The economic downturn, which has hit art organizations with the double
whammy of declining contributions and ticket sales, is really wreaking
havoc with opera companies - always troubled by production costs,
inevitably the highest among performing organizations.
San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley has been extra careful
with expenses, having already made such painful decisions as canceling
highly anticipated (but "uneconomic") productions of Britten's "Peter
Grimes" and family performances of Mozart's "The Abduction from
On Tuesday, Gockley told his administrative staff about reducing
compensations and benefits in response to "mounting fiscal challenges."
Expecting more than $1 million in savings as the result of a
"gut-wrenching process," Gockley announced deferment of filling four
open positions; a one-week unpaid furlough set for early January 2010;
suspension of company contributions to employee 401(a) pension plans;
increases in staff contributions to employee health care; permanent
removal of parking subsidies; and a 5% pay cut for the top five highest
paid Company executives.
These and some other measures, Gockley said, are alternatives to
"simply eliminating 10 to 15 administrative staff positions or enforcing
across-the-board salary reductions." The Opera's projected budget for
2009/2010 is currently set at $63 million and with today's announcement
reflects a $6 million reduction from original plans.
After the company's summer programs next month, the 87th season opens
Sept. 11 with Verdi's "Il Trovatore", conducted by incoming Music
Director Nicola Luisotti.
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