Lyric Opera posts $22 million loss in “break-even year”

Wed Nov 16, 2016 at 3:58 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson


The Lyric Opera of Chicago notched a record $22.2 million loss for the current fiscal year on an $84.1 million annual budget.

Rather than announcing the results at a festive dinner and distributing details via email as in past years, the company silently posted the report on the Lyric website last week with no fanfare or media alert.

In sunny letters appended to the financials, neither board chairman David T. Ormesher nor general director, president and CEO Anthony Freud refer to the loss or, indeed, to any financial details at all. Despite the $22 million shortfall, Lyric CFO Roberta Lane referred to FY 2016 in her letter as a “breakeven year” for Lyric.

With net assets of $210 million and an endowment of $47 million, the company does not appear to be in any immediate danger. The $22.2 million loss was ameliorated with money from other sources–largely an $8.6 million draw from Lyric’s Breaking New Ground Fund, which was created for theater modernization and equipment and funding new productions.

Nearly half of the loss appears due to a vast drop in net pledge bequests and receivables of more than $10 million.

There was some good news in the numbers. Lyric saw a modest 3% rise in ticket sales and 4% in contributions. Operating revenue and support were also up 4% from 2015.

Posted in News

One Response to “Lyric Opera posts $22 million loss in “break-even year””

  1. Posted Nov 17, 2016 at 6:21 pm by Issa Cagret`

    Troubling “creative” accounting. The endowment ten years ago was over twice as large but with much greater restrictions. Breaking new ground is virtually a slush fund. And the biggest “asset” is the opera house itself. How much was it valued as part of the “assets”? And what happened to Brent Fisher, director of finance? CFO Roberta Lane is supposed to be able to answer these questions. At a $22M annual loss, the breaking new ground and endowment will be GONE IN SIX YEARS!

Leave a Comment