Despite what you may have read this summer, the fate of the Overture Center remains unclear. While there remains a proposed solution that would see Overture's lending banks and generous local donors resolve the building's lingering $28 million debt, it is contingent on the building being purchased by the city for $1 and then being operated as an independent non-profit organization, all in the name of encouraging a sounder financial and operational future for the beleaguered arts center. The city will vote on whether to approve this action in November.
Sadly, the results of the impending vote are not easy to predict at this point in time, because of the perceived incompleteness of Overture's plan to transition to a non-profit, and because of the continued public outcry against the building, which many wrongly assume will increase taxes. (In fact, capital costs for the Overture Center are significantly less than they would be right now if the city was still responsible for the old Civic Center.)
As a resident organization of the Overture Center, we ask you, our supporters and fans, to please get vocal with your support for our incredible performance home. Regardless of how you feel about the specifics of the proposed transition, we hope you can agree with Madison Opera's simple stance that it would be a horrible thing to lose this building. The local press and our public leaders have only been hearing the negative, so please, contact your alder, write a letter to the editor, and let them know what Overture means to you, and to our community. Tell them to keep the doors open.
Madison Opera's strength over the last five years has no doubt been helped by the opening of the Overture Center. Here's what the Overture Center has meant to us:
1. In the season just prior to the opening of Overture, the company’s operating expenses totaled just over $1 million. Six years later, the company’s operating budget has increased by 100%, totaling $2 million in 2010.
2. Prior to the opening of Overture, attendance at Madison Opera productions regularly averaged 78% capacity. In the six seasons since the opening of Overture, Madison Opera attendance has increased by 17%, to an average capacity of 91%.
3. Box office revenue for the season just prior to the opening of Overture totaled $228,000. This season, box office revenue is conservatively projected to total $630,000. An increase of 176%! (Note: The Opera’s annual fundraising covers the gap between box office revenue and total operating expenses.)
4. In the six seasons since the opening of Overture, Madison Opera has averaged a subscription renewal rate of 82%, a remarkably high rate by industry standards.
5. In the six seasons since the opening of Overture Center… Over 49,000 adults have attended Opera performances, and 20% of them have attended for under $35. Over 7,000 junior high and high school students have attended Madison Opera performances for just $7 or less! Over 6,000 people have attended FREE Opera previews held at Overture Center, in advance of each opera performance.
Over 1,400 children have participated, for FREE, in the Opera’s annual collaboration with Overture’s Kids in the Rotunda series.
6. On average, over 180 Madison-based professional musicians, artists and production technicians are employed for each of the Opera’s productions.
7. Since the opening of Overture, Madison Opera has increased its season from two productions to three and Madison Opera’s institutional growth has been featured in profile articles in the leading opera magazines of Europe and North America.
8. Prior to Overture, Madison Opera’s free summer event, Opera in the Park, attracted audiences averaging between 4 and 6 thousand. This past summer, Opera in the Park attracted a record 14,000 attendees. While this event is not held in the Overture Center, its success is directly tied to the recent growth of Madison Opera.
9. Madison Opera, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this season, could not be where it is today, if it weren’t for the attraction, the experience, the excellence and the existence of the Overture Center.
Click here to learn more about the state of the Overture Center and the impact it has had on Madison.