Friday, July 30, 2010

National Opera / Kennedy Center merger?

Is a merger in the works for Washington National Opera and the Kennedy Center? It would appear so.

Erica Orden at the Wall Street Journal reports:
The Washington National Opera, facing financial challenges and questions about its future, is exploring a merger with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The arrangement under consideration would mimic the Kennedy Center's relationship with the National Symphony Orchestra, the person said. The center would assume the opera's assets and liabilities, and the opera would cede to the center approval on artistic and budgetary matters. Merger discussions began around March, the person said.
Both the spokesperson for the Kennedy Center and the spokesperson for WNO said that negotiations had begun on a new rental agreement since the current agreement for WNO's rental of the Kennedy Center's space expires in 2013. In addition, their stories matched in that they both also admitted to discussing the "future" and "long term relationship" between the two organizations.

Although the financial challenges could be blamed on the current state of our nation's economy - let's not forget the staggering number of artistic institutions that have shuttered - many continue to blame General Director Placido Domingo for the company's issues. Again, Erica Orden of the Wall Street Journal:
Some have blamed the leadership of Mr. Domingo, who became general director in 2003 after several years as artistic director. Although lauded for his creative vision, he has faced criticism for what has been described as inattentive supervision. "Why can't a general director with the fame, charm and ability of Domingo roll up his sleeves and work to realize his vision, rather than distancing himself from the results?" classical-music critic Anne Midgette wrote earlier this year in the Washington Post. "The answer: because he isn't actually there, running the company."
In FY 2010, Congress appropriated some $40 million to the Kennedy Center for operations, maintenance and other upkeep costs. So, it is safe to say that the Kennedy Center could be a port in the storm for the National Opera.

It does come at a price, however. Domingo could be stripped of his artistic authority and the opera's Board of Directors could be downgraded to figurehead status. That is, of course, if the merger takes on the same shape as the merger between the National Symphony Orchestra and the Kennedy Center, which happened in 1986.

Arts organizations that have a home in our Nation's Capital and are indeed called "National" should have some funding from our National Government. Don't you think? I am in no way saying that they should be solely funded by said government, but if we can subsidize crops, oil etc., I think we could manage to specifically subsidize our "National" arts organizations.

I understand that some will say "That's what the National Endowment for the Arts is for." And that, my Friendlies, is why I said "specifically subsidize". In other words, there should be specific subsidization with funding not funneled through bureaucratic channels that are clogged with bureaucratic plaque.

"A great nation deserves great art!" Wasn't that the motto of the NEA?

If, in our great bureaucratic democracy, the way to national funding of our "National" arts organizations is to merge them with the Kennedy Center, then so be it. Unfortunately, some egos will have to take a back seat - but, that's politics ... and the arts, for that matter.

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