Baltimore Opera to Seek Chapter 7 Liquidation, Dissolve Company

Ruth Ann Swenson in rehearsal as Adalgisa in the Baltimore Opera's
Ruth Ann Swenson in rehearsal as Adalgisa in the Baltimore Opera's "Norma," its last show. (By Michael Defilippi -- Baltimore Opera)
By Tim Smith
The Baltimore Sun
Friday, March 13, 2009

Three months after seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and canceling the remainder of the 2008-09 season, the board of trustees of the Baltimore Opera Company voted yesterday to pursue Chapter 7 liquidation and dissolve the 58-year-old organization. The company will sell off its assets, including a warehouse, scenery, costumes and technical equipment, and distribute the proceeds among creditors.

"We had some promises of money, but there just wasn't enough out there," said General Manager M. Kevin Wixted. "To raise money for a season of opera was out of the question. We could have struggled on month-to-month, but we'd never get ahead."

The Baltimore Opera, like many arts organizations, experienced a steep drop in income from tickets and contributions last fall as the national economy soured. Cash flow reached such a critical state that a board member had to personally guarantee cast salaries for what turned out to be the company's final production in November at the Lyric Opera House.

"We've lost many of our corporate contributors that used to be headquartered here. And we had no endowment," board Chairman Allan Jensen said. "The final nail in the coffin was the recession."

The company filed for Chapter 11 protection on Dec. 9. Wixted said it could take 60 days or more for the Chapter 7 filing to get through the courts and for a trustee to be appointed to oversee the liquidation.

Mark Weinstein, executive director of Washington National Opera, called the news of the liquidation "just unbelievable. It's extraordinarily sad for all of us in the opera industry. . . . I can't imagine the city of Baltimore not having a major opera company."

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