Last Opera Season?

13 of the nation’s 106 opera companies have gone under since last August and, without financial help, this could be the last season for the Utah Festival Opera Company. For 16 years General Director Michael Ballam has spoken proudly about the solvency of the UFOC. But last night Ballam told the Cache County Council that even though the operas are the county’s major tourist attractions, the recession has presented a severe financial challenge. Ballam thanked the council for past contributions and asked them for an additional $400,000 in Restaurant-Rapz tax money to keep the company afloat. “The $3 million that it costs us we can only raise by ticket revenue, which we’re very high in the industry at about 40%. The remaining 60% has to come from someplace else,” Ballam said. “Traditionally it has come in the form of some kind of philanthropy from government, foundations, corporations, and individuals and from the earnings in our endowment. But things have changed. Of those five entities I described we have been able to rely upon for funding, three of them can’t help us during this present situation,” Ballam continued. Ballam said without financial help, this could be the last season for the Utah Festival Opera Company. In spite of that, he says, ticket sales are strong for the opera season. Ballam also said work on renovating the old Utah Theatre has been stopped. “The two entities that fund us, their corpus is half of what it was worth so they cannot help us. We are buttoning up the building as it is now. For the next three months the organ is being installed, and as soon as it is installed the building will be secure. We will cease until we can get the funding to go forward.” He says, when completed, the additional productions in the Utah Theater could bring in many more people each season. County Executive Lynn Lemon says the opera company is the largest source of tourism sales tax from tourists followed by the annual Cruise-In. The council decided to form an independent committee to go over the books and study the situation, then come up with a recommendation as soon as possible.

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