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N.Y. City Opera Lawyer Expects Bankruptcy Filing Tomorrow

Sarah Joy Miller portrays Anna Nicole in director Richard Jones's production of Mark-Anthony Turnage's
Sarah Joy Miller portrays Anna Nicole in director Richard Jones's production of Mark-Anthony Turnage's "Anna Nicole" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Photographer: Pari Dukovic/Brooklyn Academy of Music via Bloomberg

Oct. 1 (Bloomberg) -- New York City Opera, created 70 years ago as the “people’s opera,” expects to file for bankruptcy protection tomorrow and either liquidate in court or be sold to another institution, its lawyer said.

The nonprofit organization, which this year produced “Anna Nicole,” about the late tabloid celebrity, failed to reach its fundraising goal of $7 million, the lawyer, Kenneth Rosen of Lowenstein Sandler LLP, said yesterday in phone interview.

“There have been many, many generous donors -- a lot of people appreciate what the New York City Opera does, and it does a wonderful thing,” said Rosen, who has worked with the opera for two years. “But right now we don’t have the $7 million that we need to go forward with the season.”

The opera company last week posted an “urgent” notice on its website seeking donations to help raise $20 million, including the $7 million it said it needed by yesterday for the current season. Just $291,952 was pledged by 2,027 people as of yesterday in an online Kickstarter campaign.

“The opera has obviously been trying to avoid this,” Rosen said. “Over the past several years, it has been doing everything conceivable to reduce overhead, reduce expenses,” including moving from Lincoln Center to City Center.

The company said in a statement on its website that if the fundraising effort failed, it would suspend the rest of its 2013-2014 season.

‘Bluebeard’s Castle’

New York City Opera co-produced “Anna Nicole” with Brooklyn Academy of Music. The remaining productions for this season are Johann Christian Bach’s “Endimione,” Bela Bartok’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” according to the website.

The company was once dubbed “the people’s opera” by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, and was a breeding ground for young talent that included Beverly Sills and Placido Domingo.

George Steel, the artistic director and general manager since 2009, wrote in a mass e-mail on Sept. 26 that the opera “is on the verge of canceling its season and filing for bankruptcy.”

In 2011-12, the last year for which results are available, ticket sales were $1.1 million, down 87 percent from 2005-06.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in New York at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Dunn at adunn8@bloomberg.net

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