This press release just arrived from Opera Lyra in Ottawa:
Opera Lyra Ottawa (OLO) announced today that, despite presenting two artistically acclaimed productions earlier this fall, it has cancelled the two remaining productions of its 2011-2012 season due to a lack of financial resources. The company said it is reorganizing its operations to emerge in a stronger financial position next season.
Opera Lyra will return for its 28th season with a main stage presentation of La Bohème in Sept. 2012, and La Traviata in concert in March 2013.
"Since the economic downturn in 2008, we have had three consecutive years of severe financial challenges and simply do not have the funds available for these two productions," said Malcolm McCulloch, Chair of Opera Lyra's Board of Directors. "Opera Lyra is acknowledged as one of Canada's foremost opera companies, but our subscriptions, single-ticket sales and private sponsorships have nevertheless declined significantly."
The cancelled productions are The Flying Dutchman in concert, scheduled for February 29, 2012, and Tosca, scheduled for March 31 and April, 2, 4 and 7, 2012. OLO is doing this now to be fair to the artists, production staff, and everyone affected by the decision.
McCulloch emphasized the productions were cancelled only after other administrative and production cost-cutting measures were taken. "This was a very difficult decision, but one that is necessary to ensure we can continue providing the community with the highest-quality opera in the future," he said. "We want to thank our donors and subscribers for their ongoing support and understanding as we deal with these financial pressures, which many other performing arts groups are also facing."
All ticket holders will be contacted by Opera Lyra within the next two weeks by mail with details about their options, including ticket exchanges and refunds.
Opera Lyra expects to continue its support of emerging opera singers and its initiative to introduce students to opera through a yearly children's production that tours elementary schools. Opera Lyra will also be launching a new outreach program aimed at the same young audiences in the spring of 2012. More information about Opera Lyra's plans will be available in the near future.
Opera Lyra is dedicated to the music and adventure that is opera. The company presents first-class main stage productions, showcasing top Canadian and international talent. It inspires and educates young audiences through its Young People's outreach programs.
For more information about Opera Lyra Ottawa, please visit the website www.operalyra.ca
Michael Kaiser, president of Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center, has written in the Huffington Post about the slow but steady extinction of professional arts criticism in mainstream media. He is deeply worried.
His final paragraph:
No one critic should be deemed the arbiter of good taste in any market and it is wonderful that people now have an opportunity to express their feelings about a work of art. But great art must not be measured by a popularity contest. Otherwise the art that appeals to the lowest common denominator will always be deemed the best.
As a recent former critic who still has one foot -- okay, more like a big toe -- in the game, I agree. But that doesn't mean there is no way to find creative ways to join the crowd's, or the cloud's, or the swarm's conversation in a constructive, engaging way.
The cultural universe as we've known it for the past century and a bit is in the middle of a massive realignment -- larger than most of us can even imagine. And I don't think I'm being hyperbolic.
Here is a tiny sliver of an example of what I mean, taken from the pop music side of the business.
Social media isn't really about a new way of communicating, it's a new way of expressing all the weird little quirks that make us human.
Today's AHA! moment came from a story that illustrates a couple of ways people are circumventing Facebook's penchant for spreading our personal news and preferences all over the place.
Guilty pleasures suddenly become public pleasures. Wouldn't I be embarassed if my friends discovered I listen to Il Divo, or Leroy Anderson, when I should be savouring the complex pleasures of Elliott Carter?
Wouldn't you know it, there's now a service available that will mask your true listening pleasures on Facebook with a fake playlist that can help you tailor your image to whatever you feel your peer group would best approve of.
I've learned from painful experience in my occasional forays into composing or arranging music for my church job that some keys simply don't suit some instruments (my orchestration basics are lost far back in the mists of time, and I'm almost always too lazy or frazzled to go back to my reference materials, which I've kept since university).
That means having to apologise to grimacing players at the one-and-only pre-performance rehearsal.
My review of Philippe Jaroussky's Toronto début is on the Star's entertainment website this morning. You can check it out here.
To share the pleasure of last night's concert a little more, here is Jaourssky singing his encore aria, "Alto Giove" from the opera Polifemo, by Nicola Porpora, with Ensemble Artaserse in what looks a lot like the royal opera theatre at Versailles:
John Terauds started at the Toronto Star as a freelance writer in 1988, and has been on staff since 1997. He began writing on classical music in 2001, and has been the full-time classical music critic since 2005.
He is also the organist and choir director at St. Peter's Anglican Church, a parish founded in 1863 in downtown Toronto.
If he's not listening to, writing about or playing music, it means he's either asleep, unconscious, walking his dog -- or all of the above.
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