Chautauqua Opera Announces Changes to Company Amidst Financial Struggles

By Francisco Salazar

Chautauqua Opera and Institution has announced plans for its future as it continues to go through financial hardship.

Per an official press statement, “like many performing arts organizations industry-wide, they are navigating challenges and uncertainties as the field emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a period of deep reflection about the future of opera in America, including at Chautauqua which hosts North America’s oldest continuously operating summer opera company and 4th oldest opera company in the nation.”

The company’s statement added, “The current model for opera at Chautauqua requires subsidy from Institution operations on an annual basis that has been controlled historically to the extent possible through repeated production modifications. As expenses continue to grow due to rising labor, housing, security, and supplies costs, it has become more difficult each year to present major professional productions while the program also experiences downward trends in attendance that mirror national trends.”

Chautauqua Opera’s statement also noted that it is engaging with patrons in conversations about a renewed vision for Chautauqua Opera Company and Conservatory as an incubator of new American operatic and vocal works and, more importantly, the artists who will perform them.

With the new intended model, Conservatory students will still receive rigorous training in canonical works and students will also work alongside Chautauqua Opera Company’s young artists and guest artists in workshops of new operas commissioned. Additionally, with the new model no major productions will be presented at Norton Hall, which was the home of Chautauqua Opera.

The full transition will be seen in 2025, while 2024 will feature a reduced slate.

“We’re in conversation with our community about this vision, which aims to create a sustainable model that will yield impact and relevance for operatic and vocal works at Chautauqua,” added Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill. “While the vision has been met with support from many patrons and staff alike, it also represents changes that will be experienced as a loss among our opera patrons and certainly the staff, some of whom will lose long-time seasonal or year-round employment as we shift from full productions to new work incubation.”