It sounds like a paradox. The Canadian Opera Company could hardly be more successful with critics and audiences alike, yet it ended the 2008/09 season with a deficit. As COC Board President Paul Spafford made clear at the COC’s Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, the COC’s operating deficit of $1.6 million for the previous season was directly caused by a shortfall in the company’s annual fund-raising programs. No points for guessing that this was a result of the global economic crisis. Fortunately, the COC had ended the six previous years with a surplus. These surpluses furnished the funds the company was able to draw upon to overcome the deficit and end the year $25,000 in the black.

Otherwise, there was only good news. The COC’s subscription rate is among the highest in North America. This season only the Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago will stage more performances than the COC. And, best of all, the 2008-09 season played to 99.7 percent capacity.

As COC General Director Alexander Neef stated, “It has been an extremely exciting first year for me as General Director. I am very pleased and proud to lead a company that produces opera at a level as high as, or higher than, any other North American company with a much smaller budget than those of our North American peers. And, I have been particularly encouraged to see enthusiastic and full houses in the opera house for every performance. I’m glad that we can engage audiences with the breadth and depth of repertoire we produce because it bodes very well for the future of the COC and opera in Canada.”

Further good new for the company, now celebrating its 60th anniversary, is that for the first time in almost 20 years, the COC’s mainstage season will be broadcast across Canada. In conjunction with its Broadcast Partner, CBC Radio 2, each opera in the COC’s 2009/10 season will be aired twice nationally on CBC Radio 2 and Radio-Canada’s Espace Musique, and the broadcasts of COC recordings also will be available for internet streaming on both the company’s website,, and on CBC Concerts on Demand,, for a period of 12 months after the initial streaming date. As the producer of these recordings, the COC will also seek additional means of extending the reach of its artistic output into new media platforms such as CDs, DVDs and cinecasts, as well as select National Public Radio stations in the United States.

Christopher Hoile

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