A tale being re-told around the United States is now having a hearing in Cleveland: a notable arts organization with severe financial problems. It is featured in today’s Plain Dealer. In this case it is Opera Cleveland, which has had an ongoing stream of leadership departures over the past few years, ever since David Bamberger stepped down as director in 2004 and Cleveland Opera merged with Lyric Opera Cleveland. ;It always appeared to be a shotgun marriage, and it’s been downhill since. (In fact, Lyric Opera Cleveland has been on the way down ever since it broke its association with the Cleveland Institute of Music a decade ago.)
The article details some of the reasons why Opera Cleveland is struggling, but leaves out what might be the basic reason: ;people don’t want to see their productions. How many performances of Madama Butterfly or Lucia di Lammermoor do we need, especially when we can see top flight singers in the Metropolitan Opera HD broadcasts? Where’s the adventure? Where is the least bit of interesting repertoire? (The next production of The Pearl Fishers is the most avant-garde thing we’ll see this season.) Lyric Opera Cleveland used to do inventive productions of more unusual works, in English. Where’s the Britten, Argento, Susa, or any number of other worthy composers? It is definitely time for Opera Cleveland to re-invent itself.