Curtain may fall on Florida Grand Opera performances in Fort Lauderdale

January 07, 2015
Marvin David Levy's "Mourning Becomes Electra" (with Lauren Flanigan, pictured) opened Florida Grand Opera's season at the Broward Center in 2013.

Marvin David Levy’s “Mourning Becomes Electra” (with Lauren Flanigan, pictured) opened Florida Grand Opera’s season at the Broward Center in 2013.

Florida Grand Opera is considering exiting from the Broward Center for the Performing Arts next season, a move that would leave Fort Lauderdale without professional opera performances for the first time in the quarter-century since the center opened.

Susan T. Danis, FGO general director and CEO, said this week that despite the company’s community outreach and intense fund-raising efforts, Broward County supporters have not stepped up with enough financial support to continue to make the Miami company’s treks to the Broward Center viable.

Danis said that if the company doesn’t receive $400,000 from Broward donors by January 31, FGO will not be able to bring any of its productions to Fort Lauderdale in the 2015-16 season.

“It’s not the way I want to do it,” said Danis on Monday. “But I’ve tried everything else.”

“At this delicate point in our history—where we’re losing money and the [Broward] audience is dwindling and the giving is dwindling—-I have to stop the bleeding.”

The bifurcated company performances in Miami and Fort Lauderdale have been an ongoing financial drain and logistical headache for FGO for more than two decades. Often the company has to plan–and even physically alter–a production to fit the different size stages of the Arsht Center and the Broward Center. In addition to the extra expenses, it is often next to impossible to make the dates made available by the Broward Center cohere with FGO’s Miami performances.

Danis said she wanted to continue the two Fort Lauderdale performances of each FGO opera. The company even opened its 2013-14 season at the Broward Center with the Florida premiere of Mourning Becomes Electra by Marvin David Levy, a Fort Lauderdale resident.

But the financial support from Broward County residents has drastically declined in recent years as the Fort Lauderdale audience continues to erode. With the company struggling financially as it is, Danis says all options have to be on the table.

Florida Grand Opera’s artistic fortunes have risen dramatically since Danis took the helm of the company in 2012, presenting well-received performances of popular operas as well as such edgy contemporary works as Levy’s Mourning and Andy Vores’ No Exit.

Ironically, as the company appears to be on the rebound artistically, financial support has dried up. In 2006, 1,614 Broward County donors contributed $1,967,022 to the company with 31,349 seats sold. In 2014, just 385 individuals in Broward contributed $474,664 with 12,477 tickets sold, a jarring loss of more than 50%.

“It’s been dropping for awhile but even since I’ve been here, it’s continued to fall,” she said. Danis added that several key FGO donors in Broward County have passed away and nobody has stepped up to take their place.

More broadly, the company launched a publicity campaign last fall, “Say YES! to Opera, South Florida” with a goal of raising $17.5 million, but has only raised $1 million to date.

She said many potential donors procrastinate about giving money, adopting a wait and see attitude. “I tell them you can wait but if you do, you may not be seeing anything.”

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