Opera Fairbanks

The cast of Opera Fairbanks's production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" rehearses in 2017 at the Hering Auditorium. Opera Fairbanks is postponing its summer production this year because of financial difficulties. 

Opera Fairbanks is postponing its summer production because of financial problems.

Board President Carol Wilbur made the announcement in an email, saying, “Due to financial constraints, the Opera Fairbanks board of directors has made the tough call to postpone ‘Falstaff’ until our 2020 season.”

The email goes on to say, “Greg and I made every effort to seek funding for this event; seeking out conductors, orchestra folk, and other artists for feedback on our current situation, and almost without exception the advice I received was to either cancel or postpone our 2019 main stage production. Our only other option was to cancel altogether, which we wanted to avoid at all costs.”

The “Greg” Wilbur mentions in the email is Artistic Director Gregory Buchalter of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. He and former executive director Cassandra Tilly were instrumental in founding Opera Fairbanks in 2005.

“Basically, over the years, support has just waned,” Wilbur said in an interview. “Opera is expensive to produce. It came down to a realization that to go ahead would be financially irresponsible. Greg and Cassie have worked so hard to keep this going.”

Wilbur reiterated Opera Fairbanks is not going away or ending its existence but rather is “just stepping back” while exploring its options, such as smaller shows in smaller venues.

Opera Fairbanks applied for at least 18 grants in the last year and was awarded only three. That, coupled with a decrease in funding from charitable gaming revenue in the last two years, has had an impact.

“Corporate and individual contributions have steadily declined over time, and ticket sales have remained the same even with price reductions,” according to prepared remarks from the board of directors, citing Design Alaska as an agency that has provided consistent funding.

“The current atmosphere with respect to other performing arts organizations is not good at present,” the remarks go on to say. “Other companies with fewer resources than Opera Fairbanks are struggling and closing their doors. When taking into consideration the current financial state of the organization, postponing our summer production of ‘Falstaff’ was necessary.”

Opera Fairbanks will proceed with its annual Run of the Valkyries, taking place July 6 at Pioneer Park. The race, a costumed family friendly 8K, starts at 10 a.m.

“Fairbanks is an amazing community and supportive of the arts,” Wilbur said during the interview. “This is not indicative of that.”

Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMfeatures.