Opera company tops fund-raising goal with 11th-hour gifts


A flood of last-minute donations from individuals, corporations and foundations, including one finalized yesterday afternoon, has enabled the Baltimore Opera Company to meet its $1 million year-end fund-raising goal and continue operations.

"It means we will have opera in Baltimore," the board chairman, Lowell R. Bowen, said yesterday in announcing the completion of the emergency effort to erase the company's $840,000 deficit and avoid bankruptcy.

"We are so pleased and relieved," he added. "I don't think anybody wanted to see the company die, even those who don't particularly like opera. This would have been the only city of its size without a resident opera company."

Nearly half the total amount raised by the campaign, which was begun in September, was pledged in the last couple of weeks, Mr. Bowen said, with the final gift coming yesterday afternoon.

About 80 percent of the $1 million came fromlocal corporations and foundations, he said. Among the major donors were the Noxell Foundation, the Abell Foundation, First National Bank, the Rouse Co. and the Harley W. Howell and Ensign C. Markland Kelly foundations.

Mr. Bowen declined to divulge the size of each gift, but said the donations ranged in size from $10,000 to $100,000 and are payable by the end of next year.

The remainder of the money came from a $100,000 gift from the family of the late Charles S. Garland Jr., former opera board chairman, and from individual donations ranging up to $5,000, he said.

Mr. Bowen said the opera also was aided by an undisclosed commercial bank, which reduced by $50,000 a $300,000 loan the company took out to complete its 1989-1990 season. The bank also restructured the terms of the loan repayment.

Noting that the company had improved its fiscal controls, Mr. Bowen declared, "We should not have this problem ever, ever again."

He said the opera was committed to operating on a break-even budget in the future and would reduce the number of operas it presented next season from four to three.

"To assure a balanced budget, we could cut the quality [of the operas] or cut the number," he said. "We chose to cut the number."

The opera is scheduled to announce its 1991-1992 schedule late next month.

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