SF Opera produced 10 operas in FY11 including the stunning Ring tetralogy
SF Opera produced 10 operas in FY11 including the stunning Ring tetralogy

Tough times for the arts continues. The San Francisco Opera, who at $71 million has one of the largest – if not the largest – operating budget in the region, announced its FY11 results. Again, the company posted a deficit. But there were some bright spots, including an increase in the top line. Here’s the quick summary:

SF Opera FY11:

  • Operating budget $71,094,620
  • Revenue $35,947,397 (32.5% y/y growth)
  • Deficit $1,801,417
  • Avg. donation $2,937 (total of $33 million)
  • 10 operas (including Wagner’s Ring tetralogy)

By way of comparison, Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s annual operating budget is in the neighborhood of $12 million; American Conservatory Theater, $16 million.

Full press release below.


San Francisco Opera Association President George Hume today announced the findings of the audited financial results for the Company’s 2010–11 Season (FY 11): a deficit of $1,801,417 on an operating budget of $71,094,620. The recently completed 2010–11 season featured ten operas at the War Memorial Opera House, including the Company’s new production of Wagner’s Ring tetralogy, in addition to multiple concerts, recitals, cinema broadcasts and various community engagement activities before an audience of approximately 350,000 individuals. Once again, the Company’s repertory season was broadcast locally in the Bay Area on Classical 89.9/90.3 KDFC, nationally on the WMFT Radio Network, and internationally on select radio outlets, reaching a combined audience of 1.8 million listeners.

Operating within a very tough and turbulent economy, San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley worked in close cooperation with the Company’s Board of Directors and executive administration to minimize the financial exposure as much as possible while maintaining the Company’s international artistic standards. Total operating revenue for FY 11 grew from $27,113,297 to $35,947,397, with income from ticket sales increasing 32% to $24,633,817. Contributions to the annual fund were $33,345,806 from approximately 11,350 donors. Despite the Company’s successful ticket sales campaign and extraordinary fund raising efforts, overall income was offset by rising expenses of 9.69% or $5,845,399.

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“While the board of directors is always concerned to see the Opera post a deficit, we remain grateful to David Gockley for his complete transparency about the financial challenges facing the Company,” said George Hume. “David has continued to keep the board fully apprised of the situation, including when we approved the 2010–11 season budget. As in our 2009–10 season, David warned us that the worst effects of the ‘Great Recession’ would be felt by the Company for several years, and projected the Opera would close 2011 with a budget deficit—even with the blockbuster ticket sales and contributions he expected (and achieved) with Wagner’s Ring.”

“San Francisco Opera faces serious long-term challenges to its business model, as many classical music organizations do nationwide,” commented Hume. “The strategic plan David and his team put in motion two years ago to address our structural deficit continues to have the board’s full support. We are especially pleased with how much the endowment has grown during David’s tenure ($71,428,980/January 01, 2006 to $138,381,021/July 31, 2011), and will continue to make that a priority. At the end of the day, the board firmly believes that having an internationally renowned opera company in San Francisco is part of what makes the Bay Area one of the most special places in the world. With the ongoing support of our generous patrons and donors, I know we can ensure this Company’s future.”

“Reporting a deficit is never pleasant, but the fact is that San Francisco Opera’s ‘structural imbalance’ persists, even with robust attendance and contributions,” stated David Gockley. “Steps will continue to be taken between 2013–2016 to reduce expenses, increase annual contributions and augment the endowment. Success in achieving a sustainable balance will continue to require the partnership of all sectors of the organization.”

The 2010–11 season featured Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida with two international casts including the debuts of sopranos Micaela Carosi and Michele Capalbo; a new production of Jules Massenet’s Werther with Ramón Vargas and Alice Coote; the Company debuts of Danielle de Niese and Ellie Dehn in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro; Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly with Svetla Vassileva and Daniela Dessí in the Hal Prince production; the Company premiere of Franco Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac featuring Plácido Domingo and Ainhoa Arteta in the Petrika Ionesco Théâtre du Châtelet (Paris) production; and a new co-production with Finnish National Opera of Leoš Janáček’s The Makropulos Case starring Karita Mattila. The Fall Season featured Company Music Director Nicola Luisotti, Resident Conductor Giuseppe Finzi, and guest conductors Emmanuel Villaume, Julian Kovatchev, Patrick Fournillier, and Jiři Bĕlohlávek on the podium, with San Francisco Opera Chorus Director Ian Robertson.

In the summer of 2011, San Francisco Opera presented Francesca Zambello’s new production of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung) before an international audience. Deutsche Oper Berlin Music Director Donald Runnicles was on the podium leading a world renowned cast of artists including Nina Stemme, Mark Delavan, Anja Kampe, Jay Hunter Morris, Ian Storey, Stefan Margita, and David Cangelosi.

The FY 11 Season included two popular free community events: the Webcor Builders Presents Opera at the Ballpark simulcast performance of Aida from the War Memorial Opera House to AT&T Ballpark, before a record audience of 32,000, and the Company’s beloved Opera in the Park concert presented at Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow featuring the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and guest artists of the season.

Additional recitals and concerts were offered during the year featuring the San Francisco Opera Center Adler Fellows.
San Francisco Opera continued its acclaimed Grand Opera Cinema Series, releasing four new titles in FY 11 to regional and international movie theaters and performing arts venues: Puccini’s La Bohème and Tosca, and Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and The Elixir of Love, featuring an array of international opera stars including Angela Gheorghiu, Adrianne Pieczonka, Natalie Dessay and Ramón Vargas. In August 2010, the Company also launched a partnership with KQED Public Television 9, Northern California’s preeminent public broadcast station, to air grand operas recorded live in high definition at the historic War Memorial Opera House. The KQED TV series launched in FY 11 with broadcasts of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Puccini’s La Rondine and Saint-Saëns’s Samson and Dalilah.

San Francisco Opera’s commitment to providing music education and enrichment opportunities for students, teachers, young audiences and adults continued in the 2010–11 Season with a myriad of school and family programs and online resources. San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Opera Guild annually bring opera and music education programs to over 126,000 students and individuals throughout Northern California. These programs include San Francisco Opera’s groundbreaking Opera ARIA (Arts Resources in Action) programs, which partners with educators in grades K–12 to connect professional artistic and creative elements of opera with classroom curricula, and San Francisco Opera Guild’s award-winning opera arts in-school programs reaching 250 schools throughout Northern California. In addition to these in-school programs, San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Opera Guild provide countless education opportunities for all ages, including workshops for adults, pre-opera talks, preview lectures, insight panels, professional development for educators, family opera movie screenings, opera arts training camps, student dress rehearsals and opera house and backstage tours.

The FY 11 audit was conducted by Armanino McKenna and unanimously approved by the San Francisco Opera Executive Committee on January 19, 2012. Audited financial results are posted in the “Finances and Governance” section of the Opera’s website.