Vancouver Opera cuts reduce season to 3-week festival

Responding to an aging audience and reduced revenues, Vancouver Opera will be reduced to a three-week festival beginning Spring 2017.

Falling revenues and an aging audience blamed for cuts

The Vancouver Opera production of Sweeney Todd opened Saturday, April 25, 2015. (Vancouver Opera)

Responding to an aging audience and reduced revenues, Vancouver Opera will no longer run a full nine-month season, but will operate as a three-week festival beginning Spring 2017.

The move to a three-week season is part of the 55-year-old organization's attempt to attract a younger audience and deal with declining revenue.

"We live in changing times, where filling the house is no longer a reality for arts organizations," said Mo Dhaliwal, who sits on the opera's board of directors.

"Older audiences are aging out, and we've got to replace them. To preserve the best of the opera canon we've go to make changes to bring people in the door."

The Vancouver Symphony's music director Bramwell Tovey said via Twitter that it's a terrible idea to reduce the season. 

"Distressing to see @VancouverOpera news spun as visionary. It's terrible news. Vancouver to be the only major Cdn city without an opera season."

Tovey also chided Vancouver Opera in a second tweet. "@Vancouver Opera You are seriously deluded if you think it's other than terrible. Don't expect support if you don't share plans."

VO's General Director James Wright says shortening the production season will cut a million dollars from the $10 million annual budget — and will also mean significant staff cuts. 

Wright said the change will mean contract work will replace some full time positions. 

"We first let the staff know about a month ago, I think, that there will be changes. We promised them that we would let them know what those changes were no later than Labour Day." 

With files from Wanyee Li and Deborah Goble


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