Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy Birthday to Placido Domingo (here's a slap in the face from the Post)

As an early Happy Birthday SLAP in the face to Placido Domingo, Anne Midgette at the Washington Post played Monday morning quarterback reported yesterday on the merger between Washington National Opera and The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in some less than flattering terms.

Midgette says in part:
In what amounts to a rescue operation, the Kennedy Center announced Thursday that it is taking over the Washington National Opera, a company that has been floundering artistically and financially for years.

Under the new "affiliation," as officials described the agreement, the opera aims to restore some of the luster it had lost in recent seasons and increase its productions...

...Without the affiliation, the WNO, which was carrying a debt of $12 million, lacked strong leadership and was reduced to a mere five operas a year, appeared doomed.
Now, as you may remember, I reported here that after talks of this merger began, a certain benefactress was threatening to pull her millions in pledges to WNO and give them to the MET Opera.

Ms. Betty Brown Casey, the benefactress in question, has come to her senses. Again, from Midgette's article:
The opera and the Kennedy Center have discussed a possible merger for at least a year, conditional - from the Kennedy Center's side - on the WNO's ability to pay off its debts. One obstacle was the resistance of one of the opera's principal benefactors, Betty Brown Casey, who had said that if the WNO ever merged with the Kennedy Center, she would withdraw her donations, including the company's $30 million endowment, and give the money instead to New York's Metropolitan Opera.

Casey, who is life chairman of the WNO, recently realized that there was no other option if opera in Washington is to survive, according to someone familiar with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. Casey offered a matching donation of an unspecified amount, which the company was able to meet, to enable the WNO to pay off its debt and come to the Kennedy Center with its endowment intact.
That's rich - "someone familiar with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation."

Here's what I'm wondering about ... why hasn't anyone discussed the fact that our economy took a dump, thus effecting the bottom line of all businesses including the arts? Why hasn't anyone discussed the fact that when wealthy patrons get huge tax breaks from the government, as they have for the last decade, charitable giving goes way down because those wealthy patrons no longer need the tax write-off?

HELLO!?! Is this thing ON?!?!? [thump thump thump]

Doesn't anyone, other than Yours Truly, see a direct correlation between the huge tax breaks for the wealthy and the current financial woes in the artistic community? Do I need to draw a diagram? The wealthy patrons no longer have a financial NEED to give out $$ in order to get the tax break. They get the tax break for free. Let's be honest - it's a crude but very real point.

When it comes time to hand out the blame for floundering opera companies, it's much easier to point fingers at the guy who is on his way out, instead of taking a look at the bigger picture.

On that note - Happy Birthday 70th, Placido Domingo. I hope that being saddled with every ounce of blame for WNO's issues hasn't put too much of a damper on your big day.

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