I think it's worth noting that the company has had repeated budget problems, all with Villella at the helm. While its artistic success is undeniable, it seems to lurch from year to year facing budget crisis after budget crisis. And while the 2009 FY showed the expenditures to be closely aligned with receipts, the two years before that showed deficits totaling almost $3.5 million. The Huntington Post article suggests that the deficit demons have returned. With an aging demographic, an aging AD with limited management skills and no apparent succession plan, the board can be forgiven for looking ahead to a change that, while uncertain, may be in the best long-term interests of the company.
In these economic times I think that a lot of arts institutions (like individuals) are having financial difficulties.
Yes it is an aging population but there are always new older people coming, it is Florida after all, and a lot of these people have disposable income. He isn't that old, and a succession plan was discussed.
I'd like evidence that before Villella there were no budget problems. I wouldn't know, because quite frankly before Villella was the company anything more than one of hundreds of regional companies? I don't think so. I certainly never heard about it.
I do think that ballet and opera are more mature tastes. Whether we like to view it this way or not, ballet (and opera) are considered uncool by young kids until they actually see a ballet, for example. Then, they love it. But for some reason it is considered elitist and traditional, everything Americans rebel against. When they get older and realize that "Oops! I Did It Again" by Brittney Spears does not really move you in your 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond, people start to look for artistic music that will move them in a way they never needed before in their lives.
I don't think ballet or opera performances will ever be filled with 20somethings at every performance. I think you might appeal to younger people somewhat when you focus on it really hard and get maybe a handful of younger people to subscribe after a 5 year effort, but overall the vast majority of the audiences that keep coming back are an older age group. But like Aurora pointed out, we all keep getting older, so just because old audiences die out, they are immediately and constantly replaced by other older people.
I can't get anyone my age (45) interested in ballet or opera. I have taken friends here and there from time to time, and they go ONCE and love it, but it is not something they adore and want to see over and over. They go back to wanting to listen to "Oops! I Did It Again!" or watching Kim Kardashian get married. Ballet and opera are simply not "in" or "cool" to most younger people in the U.S.
So instead of the arts companies complaining that the audiences are old and thinking they need to get young audiences, maybe they need to realize that their target audience is the older crowd and thank the gods above for older people instead of always wanting to bring in new people. They need to court the older crowd and make them feel valuable instead of wishing they could find a way to bring in the younger crowd.
I don't think ballet and opera are ever going to appeal to the masses in the U.S. They are always going to be fringe or niche markets that appeal to older people (who tend to be educated, already into the arts, etc).