Fewer performances, falling donations cause

The Los Angeles Opera will lay off 17 employees, stage fewer performances and reduce its operating budget by a quarter to cope with falling donations and reduced endowment income, company officials said.

Stephen Rountree, the company’s chief operating officer, said all employees will get a pay cut, with higher-paid staff losing more pay.

The company will discuss ways to save money with unions that represent stagehands and orchestra musicians, Rountree said Tuesday.

“It’s a crisis situation, and we have to save as much as we can. The most important thing is that we don’t sacrifice the quality on stage,” said LA Opera general director Placido Domingo, who deferred his salary last year to reduce costs.

For the 2009-10 season, the opera will produce 48 performances on a budget of at least $50 million, down $10 million from the previous season. This season the company staged 64 performances.

The company put on hold the refurbishment of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and postponed the world premiere of Daniel Catan’s “Il Postino,” which was to open in September.

Symphonies, museums, theater groups and other arts organizations across the country have been hit hard by the recession. Arts executives believe their budget problems will get worse, since many organizations are still operating on budgets that include sales and donations from the last spring and summer, when times were better.

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