Arlington, Virginia (May 28, 2011) –Jean Shirhall, president of the Aurora Opera Theatre’s Board of Directors, announced today via email that the company will cease to exist as of July 1, 2011.
Founded in 1961 as the Arlington Opera Theatre, the Aurora Opera becomes the latest artistic casualty of the Great Recession in our area, joining the Summer Opera and the Baltimore Opera, both of which permanently closed their doors in recent seasons. Similar casualties have been ongoing in cities large and small throughout the United States.
Today’s e-mail cited declining ticket sales and donations from “individuals, foundations and government” as the primary reason for Aurora’s demise. The announcement marks the final chapter in a long, but artistically successful endeavors of Aurora, “the oldest ongoing opera company in Virginia.”
While large banks, hedge funds, and Dow Jones industrials have resumed payment of lavish salaries and bonuses to CEOs and corporate officers, much of the rest of America is still trapped in the ongoing grind of the current endless recession. Even in the DC metro area, which is better off than most, both companies and individuals are watching their pennies, as are local and state governments, which are still in a precarious budget situation, and in no mood to fund “frills” like the arts.
In such an environment, courageous but low budget organizations like the Aurora Opera can only hang on so long before economic realities and a resulting lack of donors eventually combine forces to put them out of business.
Earlier this month, the Aurora Opera staged an extraordinary benefit concert featuring Arlington resident and internationally renowned tenor Carl Tanner in recital. Over the years, the company has helped Mr. Tanner and other well-known opera luminaries like Jennifer Larmore, Alessandra Marc, and Jason Stearns get started on their careers—a notable achievement by any measure.
But apparently, the benefit was too little and too late to sustain the company through another season.
On a positive note, the Aurora announcement graciously encouraged its friends and patrons “to continue to support opera in the Washington area, particularly the many fine smaller companies that are seeking to provide quality opera productions at affordable prices and present opportunities for local singers to perform.”
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