Chicago Symphony posts first deficit in five years

Thu Oct 20, 2011 at 11:28 am

By Lawrence A. Johnson

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra posted a nearly million-dollar deficit for the 2011 fiscal year, its first loss in five years and a clear, though expected, financial disappointment in Riccardo Muti’s inaugural season as CSO music director.

The deficit of $927,000 represents a 1.4% loss on an annual budget with operating expenses of $64.7 million. Last year the CSO reported a small surplus of $41,000.

Artist cancellations, including Muti’s five weeks of missed concerts due to illnesses in October and February, accounted for a large part of that expense, indicated CSO Association president Deborah Rutter, due to lost ticket revenue and artist replacement costs.

The CSO also had an “unprecedented’ number of other artists bowing out last season, most notably the Cleveland Orchestra’s cancellation due to the record blizzard in February, which led to extensive ticket refunds. Also the significant overhead and expense of Muti’s free welcoming concerts in Millennium Park and Pilsen put a further strain on last season’s balance sheet.

Still, Rutter and board chairman William. A. Osborn emphasized the positive in their released statements.

The CSO raised a record $24.2 million in contributions, a 15% increase over 2010. Ticket revenue was $20.6 million for 163 CSO concerts and 53 Symphony Center Presents events. And though subscription sales rose only 1% in Muti’s inaugural season, there was a 17% increase in single tickets sold, setting a new record of $4.8 million. The CSO sold 84% of capacity for its main subscription series.

Read more about the CSO’s 2011 Annual Meeting and fiscal year financials at http://cso.org/About/PressRoom/PressReleases.aspx

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