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Plans Announced for Getting Symphony, Opera Into the Black

Plans Announced for Getting Symphony, Opera Into the Black

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A three-year financial recovery plan for the Utah Symphony and Opera includes pay cuts for staff, expense reductions and donation increases to $10,000 each from all 40-members of the groups' board.

The board approved the plan Thursday.

The symphony and opera had structural deficits in fiscal 2003 and 2004 of $1.7 million and $3.3 million and fiscal 2005 is expected to leave a $3.2 million deficit. Those figures were in a report by Thomas Morris, a longtime executive director of the Boston Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra.

The report was made public by the board.

Utah Symphony & Opera CEO Anne Ewers said the cuts will be deep" but that the quality of the product musicians provide will not be affected.

Ewers said she will take a pay cut of $50,000 over the next two fiscal years.

"I'm willingly doing this to protect the staff," Ewers said.

Musicians said that until Thursday they had been given little or no information about the symphony's finances.

"I'm angry about what's happening," principal flutist Erich Graf said.

Morris said ticket sales to Masterworks, Pops and Opera productions have decreased by at least 20 percent since 2001-02.

The report attributed the decrease to marketing and staff problems because of the 2002 symphony and opera merger, controversial concert enhancements, massive availability of free tickets and a dilution of the symphony and opera brands.

The economy and direct competition with the Mormon Tabernacle Orchestra were listed as uncontrollable factors for the decrease in ticket revenues.

The report also said that musicians received a compensation increase of 50 percent as part of a 1999 labor contract.

Joe Hatch, attorney for the musicians, said that increase actually amounts to about 40 percent over the course of eight years.

Hatch was critical of the board's decision, saying it only addresses financial problems and not organizational or structural changes. That is why the musicians on the board abstained during the vote to approve the plan, Hatch said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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