I recently attended a meeting between the manager and board president of the Sacramento Opera and their donors.
Many of my questions were answered, especially data about income from recent operas. It was a surprise to me that Elixir of Love and Tosca had lost money. It was not a surprise that they lost catastrophically on Orlando. Yes, I've heard of it. I'd even seen it before. But you surely can't decide things based on that.
Their proposed solution focused on money. They propose to consolidate management facilities and some functions with the Sacramento Philharmonic. I see no problem here, as long as the two organizations remain conceptually separate.
There were complaints about the performance venue. They must pay union stage hands and rent lighting equipment, since the space doesn't have any of its own. There doesn't seem to be any alternative if they want to stay in Sacramento.
There was talk of remixing the finances from 60% tickets and 40% donations to over 50% donations. They are also asking the donors to take over the publicity function. Someone suggested hiring a professional publicist, but that was rejected.
What was glaringly missing from this conversation was any discussion of the product. There was talk about cheapening the product, cutting out sets and costumes, paying the singers less money, putting them up in cheaper hotels, but not one thing was said about how to make the Sacramento Opera more desirable for its customers. They were basically telling their donors that if they wanted opera in Sacramento, they had to put out, but there was no suggestion they would be happy with what they got for their money. It was all very peculiar and discouraging.
None of this gave me the warm and fuzzies.