'Ring' sales lagging; L.A. Opera hopes donations will plug the gap
With Los Angeles Opera's climactic running of Wagner's "Ring" cycle set to open Saturday night, Stephen Rountree, the chief operating officer, says that ticket sales for the coming 12 performances will likely fall $1 million to $1.5 million short of budgeted targets, putting added pressure on opera donors to make up the difference.
Contributing to the shortfall is a smaller-than-expected turnout of out-of-town opera buffs, now projected to account for a quarter of the audience rather than the 35% to 40% L.A. Opera had counted on when it announced the Ring in 2006.
That was before the global economy imploded and a volcano in Iceland erupted -- two factors Rountree cited Thursday for discouraging traveling Ring-goers, including Europeans the company was counting on to be driven here by a taste for adventurous approaches in general and the work of German director Achim Freyer in particular.
Making matters worse, Rountree acknowledges -- and officers of Wagner Societies across the U.S. confirm -- is the schedule L.A. Opera adopted in 2006, when disposable income was flowing like the Rhein. It calls for a leisurely nine days to complete each four-opera cycle, when six days is standard elsewhere.
What might have been a boon to L.A. hotels and restaurants has turned into a deal-breaker for some would-be cultural tourists, who don't have that extra money to spend on food and lodging, never mind the additional days away from jobs that, if still extant, have perhaps grown more hectic.
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-- Mike Boehm