Metropolitan Opera Raises $182 Million in 2010-11 Fiscal Year

Even as the economy forces many cultural institutions to cut back on staff and performances, the Metropolitan Opera was able to raise $182 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year, an increase of 50 percent over the previous year, the New York Times reports.

With $11 million in revenue from its "Live in HD" series, the Met also was able to balance its $325 million operating budget for the first time in seven years. "I believe it is an endorsement in general of the artistic results that we are achieving here," Met general manager Peter Gelb told the Times. "We are certainly receiving larger gifts in greater quantities than ever before in the history of the Met."

But while the Met was able to raise a huge amount of money over the past twelve months, it also spent 7.1 percent of its $253 million endowment, exceeding the 7 percent limit established by a new state law in 2010. According to the Met, only a portion of its endowment is covered by the law, and the draw from that portion was well under the 7 percent cap.

The Met also is carrying $41 million in debt, and while revenue from its HD broadcasts is growing, box office ticket sales have been flat since 2008. Indeed, according to the Times, ticket sales as a percentage of total dollar capacity — a metric used by the Met — fell from 83.2 percent in fiscal year 2010 to 79.2 percent in the most recent fiscal year.

These and other financial challenges notwithstanding, Gelb remains optimistic about the organization's future, which he believes will be sustained by big gifts from repeat donors. "I'm not saying [the contribution record] will be sustained every single year," said Gelb. "What I am interested in is finding the balance between earned revenue and donations, which in a way are an extension of earned revenues. If anything, donors who give large gifts become accustomed to giving larger gifts going forward."

Daniel J. Wakin. "A Metropolitan Opera High Note, as Donations Hit $182 Million." New York Times 10/10/2011.