Syracuse Opera has canceled the remainder of its 2023-24 season and is furloughing staff, citing waning audiences and financial uncertainty.
Syracuse Opera board chair Camille Tisdel said ticket sales are down 40-60% from where they were prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. The opera company had planned to stage three more productions: “All is Calm,” The Fantasticks,” and “The Barber of Seville.” Those are canceled.
“While our recent productions have been artistically excellent and impactful, like many opera companies across the country, ticket sales have been considerably lower than projected, and we do not have the financial ability to continue the season,” Tisdel wrote in a note to members Friday.
“Additionally, given the economic climate and uncertainty in our world, grant support, sponsorship, and donations are all in jeopardy with no real promise of a return to pre-pandemic giving levels.”
The current season opened on Oct. 20 with “I Am a Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams” at the Redhouse Arts Center.
Reached Friday evening, Tisdel said Syracuse Opera has sought creative ways to save money on performances. Last year, Syracuse Opera partnered with Tri Cities Opera in Binghamton on several productions in an effort to pool resources and cut costs.
“Truthfully, opera is an expensive art form,” Tisdel said. “…Even the Met had to shut down some of its operations.”
Syracuse Opera has one full-time and four part-time employees that will be furloughed, Tisdel said.
Syracuse Opera was founded in 1974. The non-for-profit organization received just more than $420,000 in revenue in 2021, according to its most recent tax filing. Tisdel said the majority of the opera’s revenue comes from grants, donations and sponsorships. Declining audiences make it harder to attract sponsors, she said.
Arts organizations in Central New York and beyond have struggled in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Government relief grants that kept many organizations afloat amid gathering restrictions have mostly evaporated. And audiences remain smaller than they were prior to the pandemic.
“The next 24 months, let’s say, are going to be a big challenge for theaters around the country,” Syracuse Stage artistic director Bob Hupp told the Post-Standard | syracuse.com in April. “It’s going to be tough before it gets better.”
The future of Syracuse Opera remains uncertain. Tisdel said the board will decide in the coming months what happens next.
Tisdel said ticketholders and subscribers will be contacted in the coming weeks about refunds.
“It’s a sad time,” Tisdel said.
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