Utah Festival Opera season a success, despite setbacks and economy

In spite of daunting financial problems, the 17th annual Utah Festival Opera season was the second most successful yet. Last night new board president Kent Wallis told the Cache County Council that ticket sales brought in $873,000 with a total audience of 22,900 attending the performances.Wallis thanked the council for the $150,000 RAPZ and Restaurant Tax allocation given to the UFOC of their requested $400,000. The funding came with recommendations and stipulations.Wallis told the council last night that the company has not only taken unprecedented steps to reduce expenses and restructure offerings for the 2010 season, it has also embarked on several new fundraising strategies, including the creation of a Utah Festival Academy where adult education classes will be taught for a tuition. Wallis said these classes include “Michael Ballam in a musical history seminar, and I’m going to have the opportunity to try to teach people how to paint a landscape painting, and then of course Craig Jessop, our world-renowned choir director, will be conducting a choral class.”Wallis said the opera company feels this new academy will reap multiple benefits. “We think that, based upon the success we’ve had with these in the past, we feel that they will add another good effort to obtain the funds that we need,” he said. Wallis also told the council that an evaluation has been done and adjustments have been made to feature programs that bring in the most money. For example, there will be fewer opera performances and more concerts and musicals. “We have found that our musicals and concerts typically have had larger audience attendance than our operas,” Wallis explained. “So we will be making some adjustments. There will still be two operas and two musicals held each year, but we are reducing the numbers of the performances of the operas and adding more concerts which we think will bring in a considerable added dollars.””The new brochure is out,” Wallis continued, “and hopefully the reductions will not significantly diminish the high caliber of productions that brings so many tourists to Cache Valley.”On the schedule are “The Barber of Seville”, “Guys and Dolls”, “The Sound of Music” and “La Traviata”, plus special performances and concerts. Wallis said opera founder and director Michael Ballam will also be doing “George M,” a radio broadcast style performance certain to bring in a lot of money.The company is partnering with Craig Jessop’s American Festival Chorus which will perform “Verdi Requim” and donate the proceeds to the Utah Festival Opera.The requested long term balanced budget plan is being presented at today’s board meeting.

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