New York City Opera seeks to raise $20 million to operate

BAM and New York City Opera present Scenes BAM and New York City Opera present Scenes from "Anna Nicole" composed by Mark-Anthony Turnage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera House. (Sept.15, 2013) Photo Credit: Stephanie Berger

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The institution that Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia called the "people's opera" is now in need of the people's help to raise $20 million.

The New York City Opera, founded 70 years ago as a way to see high art at a low price, is hunting for $7 million by the end of September to run the rest of the 2013-14 season, and an additional $13 million for future seasons. So far, $2 million has been raised to keep the current season of programming.

A Kickstarter page to generate $1 million in funding has generated just over $125,000 in pledges with six days to go.

"We're looking for some angels or an angel to step in for the rest," said George Steel, the general manager and artistic director for the opera company. "It's a very lean and flexible company, but it can only run on the generosity of donors."

Steel said he came to the opera in 2009 after a decade of annual budget deficits. Part of fixing the opera's finances involved leaving its longtime home at Lincoln Center in 2011, opting to hold performances at other venues around the city.

The budgets were eventually balanced, Steel said, "but our cash flow is extremely precarious. We have no credit, no operating capital and no money from our endowment."

If New York City Opera cannot meet its daunting fundraising goal, the rest of the 2013-14 season will end after the run of "Anna Nicole," a musical about the life and death of model Anna Nicole Smith.

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