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Met Opera 2014-2015 Season

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Direct grants (from places like NEA) are relatively small. But those numbers don't include the financial benefit of 501©(3) deductions for donors, which are not the norm in many countries (especially Europe, although some are looking to the American model on this). Those donations would be smaller without the charitable deduction on taxes. Private foundations which donate to the company also benefit from substantial tax advantages. I.e., the taxpayers are providing substantial subsidies to the companies via the tax deductions to donors. Typically, the performing spaces are also benefitting from a variety of taxpayer subsidies, including both direct grants and tax exemptions; if the companies performed in commercial spaces, the cost would be much higher. I don't know how the dollars add up in all these additional categories, but they are substantial.

OT! Moderators, please move this to another thread if you think it warrants one ...

I think we can get a handle on the value of the Federal tax deduction for charitable contributions. (The other items are also doable, but gathering the data would be a big lift ... )

As part of the Federal budgeting process, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regularly estimates the amount of tax revenue forgone as a result of the deduction for charitable contributions. The total "Tax Expenditure" (to use the term of art) arising from all categories of charitable contributions (Education, Health, and Other) is projected to reach $57.3 billion in Fiscal Year 2015. That may look huge, but ... 1) It's about $3 billion less than Google's total 2013 revenue and roughly equivalent to Dow Chemical's; 2) It's about 5% of total 2015 Tax Expenditures, which are estimated to reach $1.24 trillion; and 3) It's about 1.5% of the overall Federal budget of $3.9 trillion. (The biggest single item on the Tax Expenditure list is the exclusion of employer contributions to health insurance premiums and medical care from taxable employee compensation, which is projected to total $207 billion in 2015. Next is the deductibility of home mortgage interest at $74 billion. The OMB's website is a veritable treasure trove of information, much of it available via downloadable spreadsheets, bless them. I found the Tax Expenditure data here. )

The category of interest here is "Other," which is where the bulk of charitable contributions to arts institutions should be captured. The total estimated FY 2015 Tax Expenditure for "Other" is $46.6 billion, of which a mere $1.7 billion is attributable to corporations and a whopping $44.9 billion is attributable to individuals. Keep in mind that this category includes social service and religious organizations, not just the arts. Hmmm ... but how much are charitable donations anyway, and how much goes to the arts? This, alas, isn't detailed in the OMB's lovely Tax Expenditures spreadsheet.

National Park Service to the rescue! I have NO idea why, but the National Park Service does provide charitable giving information on its website here. The gist: In 2012, cash donations from Individuals ($229 billion), Foundations ($46 billion), Bequests (23 billion), and Corporations (18 billion) totaled $316 billion. Of that amount about $14 billion went to the arts, culture, and humanities -- i.e., about 4%. ($102 billion -- about 32% -- went to religious organizations.)

If we apply the percentage of charitable donations made to the arts -- 4% -- to the 2015 tax expenditure on charitable donations -- $57.3 biliion -- we get an implicit Federal subsidy of about $2.3 billion. Lots of caveats here: I'm applying a 2012 percentage to a 2015 estimate; we don't know if the proportion of tax expenditure arising from charitable donations to the arts is the same as the proportion of charitable giving to the arts generally -- it could be that arts donors are richer than donors to other kinds of charities and therefore claim a bigger slice of the tax expenditure pie; a portion of the donations that an arts organization receives is paid out again in taxable employee compensation, so some of it ends up with the IRS anyway; the 4% doesn't include non-cash donations which would be included in the Tax Expenditure number; etc etc etc.

Whether $2.3 billion in subsidies through the tax code is a big number or not is, of course, a matter for debate, as is the extent to which donations to the arts would decline if the deduction were eliminated.

Now that I've made everyone's eyes glaze over, we can return to talking about the arts proper. wink1.gif

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Very interesting data. There's a lot we don't know, of course. How many donors to arts organizations are influenced by the expected tax deduction? Many small donors probably don't even itemize and just want access to the occasional open rehearsal, which is fine. But I suspect the actual amount by large donors ($500+?) is influenced by that deduction.

This data doesn't include tax subsidies in many states. Again, the direct grants from Arts Councils at the state and city level might be small, but tax deductions add up, especially in states with fairly high marginal rates (NY and CA, e.g.). Colorado has a great program that benefits the Colorado Ballet, called an "Enterprise Zone" cultural tax credit. You get an actual tax credit (not a deduction) of 25% of your donation to the Ballet! So for a $1000 donation, you get $250 back in a tax credit. Now that's a pretty powerful incentive to increase your donation. I don't know how many other states do things along those lines.

Another piece of tax subsidy that's relevant: the cost of art education provided in public colleges and universities (as well as K-12). NEA has collected data on this and it's substantial.

(The Park Service, by the way, is authorized by the same Congressional committees that oversee the two Endowments, so that might explain why they were asked to compile data on all of them. The committees are called "Interior and Related Agencies," or something along those lines.)

We all wish government support of all kinds would increase across the board. My point was simply that "government support" includes a lot more than direct grants from NEA. And as taxpayers are providing these subsidies, there is some sort of moral obligation to help ensure that as many people as possible get a chance to enjoy those programs.

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My point was simply that "government support" includes a lot more than direct grants from NEA. And as taxpayers are providing these subsidies, there is some sort of moral obligation to help ensure that as many people as possible get a chance to enjoy those programs.

I'm not disagreeing with that point at all! (I made it myself in another post a few years back.) I do think that government support for the arts, whatever the form, is relative drop in the budgetary bucket, however -- for good or ill. (I'm willing to bet that the taxpayer subsidy provided to keep sports teams happily ensconced in their arenas is on a par with, if not actually more than, grants and subsidies to the arts. Ditto public university sports programs.)

The National Center for Charitable Statistics has some interesting data on who gives how much to what here Charitable Giving in America: Some Facts and Figures .

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I've been following this topic with so much interest. It's pushing many of my buttons: as a Jewish American I am always on anti semitism watch-- I think it's a knee jerk response for many of us who were raised in the USA in the first decade post holocaust, knowing survivors and hearing about family members who didn't survive. As a librarian, resisting any attempt at censorship, or any attempt for a few to decide the reading/viewing choices for the many. As a lover of all the arts, resisting attempts from any "lobby" to determine artistic choices, and as a mom whose son has (for the first time since breaking up with a girlfriend who was a singer, many exes ago) shown an interest in opera and has asked me to get tickets.

Peter Gelb, you almost have to feel some sympathy for him. He's been in a world of trouble lately. A series of unfortunate incidents are (or should be) most embarrassing for him and for the met opera board.

The met has announced on their website the replacement opera for HD. It is "Barber of Seville" to be shown on November 22. A supremely safe choice. I know I've seen it in HD, at least once, maybe twice?

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Count me as another audience member (living outside NY) for whom Death of Klinghoffer was absolute first choice among the HD broadcast offerings. Just appalled by what has happened.

(Re the broadcasts: I also find it hard to believe that in the long term, having more opera available for everyone isn't what's necessary to build the art and its audience. Aren't the HD broadcasts considered one of Gelb's triumphs?)

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I know he has to sell tickets, but "Death of Klinghoffer" is replaced by "Barber of Seville" on the Met in HD schedule. Cast as of now on the Met website is:

Saturday, November 22, 2014, 1:00 pm

Mariotti; Leonard, Brownlee, Maltman, Muraro, Burchuladze

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Can we spin the tax discussion off into another thread -- I find this material fascinating, don't want it to overtake the Met programming conversation here.

And count me in as another one who was really looking forward to the Adams work. I know the topic is a controversial one, but I think this kind of last minute second-guessing decision-making is bad all around.

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More bad news -- this is distressing.

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Distressing indeed.

By the by, protesters were standing on Broadway in front of Lincoln Center the past few days with signs indicating opposition to ANY performance of Death of Klinghoffer and carrying posters in language that was, in my opinion, inappropriate whatever one's opinion of the merits of their case. They were handing fliers to Bolshoi Ballet-goers ...

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Oddly, the other day at the Koch they dispensed with bag checks at the front door, but placed numerous security guards in front of the theater. If you're paying lip service to security, why not continue with the superficial bag inspection at the front doors.

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More bad news -- this is distressing.

Here's a little something to look forward to, something a lockout is unlikely to scuttle. On October 10 the Guggenheim's Works & Progress series will present a The Death of Klinghoffer program (discussion and excerpts) with director Tom Morris, conductor David Robertson, and undisclosed Met singers. It will be streamed live at Guggenheim.org/live.

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According to the Wall Street journal, the Met has come to an agreement with the singers and orchestra. By singers, I'm assuming the author means chorus, since the other singers aren't employees, but independent contractors:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/new-yorks-met-opera-reaches-deals-with-singers-orchestra-members-1408359677

The basic terms are that the singers and orchestra will take a 3.5% cut now and a second 3.5% cut in six months, with from where the cuts will come still to be ironed out. They won't see a raise for another 4.5 years (3%). The health benefits and pension terms remain the same, unless both parties agree to changes in the Fall.

The article says that negotiations with the stagehands have been less contentious, and that the stagehands union was waiting to see what would happen in the negotiations with the singers and orchestra.

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I'm sad to think that they need to make these cuts, but relieved that they've managed to get this far.

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All of the unions have now settled. The last groups to settle were the costume, wig, makeup, and other similar unions. They took similar packages to what the chorus/orchestra got. No strike, season will commence as scheduled. It's bizarre that they didn't call in this mediator until the last minute.

FYI, Marina Poplavskaya has dropped out of the the new production of Nozze due to unspecified health issues. She has been replaced by someone I have not heard of. Check the Met website fior details.

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Got a happy, dappy email from Met Opera about tickets being on sale for "Death of Klinghoffer," after they've pulled it from the HD, and, despite multiple performances of the same cast of other operas on Sirius XM, not a single broadcast of this opera on satellite radio. (The Saturday broadcasts begin in December, after the last performance of "Klinghoffer" in November. Just great.

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I have tickets to the Klinghoffer opening. Should be quite an, uh, event.

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Got a happy, dappy email from Met Opera about tickets being on sale for "Death of Klinghoffer," after they've pulled it from the HD, and, despite multiple performances of the same cast of other operas on Sirius XM, not a single broadcast of this opera on satellite radio.

What's odd is that they've promoted - well, at least once - during intermission.

In any case, Yale News reports that

There will be an open conversation between Adams and Peter Salovey, president of Yale, moderated by Robert Blocker, dean of the Yale School of Music, at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 16. The event . . . will be available to view on livestream.

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Got a happy, dappy email from Met Opera about tickets being on sale for "Death of Klinghoffer," after they've pulled it from the HD, and, despite multiple performances of the same cast of other operas on Sirius XM, not a single broadcast of this opera on satellite radio. (The Saturday broadcasts begin in December, after the last performance of "Klinghoffer" in November. Just great.

Fiddlesticks.

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The Met is waiving all service charges for all performances of Klinghoffer. TCMET14 is the code to use for waiver of the service charges.

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Got a happy, dappy email from Met Opera about tickets being on sale for "Death of Klinghoffer," after they've pulled it from the HD, and, despite multiple performances of the same cast of other operas on Sirius XM, not a single broadcast of this opera on satellite radio. (The Saturday broadcasts begin in December, after the last performance of "Klinghoffer" in November. Just great.

Fiddlesticks.

Peter Gelb, a profile in courage.....

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Peter Gelb, a profile in courage.....

Or a cynical, canny marketer who got free publicity worth $$$$$$.

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If such were true, it would go well beyond "canniness" or possibly even cynicism. It is quite true that you can't buy this kind of publicity, but then few would, I suspect.

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