The New York Times ran an article titled ‘Opera Has a Problem: Fans Aren’t Subscribing’, by Michael Cooper (Dec. 21, 2018). In it, General Director Anthony Freud reasoned that, because subscriptions are down, he had to take steps to shorten the opera season, give fewer and fewer performances, and eliminate positions in the orchestra and chorus to keep Lyric Opera of Chicago afloat. Here is the orchestra’s response to that article, as well as a letter from a former subscriber detailing the exact reasons why he is not longer subscribing. There’s a link to the original article below.
Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra's Response Michael Cooper’s 12/21 article about Lyric Opera of Chicago lacks perspective from the musicians and stage artists who will remain the heart of this company long after current management moves on. As we pointed out during the recent strike, a declining subscription rate is not some inevitable trend, but largely the result of Lyric’s own decisions to slash the number of opera performances from more than 90 in the early 2000s to only 56 this season — including only four Siegfried performances – and to change subscription packages to accommodate the reduction. Many alienated former subscribers told us their complaints of unilateral changes to their performance nights and seats, as well as poor customer service. Worse, the contract concessions Lyric obtained from the orchestra and chorus will negatively impact the quality of performances, as many talented artists will choose to perform elsewhere. We fail to understand a business model that responds to reduced sales by both cheapening the product and limiting its availability. We hope our patrons will continue to attend and support opera despite management’s actions.
Letter From Dan Pyne, Former Subscriber Until this year, I had been a twenty year Lyric Opera of Chicago subscriber. Lyric management claims subscribers like me are “falling off” because they are “greying” or rethinking their entertainment choices, neither of which explains why I and a dozen other seat mates recently cancelled our subscriptions. This is simply a convenient narrative for management to distance themselves from the responsibility of declining revenues.
Opera companies like Lyric should pay attention to how they treat their subscribers. Prior to cancelling, Lyric changed me out of my seat for 4 of the 8 operas, meaning that for 50 per cent of the season, my seat was farther back and our coterie of friends was spread to the four corners of the house. Lyric could have easily kept us as full freight subscribers. Instead, we now pursue the single ticket promo codes for our list of “must see” operas at a fraction of the cost. From a practical standpoint, what sense does it make for me to select a subscription at a premium when I do not have the assurance of the seats and dates of my choice? The simple answer is that it doesn’t make sense, and the more I speak with other opera goers, the more I learn that many of them share the feeling that the people running Lyric have disdain toward their base.