The Princeton Festival will present its first production, Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, July 3-16, 2005; organizers hope to draw 4,000 people to the production at Lawrenceville School's Kirby Arts Center.
The 20-year-old Opera Festival closed in November 2003 after several years of deficit, the reasons for which remain unclear even now. The Star Ledger cites observers' suggestions of staff turnover, board inexperience, and the high production costs of Princeton's McCarter Theatre among the festival's weak points.
Richard Tang Yuk, who worked with the Opera Festival for 10 years and who is artistic director of the new festival, said, "There was no season where we broke even at McCarter; I don't think the public knew that."
Tang Yuk is currently casting Sweeney Todd, and will conduct the performances.
Initial plans for the festival included an opera, but the budget: right now at $325,000, with $100,000 in pledges actually raised: permitted only one production. Sweeney Todd was chosen for its crossover value.
By the end of February, Tang Yuk would like to have raised between $70,000 and $100,000 more. "I don't care to run this company in a deficit position," he said.
Eventually, Tang Yuk would like the festival expand to include other art forms at venues around the region. "Opera at its best is tremendous," he said, "but so is chamber music or oratorio or ballet."