of the total production cost from ticket sales. Here at Tulsa Opera, we typically see just 10-20% of our total cost paid by ticket revenue. That’s one of many things we simply cannot continue.
We plan to announce updates later this summer or early fall about our future direction. Please know we are as passionate as ever about opera and our commitment to Tulsa Opera remains unchanged. Our goal is to make these reductions now so that we can grow in the future. We will try new things so that our financial viability becomes a strong foundation we can build on in years to come.
The first opera performed in Tulsa was in 1904, predating Oklahoma statehood. Tulsa Opera as it’s known today was formed in 1948. We survived the Great Depression and numerous economic downturns that followed. We know we will endure this challenge. We will need your help along the way, and we hope we can count on you for support – both financially and in spirit.
Your gift always helps us fulfill our mission. To donate, please visit this link. We appreciate your generosity.
We know you have many questions. We hope you can be patient as we explore our options and allow us to provide updates as soon as we know them. While you may want to reach out to learn more, please know we need every available moment to work on our future path and that we promise to communicate more just as soon as we’re able.
In the meantime, we look forward to seeing you at our community outreach performances, education programming, and Encore Series events.
Thank you in advance for your ongoing support of Tulsa Opera.