Where music and drama find each other

Opera Lyra: a closing statement from the Board of Directors

Ottawa, November 16, 2015

After Opera Lyra ceased operations on October 14, the company’s volunteer Board of Directors worked diligently to attract alternative sources of revenues, with the goal of resuming activities and programs. Unfortunately, no new major revenues have been found. Therefore, with profound regret, the company has filed for bankruptcy. The trustee is Ginsberg, Gingras and Associates.

As explained in our cessation announcement, Opera Lyra has been badly affected by shortfalls in four revenue streams. These are: reductions in federal and provincial arts grants; weak corporate sponsorship; no growth in personal philanthropy; and, most important, disappointing ticket sales for recent performances. Inadequate revenues have accumulated to the point where there is no money left to operate the company.

During the past 31 years, Opera Lyra has been a star in the cultural life of Ottawa and Gatineau. It has produced high quality, professional operatic productions that filled a gap created when the National Arts Centre ceased its own opera program. Opera Lyra engaged established and emerging vocal performers and artistic staff, primarily Canadians. It mounted more than 60 fully staged productions and extensive educational undertakings for schools and younger, professional artists.

Many collaborators have been deeply involved during our three decades of creative work. They include: the National Arts Centre Orchestra and other NAC staff; regional suppliers of printing, design, transportation and hospitality services; music educators; experts in stagecraft and direction; and the municipal, provincial and federal arts agencies. The participation of many local people in the choruses and on stage has been a highlight. All these collaborators are owed our warmest appreciation and applause.

Community volunteers have been essential to our work. Notable among these have been the people who served tirelessly on successive Boards of Directors, and the members of the Opera Lyra Guild. They contributed in countless ways to promote, assist and administer a complex cultural undertaking. As well, hundreds of donors generously supported the company’s funding every year. To all of these people, and to our professional staff, we say thank you. Our words cannot repay the debt owed to you by opera’s fans and audiences.

What is the future for opera production in Ottawa and Gatineau? There is a rich tradition of vocal performance in this region, but times and tastes change. It is clear that opera here (and in other parts of Canada and around the world) faces hard challenges, for many reasons. Perhaps new productions can emerge on a lower cost model, as part of the excellent summer music festivals and smaller orchestras in the region. Perhaps partnerships for fully-staged operas can be negotiated with other Canadian companies, in collaboration with the NAC (the only venue with appropriate acoustics and facilities). Perhaps smaller-scale operas can be produced in alternative venues. Opera Lyra began these types of program innovations this year; unfortunately, our funding did not allow us to continue.

Opera Lyra is no more and its records are now placed into the safekeeping of the Ottawa City Archives. We remain confident that operatic performance will continue to be part of the local cultural scene, relying on a new generation of artists, supporters, opera fans and volunteers. Our best wishes to all.

Opera Lyra’s final Board of Directors

Opera Lyra “Trip to Mexico” Raffle Winner Announced

Ottawa,  November 15, 2015  

The winner of the Opera Lyra “Trip to Mexico” raffle (Ontario Lottery License #M776220) drawn Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 12 o’clock noon, is PATRICK KERWIN of Ottawa.

Congratulations to the winner and many thanks to all those who supported Opera Lyra through ticket purchases.


November 11, 2015

Opera Lyra patrons with tickets to performances to Fidelio (March 19, 23,26, 2016) can exchange them for tickets for a National Arts Centre (NAC) production during the 2015-16 season, subject to availability. Patrons are urged to contact the NAC box office in person or at exchanges@nac-cna.ca

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Opera Lyra in Ottawa/Gatineau to cease operations


Opera Lyra in Ottawa/Gatineau to cease operations

Ottawa, October 14, 2015

The Board of Directors of Opera Lyra has issued the following statement:

It is with deep regret that we have decided to cease operations, effective today. There will be an immediate shutdown of the current performance season, the 31st in the company’s history. The Board will now review options on how it may adjust its future operations.

The challenge facing the company is that revenues are not sufficient to cover costs. All opera companies in Canada generate revenues from four sources: ticket sales, government grants, philanthropic donations and commercial sponsorships. In Opera Lyra’s situation, revenues from each of these streams have been consistently below expectations, resulting in cash shortages and an unsustainable deficit.

When the current Board of Directors and leading staff took on responsibility for Opera Lyra in 2011, following the previous financial crisis, it was clear that accumulated debt inherited from the past would be a difficult burden. But the company succeeded in reducing its operating costs, and it began the long process of rebuilding audiences, expanding fundraising and paying down some debt.

We are proud of Opera Lyra’s strong contributions over many years to musical culture, education and training across the National Capital Region. We have achieved tremendous artistic results.  Our small company has produced so many fully staged operas, employing great Canadian and international artists, the wonderful singers of the Opera Lyra Chorus, and the crews and musicians of the National Arts Centre. Our Families and Schools Tour now delivers performances to as many as 32 schools each autumn.

Our core problem is that revenues have not grown to cover the costs of presenting high quality opera on the stage of the National Arts Centre. There are challenges in all revenue areas, including: major shortfalls in commercial sponsorships, modest shortfalls in private philanthropy, reductions in funding from the federal and provincial governments and, recently, weaker ticket sales.

The decline in paying audiences for Opera Lyra (a trend that is reportedly affecting other performing arts in Ottawa-Gatineau) is a key difficulty. Opera is an expensive musical genre. It combines orchestral music, vocal performance, and dramatic staging with sets, lighting and costumes. Other opera companies in North America have also had recent financial problems and several closures, notably in San Diego, New York and Hamilton, Ontario.

Members of the Opera Lyra Board want to express sincere appreciation to the staff, performers, donors and thousands of patrons who support high quality opera. We want to thank so many people who have helped as volunteers in all aspects of our activities, notably members of the hard-working Opera Lyra Guild .

The Board will look into options for the future of opera in Ottawa/Gatineau. The current program delivers two fully staged operas each year at the NAC, but our experience shows that this approach is too costly for an independent, professional company and ticket sales are unpredictable. Lower cost models, or wider partnerships, may be viable alternatives.