(Above: Melina Pyron played Béatrice and Brendan Tuohy was Bénédict in the Eugene Opera’s production of “Béatrice and Bénédict,” based on William Shakespeare’s beloved comedy, “Much Ado About Nothing.” They appeared in the opera that began the 40th anniverary season of Eugene Opera last October. Photo by Paul Carter)
By Randi Bjornstad
A news release sent on May 30 by Barbara Wheatley, the president of the Eugene Opera’s board of directors, no doubt brought sighs of relief, if not outright cheers, from lovers of the musical genre in general and fans of the local opera company in particular.
After canceling the last half of the 2016-17 season and throwing the financial future of the entire operation in doubt in January, the board now says it “has successfully completed its ‘Campaign to Restore Financial Health’ ” and will close the books on the truncated season “entirely debt free” and ahead of schedule.
Furthermore, Wheatley said, the selections for the 2017-18 season have been determined, in conjunction with Andrew Bisantz, the company’s Florida-based music director, based in part on the result of community surveys conducted after the January meltdown.
Maestro Bisantz will conduct Gioachino Rossini’s perennially popular “The Barber of Seville” on Dec. 30 and 31 in the Hult Center for the Performing Arts’ Silva Concert Hall.
A second production, an Argentinian tango opera in Spanish by Ástor Piazzolla, “María de Buenos Aires,” will be presented in the Hult Center’s smaller Soreng Theater on May 4 and 6.
Part of the opera’s restructuring involves hiring a new general director to replace Mark Beudert, who held that long-distance post for more than a decade while also serving on the opera faculty at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
The new executive director will be required to live in the Eugene area and will have responsibility for fundraising for the opera company as well day-to-day business management.
Eugene Opera announced in January that it had an immediate shortfall of $165,000 for the 2016-17 season — most of it owed to performers and local businesses as well as a maxed-out credit line — as the reasons for canceling the last half of its season, which was to have included a production of Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story.”
The company’s annual budget in recent years has run about $750,000 for four operas, two fully staged in the large Silva Concert Hall and two less elaborate “chamber operas” in the smaller Soreng Theater space.
Wheatley said donations since January already cover needed funds for nearly half of the cost for the coming season and include a $20,000 matching grant that will double other donations made during the rest of this year.
“The response of the community has been overwhelming,” Wheatley said in announcing the opera’s progress. “It is clear that this community cares deeply about Eugene Opera and wants it to thrive.”
For information about Eugene Opera, go online to eugeneopera.com/.