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Highlights of the 2008 Annual Field Report
Larry Bomback, Director of Finance and Operations, OPERA America
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Original Content1/13/2010

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OPERA America's Annual Field Report (AFR) is based on the Professional Opera Survey, which member companies complete each year by submitting details of their annual financial, performance and attendance activity. Formerly a stand-alone document, the 2008 Annual Field Report was included within OPERA America's new Year in Review publication, released this past fall. Individual members can access a full-color PDF of the Year in Review by clicking here.

Forty-two of the 74 companies in the Constant Sample Group (CSG) reported a surplus for the year. In FY08, the median revenue and expense among the 74 companies was nearly $2.6 million, while the average company budget size was over $7.2 million. Total individual contributions — including unrestricted, temporarily and permanently restricted — grew 12% from 2007 to 2008.

Total North American productions rose to their highest levels in FY08 compared with the previous four seasons. However, companies, on average, reported a 4% year-over-year decrease in total seats available and a 2.5% year-over-year decline in total attendance.


  • Permanently restricted net assets of U.S. companies increased by more than 50% since 2004 to nearly $380 million; 80% of these assets were held by the 10 Level 1 companies.
  • While operating income from investments tripled from 2004 to 2007, realized and unrealized losses in board-designated endowments and other unrestricted investment funds was negative in 2008, and this contributed to a 20% drop in total earned revenue from 2007 to 2008.
  • Individual giving continued to represent the largest source of contributed revenue in 2008, increasing by more than 15% over the prior season. Individuals' donations made up more than 50% of total contributed income in all five years of the survey.
  • On average, companies have increased allocations over the past five seasons to broadcasting and recording expenses, as they seek alternative methods of transmitting the art form to opera lovers and potential new audiences; since 2004, average broadcasting expenses have nearly tripled.


  • Canadian companies, on average, reported positive net income in all seasons surveyed. Even though revenue did decrease from 2007 to 2008, the effects of this were mitigated by strict cost control resulting in the largest average surplus among the seasons surveyed.
  • Ticket revenue fell almost 20% from 2007 to 2008, accounting for only 37% of total operating revenue in 2008 compared to 44% in 2007. Corporate sponsors, who have traditionally been proportionately more supportive of Canadian companies than US companies, dropped nearly 40% from 2007 to 2008, but the loss in revenue was offset by a 24% increase in individual donations. In 2008, average government support accounted for 43% of contributed income.
  • Companies in Canada staged more productions and performances in 2008 than in any other season surveyed; attendance reached its highest levels as well, even as total revenue from ticket sales declined, suggesting that more tickets were being purchased at the low-end of the pricing spectrum; subscription renewal rates extended a four-season rise.
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