Cleveland Opera and Lyric Opera Cleveland Announce Merger

Classic Arts News   Cleveland Opera and Lyric Opera Cleveland Announce Merger
The Cleveland Opera and Lyric Opera Cleveland have merged into a new organization called Opera Cleveland, the two companies announced.

The board of the new company met yesterday and elected its chairman: Peter L. Rubin, formerly the president of the Cleveland Opera's board.

According to news reports, the boards of the two companies voted to approve the merger in February, but the official announcement of the merger was delayed, apparently because the companies were waiting for local foundations to commit funds for the transition. The foundations, including the Cleveland Foundation, have now pledged more than $1 million to the new company.

Cleveland Opera, the larger of the two companies, currently produces fall, spring, and winter seasons at the State Theater in Playhouse Square, while Lyric Opera Cleveland stages a summer season at the Cleveland Playhouse. The new company will essentially maintain two separate artistic operations, with Cleveland Opera artistic advisor Leon Major overseeing spring and fall productions of "grand opera" at the State Theater and Lyric Opera artistic director Jonathon Fields in charge of summer productions at the "intimate" Cleveland Playhouse. The Cleveland Opera's winter season, which is reportedly less profitable, will be dropped.

The new schedule will begin in April 2007; plans for the 2007 season will be announced later this spring.

Leaders from both companies suggested that the merger would make them financially stronger while maintaining their current artistic priorities and audiences.

"My colleagues on the new Board and I are committed to ensuring that Opera Cleveland provides audiences in Northeast Ohio with engaging operatic productions of the highest artistic caliber," Rubin said. "We want to express our gratitude for the vote of confidence our merger plan has received from the consortium of this region's foundations, which will enable us to operate under a fiscally responsible, revenue-driven business model."

"My colleagues and I recognize," said Michael Folkman, the president of Lyric Opera Cleveland, "that our responsibility to our mission and our audiences will be served best by building on our success and combining the resources of Northeast Ohio's two professional opera companies into a reinvigorated, unified entity."

According to a press release, the business plan for the new company was developed with the help of Joseph H. Kluger, the longtime president of the Philadelphia Orchestra, who is now a consultant with ARA Consulting.

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