BCO: The opera company which keeps selling out its shows (and why we aren’t adding performances...yet)

by Julia Cooke, Artistic and General Director

Over the past year, we have found ourselves in the enviable position of selling out most of our concert opera and Thirsty Thursday performances weeks in advance, with many eager would-be ticket-buyers ending up on our waiting list. Unfortunately, many of those who don’t buy their tickets early never get off of the waiting list and are often unable to get a ticket. 

You may wonder: why don’t we just start adding performances? We are glad you asked!

We are thoughtfully examining the idea of expanding our programming offerings in future seasons through careful data analysis. However, simply adding performances when they start selling well is not a feasible solution.  There are three major obstacles to adding a performance without at least a year’s advance planning (and our ticket sales and trends do not yet support adding performances that far in advance):

  1. PERFORMANCE SPACE AVAILABILITY: We book our dates at our home venue, the Engineers Club, a year in advance, and they maintain a very busy schedule of other events surrounding ours.  We can’t hold the space for a performance we are not certain will happen, and the venue is understandably unable to let us add reservations even a few months in advance since they are so tightly booked. Finding a different venue for an added performance is also not feasible, since that would necessitate an additional rehearsal period for the technical aspects of the production, as well as other added staffing and facility elements which would significantly increase our costs and time considerations.

  2. ARTISTS’ SCHEDULES: We contract our artists far in advance and book them for a set period of time which includes a short rehearsal period and the planned performances. Singing an opera performance is often compared to running a marathon -- we would never ask a runner to run two marathons in two days! If we were to add a performance, we’d need to add at least two days to the contracted schedule to allow for a rest day and another performance day, which is quite literally impossible to do without several months’ notice for a group of artists who are traveling to Baltimore from all corners of the country and have other production schedules to contend with.

  3. ADDITIONAL TICKET SALES CAN’T MATCH THE COST OF ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCES: Ticket revenue covers just over one third of what it costs us to put on a performance. Our wonderful patrons often hear that we need donations to sustain our company, and this is why! If we wanted to cover the cost of producing an opera with ticket sales only, we would have to charge three times as much for tickets! So if we added a performance, all the costs that come with it would only be partially covered, we’d lose a great deal of money, and your seats would cost much more!

We recognize that all of these sell-outs mean something: our community is telling us that they just might want more from BCO!  You may notice signs this season that we are testing out some new ideas for the future which will help us to build on what we are already doing successfully. While making great art is always the primary motivation for any decision we make at BCO, we will support any evolution with calculated, data-supported decision-making (which by the way, is what has led us to such a strong position in ten short years.)

We are deeply committed to serving our great city of Baltimore with top-notch opera, and we hate to turn anyone away from a performance!  We recommend avoiding disappointment by getting your tickets early so you don’t get left out. The surest way to guarantee your seats is to be a subscriber -- we offer a 10% discount to both concert opera and Thirsty Thursday series subscribers, as well as free ticket exchanges if your schedule changes and you need to attend a different performance. Additionally, donors and subscribers go straight to the top of our waiting list if they need to change their tickets to a performance which is already sold out.

We are so grateful to the people of Baltimore for loving us! We love you right back, and want you to know that our primary goals are to produce great opera and to build community. So get those tickets early, and we look forward to seeing you at the opera.