Opera Philadelphia

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Company Updates from the Board Chair

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Dear Friends,

I am writing today to provide an update on Opera Philadelphia’s search for its next General Director. As I announced in August, David B. Devan continues to lead the company until his current contract expires on May 31, 2024.

Opera Philadelphia has retained the services of Koya Partners/Diversified Search Group, the nation's premier search firm dedicated to mission-driven leadership, to manage the search for our new General Director. I am thrilled to once again be partnering with founder and chair Judith M. von Seldeneck and her talented team to bring amazing talent to Philadelphia.

The search team led by Chartise Clark, Managing Director, Executive Search, and Stephen Milbauer, Managing Associate, Executive Search, has already been in contact with many key members of the Opera Philadelphia community, with a goal of publicizing the job description in early 2024.  I have been incredibly impressed with the caliber of individuals that have already reached out to us who are interested in expanding the legacy of Opera Philadelphia in such an important time for arts in Philadelphia and nationally.

The search process will include constituent conversations, candidate identification, and finalist selection. I am confident that we are in very good hands with Koya and the members of the Search Committee, which is chaired by Board member David Ferguson and includes Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris. Koya has a strong national presence and an exceptional track record in recruiting outstanding talent and an exceptional track record in diversity at a senior level.

I will continue to update you on our progress as this vital work continues.

Stephen K. Klasko, M.D., M.B.A.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Dear Friends,

As many of us in Philadelphia and the global performing arts community know, David B. Devan has guided Opera Philadelphia to great achievement over 18 years of service, including 12 years as General Director & President. David’s leadership has earned Opera Philadelphia a reputation as one of our nation’s most innovative performing arts organizations and a proponent of adventurous new opera written by a fresh generation of composers.

David believes the right way to address the future is with new ideas, and he has informed me that he will not seek to renew his contract when it expires on May 31, 2024. David intends to stay in Philadelphia and support the city’s arts and culture scene as an independent consultant, and we intend to celebrate his leadership throughout the 2023-2024 Season, via the establishment of a legacy fund and a spring fundraising gala in David’s honor.

A search committee made up of Opera Philadelphia board members, Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris, and other leaders in the opera world is hard at work on a search for our next General Director. I will update you frequently on our progress as we work to have new leadership in place in 2024.

Thanks to David, Maestro Rovaris, and our exemplary management team, Opera Philadelphia’s mantle has filled with awards over the past decade–a Grammy nomination, two awards for Best New Opera from the Music Critics Association of North America, the 2019 FEDORA-GENERALI Prize for New Opera, and multiple International Opera Award nominations – and our opera houses have filled with enthusiastic, grateful, and entertained audiences who found joy in the art created on our stages and in our orchestra pits.

However, as we have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are faced with difficult financial realities. Performing arts patronage and philanthropy has declined across the entire sector, to a level that we failed to anticipate, and will likely take years to return to pre-pandemic levels. At the same time, the cost of producing truly world-class opera has increased, requiring some heroic efforts from our small base of dedicated donors who have supported the company over the past decade. Despite these efforts, we have generated operating deficits of more than $800,000 in each of our last two fiscal years.

Our Board of Directors remains confident about the future of Opera Philadelphia, proven by both their commitment of time and financial support. In the short term, we must make changes to our business model to achieve long term financial sustainability and maintain our commitment to Philadelphia, creating an inclusive culture, and artistic excellence.

So, after a period of deep reflection, the leadership of Opera Philadelphia has taken several necessary steps to safeguard our mission and values while addressing our fiscal deficits. We have reduced our budget by 20 percent (approximately $2 million) for the upcoming 2023-2024 Season by making the following changes:

  • Postponement of performances of The Anonymous Lover, originally scheduled for February 2024, to February 2025 at the Academy of Music (if you’ve already purchased tickets they have been rolled over to the following year).
  • A significant reduction in full-time administrative staff positions.
  • Retirement of the Opera Philadelphia Channel paid streaming platform, with programming shifted to free streaming via YouTube and operaphila.org.

I invite you to join this new phase of our journey with the staff, Board, artists, and patrons of Opera Philadelphia. As your opera company, we will continue to work tirelessly to make opera vital to our community and dazzling to our audiences. We need your financial support now more than ever, and we are excited to see you this fall at events like STRUT! A Harlem Renaissance Cabaret (Sept. 9-10); free outdoor Opera in the Park screenings held in neighborhoods all around the city (Sept. 10, 14 & 16); and our fifth season-opening opera festival, O23 (Sept. 21-Oct. 1).

Stephen K. Klasko, M.D., M.B.A.

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