Funding request for Utah Festival Opera company granted by Logan City

The vote was unanimous when the Logan Municipal Council decided on Tuesday to approve a one-time $150,000 funding request from the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre.

Representing the opera company founder and owner Michael Ballam, board member Doug Lemon agreed with those who have spoken earlier that this has been a difficult year for donations. He said a committee is being organized to devote more time to bring those numbers up.

There was a public hearing where most participants spoke up for the opera program, including Steve Hopkins, a Nibley resident.

“They have conservatory classes in the fall and the spring that are taught by professionals,” Hopkins explained. “They teach kids 8 and up. They teach various acting and dancing classes among other things. It’s a lot of fun.

“Last year I had the opportunity to participate in one of these classes under the direction of Stefan Espinoza. Under his direction, the doors of the theater world and the arts were opened that I didn’t know existed. It was incredible.”

The council has come up with some new requirements for the company and others that fall in that category. Those conditions include requiring the company to announce their 2018 season line up along with a 2018 balanced budget that has been approved by their board of directors; that the board of directors be expanded to include a representative jointly designated by the Logan City Mayor and the Cache County Executive who has financial experience and provide quarterly financial statements; that the board of directors enacts a continuity of succession plan to ensure the opera company has a strong executive and artistic leadership; and, that the board of directors approves changes in its bylaws that provide assurance of improved financial and operational policies.

“I would most definitely like to see the opera succeed,” exclaimed council chair Holly Daines. “I’ve been criticized for being pennywise and pound foolish for saying I was not in favor of giving the opera $150,000 from the General Fund. But as I reviewed the finances, it appeared that they were bankrupt and would not be doing another season as Michael announced in August at the Tabernacle. To use another saying, it seemed to be ‘throwing good money after bad.’

“Without a serious and significant change in operations Utah Festival Opera is doomed and any infusion of cash would have no long term benefit. However, I believe the board now understands the seriousness of the situation and has made significant progress in the last two weeks in making the necessary structural changes to save the opera.”

Daines said she is also encouraged by the fact that a donor is paying the salary of a full-time professional fundraiser for the next year. She is hopeful they can establish an endowment and put enough restrictions in place so it doesn’t just subsidize deficits. 

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