LA Opera receives $ 5 million donation for pandemic recovery

An open-air performance of Igor Stravinsky’s “Oedipus Rex” will take place this summer in what is set to be the first live performance of the Los Angeles Opera since March of last year – an event which was made possible in part by the greatest gift society received in the COVID-19 era.

Philanthropists Terri and Jerry Kohl are giving the company $ 5 million to jumpstart its pandemic recovery after more than 13 months of crippling shutdown.

The Los Angeles Opera House is expected to announce the giveaway and summer production on Wednesday, along with an ongoing commitment to return to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for a new season in September. Restarting indoor performances became a real possibility with the announcement Tuesday by California officials that the state was hoping to completely reopen the economy – including resuming indoor rallies – before June 15.

Along with the Kohls gift came the promise of a challenge grant – funds that are released after the company raises an undisclosed amount for its endowment. The endowment will help support the 62 principal musicians of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra.

The giveaway, said LA Opera President and CEO Christopher Koelsch, “has an immediate effect on the confidence to rebuild our audiences and our performers following such a major shutdown. He said the Kohls were aware of the extraordinary challenges the organization had faced and acted with great empathy.

These challenges include the cancellation and postponement much of the 2019-20 season and salary cuts of 10% to 25% for senior management. Thanks to loans from the Paycheck Protection Program and the company’s Opera Relief Fund, the organization has been largely successful in avoiding the layoffs and leaves that have plagued other artistic groups, including Center theater group and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, although six full-time administrative staff were ultimately laid off.

More than 300 musicians and orchestral artists were under contract for the postponed productions. Artists are paid per production and don’t receive any compensation when a show is canceled or postponed, so the company has worked with the American Federation of Musicians and the American Guild of Musical Artists to support them during the pandemic.

In July, LA Opera postponed the four productions planned for fall 2020 and projected losses of up to $ 31 million. He switched to virtual programming and directed his energy towards a planned return to live shows in the fall when he announced five main productions, including “Tannhäuser” by Richard Wagner.

“The joy and the challenge of opera is that it always demands a collective leap of faith from hundreds of artists and spectators,” Koelsch said, adding that his company had announced its intentions for fall long before there is any guarantee the state would allow them.

Another leap of faith? A newly commissioned opera by composer and librettist Carla Lucero entitled “The Three Women of Jerusalem (Las Tres Mujeres de Jerusalén)”, which will be performed in 2022 by a troupe of hundreds of people inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels in downtown Los Angeles.

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