Baltimore Opera expects to reach $1 million goal


The Baltimore Opera Company, facing a year-end deadline, is expected to announce today that it has reached a $1 million emergency fund-raising goal, enabling it to avoid bankruptcy.

As of yesterday, the opera had raised more than $900,000, sources said. Details on the donation of the remaining funds were expected to be worked out last night or early this morning, they said.

"We expect to have a positive announcement [today]," Michael Harrison, the opera's general director, said late yesterday. He declined to provide further information.

The successful completion of the fund-raising drive would mean the BOC can complete its current 40th anniversary season and stage productions next season and beyond.

Officials would not disclose the source of most contributions received thus far, but yesterday they announced the receipt of a $100,000 gift. It was made in memory of Charles S. Garland -- a longtime BOC trustee and former board chairman who died Oct. 13 -- by members of his family, who said they wanted to steady the company's finances and help secure its future.

Lowell R. Bowen, the BOC's current board chairman, described the Garland gift in a statement as "the turning point in our $1 million campaign to stabilize the company. We hope to be able to announce very shortly that our goal has been reached." He was unavailable to comment further.

The expected completion of the campaign comes with the state's economy in a downturn and some of the city's largest corporations experiencing financial troubles. Last week, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra announced that it would not undertake a 1992 European tour because it was not able to raise the necessary corporate underwriting.

The opera, whose $2.3 million annual operating budget makes it Maryland's fifth largest cultural organization, announced in mid-October that it needed to raise an additional $600,000 in cash and pledges by the end of the year to meet a $1 million goal and stay afloat.

At the time, it had raised $400,000 from corporations and individuals, but that money was contingent upon the BOC meeting its goal.

The opera has been sagging under the burden of an $840,000 deficit, more than half of which was incurred during the 1989-90 season. Officials said the deficit was created by a combination of increased production costs and lower than expected corporate contributions.

Earlier this year, the company slashed its budget by 10 percent by moving its rented offices to a less expensive location and replacing the current season's second offering, "Tristan und Isolde," with a concert of selections from Wagner's operas.

The $1 million campaign, including $500,000 in cash and an equal amount payable over the next year, was designed to erase that deficit and put the company on firm financial footing for the 1991-92 season, officials said.

Opera officials expected the campaign to go down to the wire and it did. As recently as two weeks ago, they reported receiving no significant commitments beyond those in hand when they announced their goal 10 weeks ago. At the time, they put the odds of the company's survival at about 50-50.

The opera has reportedly decided to reduce the number of operas it will present in the 1991-1992 season from four to three as a cost-cutting move. Mr. Harrison refused to comment yesterday on the opera's plans for next season.

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