CSO posts its largest deficit in over a decade

Wed Oct 15, 2014 at 12:26 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

CSO operating expenses have risen $13 million since Riccardo Muti became music director in 2010.
CSO operating expenses have risen $13 million since Riccardo Muti became music director in 2010.

The Riccardo Muti era at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has been widely heralded as an artistic success but it’s also proving to be a pretty expensive one.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which departs this week on a five-city European tour, posted record ticket sales in its 2013-14 season yet still wound up in the red by $1.4 million—the CSO’s fourth consecutive annual deficit and the orchestra’s largest shortfall in over a decade.

Ticket sales totaled $22.4 million for the 2014 fiscal year (ending in June), a slight increase over $22.3 million for 2012-2013. Yet this was well outpaced by operating expenses, which jumped $4.3 million from $73.8 million in 2013 to $78.1 million.

Since Muti’s tenure as music director, which began in the 2010-11 season, operating expenses have increased a total of $13.4 million from $64.7 million in 2011. The orchestra declined to release details on the costs of its international touring, which this past year took Muti and the orchestra to the Canary Islands, Germany and Luxembourg.

Still, the CSO stressed the positives at its annual meeting on Monday. In addition to its largest ticket revenue ever, the orchestra also received the largest contributions in its history in 2014. The Zell Family Foundation and the Negaunee Foundation made gifts to the CSO endowment of $17 million and $15 million, respectively, which helped to secure the long-term future of the orchestra, said Jay Henderson, chairman of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association.

“Under the artistic guidance of Music Director Riccardo Muti, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has had an exceptional year of music making at the highest possible artistic level,” said Henderson. “The CSOA Board of Trustees is committed to preserving the CSO’s legacy of artistic excellence and supporting the vision of our music director, Riccardo Muti, while maintaining the financial strength of this great institution.”

Also announced last month was a pledge of $2 million from Randy and Melvin Berlin to create the Berlin Family Fund for the Canon, which will support the performance of standard repertory works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Schubert.

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One Response to “CSO posts its largest deficit in over a decade”

  1. Posted Oct 28, 2014 at 4:22 pm by Daniel Cohn

    I noticed that Orchestra Hall, which is an old facility, could use a little maintenance or minor restoration work. I hope they can eventually improve the organization’s financial situation and find some money, or volunteers, to preserve the historic structure. It is not only the home of the CSO but is the focal point of other classical music performances in Chicago.

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