A press release from the Met grippingly begins, “In a fiscal year that challenged the nation’s largest performing arts organization to find a more sustainable financial model for the future, the Metropolitan Opera incurred an estimated $22 million budget shortfall for the 2013-14 season, it was announced today.”
In response to rising economic hurdles and in anticipation of a significant deficit, the company began an aggressive campaign of cost controls last summer, which included securing new agreements with 15 of its 16 unions, eliminating 22 administrative staff positions, and cutting an additional $11.25 million from departmental budgets across the organization. These ongoing measures are expected to save the Met an estimated $18.5 million in the current fiscal year, as the reductions are phased in, and $22 million in Fiscal Year 2016, balancing the budgets in each of those years.
In addition, as previously announced, the Met is embarking on a robust new fundraising campaign designed to grow the company’s endowment to more than double its current size, which will place the institution on more solid financial ground.
Last week, a group of leading opera stars volunteered to take seven percent reductions in their performance fees for the next four seasons, and additional artists are expected to join them in the coming weeks.
The $11.25 million in new budget cuts have been taken from every department, with a priority placed on minimizing expenditures without affecting the Met’s artistic product. The largest savings are coming from strategically reorganizing the company’s rehearsal schedule and altering new production budgets. Fees paid to Met vendors and consultants have also been reduced by seven percent.
“The looming operating deficit for last season was a warning call,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s General Manager. “It’s what compelled us to seek concessions in the union negotiations. Looking ahead, by adopting a leaner, streamlined business model in combination with a larger endowment, we will place the company on safer financial footing.”
The Met’s box office for the current season is currently running ahead of last season by close to $2 million, and donations are expected to increase significantly in the wake of the completed union negotiations.