Opera Lyra Ottawa and the National Arts Centre said Tuesday they are cancelling their annual Black and White fundraising gala.

The two arts organizations said proceeds from the annual winter gala had declined in recent years as a result of the global economic downturn.

In 2008, the event netted $392,000, but that declined to $275,000 in 2009 and $245,000 in 2010. The two organizations split the proceeds evenly.

The cancellation is of far greater impact to Opera Lyra, which had a total revenue in 2009 of $2.43 million, compared to the NAC, which has revenue of over $70 million.

To cushion the blow for Opera Lyra, the two organizations also announced that the NAC would be providing its orchestra at a substantially reduced cost to the opera for the next three years.

"We are very grateful to the National Arts Centre, and believe this three year agreement will allow Opera Lyra to explore new performance opportunities," said Elizabeth Howarth, the general director of Opera Lyra in a statement.

The winter gala has been a fixture in Ottawa since 1998, when it first debuted as "The Merry Widow Project", a spoof concert version of Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow.

It was renamed the Black and White Opera Soiree the following year. Past hosts have included Stephen Page, Harry Belafonte and Colm Feore.