Opera Theatre of Saint Louis announced preliminary results of the 2018 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. Thanks to a vibrant audience and donor base, the company celebrated another successful year, exceeding revenue goals and once again reporting strong growth of the endowment. A comprehensive audit will be completed and published in February of 2019.
OTSL reported a total of $6.4 million in contributed operating support for FY18, achieving 107% of goal for the year. Corporate sponsorship increased by 20% over 2017; OTSL continued to receive competitive grants from major national funders, including The Wallace Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among other organizations.
1,083 households contributed in 2018 to operating support, the highest number in company history. Opera Theatre has achieved consistent growth in donor households and contributed revenue over the last three years thanks to a generous challenge gift of $300,000 from Alison and John Ferring during this same time period. The Ferrings challenged OTSL to raise $300,000 in new and increased support from 2016-2018; in total, Opera Theatre achieved 283% of this goal with $848,022 from 1,400 gifts ranging from $1 to $25,000.
Opera Theatre hosted its most successful gala to date in 2018, grossing more than $1.4 million with the leadership of event co-chairs Marsha & Bill Rusnack and Cathy & Jim Berges. These contributions were motivated by a challenge gift from the Berges Family Foundation and Noémi & Michael Neidorff, who created the $250,000 Berges-Neidorff Challenge to match all new and increased 2018 gala gifts. Fundraising from the gala helped establish the Next Generation Fund, which celebrates Timothy O’Leary’s tenure as general director and will sustain OTSL’s role as an artistic innovator.
These successes, together with Opera Theatre’s invested endowment portfolio totaling more than $35 million as of September 30, 2018, help secure OTSL’s ongoing commitment to fiscal responsibility. With an annual budget of $10.95 million, ticket sales and contributions well outweigh spending.
FY18 also marked another successful box office year with 104% of ticket revenue achieved for a total growth of 6.3% in ticket sales since FY17. Opera Theatre also maintained its national and international reach, with opera-goers from 49 states, 6 Canadian provinces, and 17 countries during the 2018 season; OPERA America’s Opera Conference was also held in St. Louis from June 20-23, welcoming over 700 international opera professionals during the final week of the season. Of ticket buyers, 26% were new to Opera Theatre in 2018. Thanks in large part to innovative programming, community engagement, and OTSL’s Young Friends program, 53% of new ticket buyers were Millennial and Gen X, and over 21% were from racially diverse backgrounds.
Opera Theatre once again received local, national, and international acclaim for the 2018 season, with journalists from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times of London, and Europe’s Opera Magazine traveling to St. Louis to cover the festival. Scott Cantrell of The Dallas Morning News stated, “There’s no opera company quite like Opera Theatre of Saint Louis,” and The New York Times lauded the world-premiere performance of Huang Ruo and David Henry Hwang’s two-act opera An American Soldier, praising its “arresting music…subtle colorings, and pummeling intensity.”
“I have such gratitude for the work of my predecessor Timothy O’Leary, Chairman Noémi Neidorff, and the rest of the Opera Theatre board for their extraordinary efforts to build this company. I feel fortunate to join OTSL amid continued financial strength and community support, and I look forward to more great things for Opera Theatre and its work in St. Louis,” said General Director Andrew Jorgensen.
“Opera Theatre’s 2018 season clearly reflected what we’re all about. Opera superstar Susan Graham, who began her illustrious career at OTSL, returned in a riveting performance of Marc Blitzstein’s Regina, and shared her rise to fame with several of our young artists,” said Noémi Neidorff, Chairman of the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Board. “Our production of An American Soldier was yet another powerful example of the numerous world premieres we commission as we continue to attract opera fans and critics from all parts of the globe.”
Opera Theatre continued to promote artistic excellence with another year of highly competitive auditions for the young artist programs. Out of 1,062 applications, 31 young artists were chosen for the 2019 season. With an acceptance rate of 3%, the program remains one of the most competitive in the US. In addition, many former young artists continue to develop successful international careers, winning top prizes at the Glyndebourne Opera Cup, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Finals, the Richard Tucker Foundation, and Placido Domingo’s Operalia.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’s 2019 Festival Season features the world premiere of composer Terence Blanchard and librettist Kasi Lemmons’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, based on the memoir of New York Times columnist Charles Blow. It also will feature classics from the operatic canon, including Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, Verdi’s Rigoletto, and Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea, as well as OTSL’s annual Center Stage Concert, led by Music Director Emeritus Stephen Lord. The season opens on Saturday, May 25, 2019. Subscriptions and single tickets can be purchased online, in person at the Loretto-Hilton Box Office, or by calling (314) 961-0644.