State of the Arts: Indianapolis Opera Goes on with the Show

After a tumultuous few years, it’s poised to strike a new note.


The fat lady has sung, but the Indianapolis Opera is not ready to let the final curtain go down yet. Over the last six years, they have watched attendance diminish; funding dry up; and larger companies across the country, like the New York City Opera, close their doors.
The 2013–2014 season ended on a sour note as the Opera chose to cancel its final production, Albert Herring, to avoid going into debt, and then longtime artistic director Jim Caraher abruptly resigned. For the show to go on for this 39-year-old staple of the Indianapolis art scene, the Opera has realized something’s got to give.
“We need new,” says Judy Woods, Indianapolis Opera’s board president since 2012. “We have high production costs, we have growing expenses and dwindling finances, and that’s not a model you can sustain.”
No one is quite sure what the new model should be, but thanks to a special grant and help from OPERA America, the Indianapolis Opera has spent the summer conducting research and trying to gather insight on what will make opera relevant to the Indianapolis community.
“We want to make a new model based on some hard data, so we have a real chance of success,” says Woods.
The Opera knows it won’t be giving up classic, grand operas—but avant-garde productions, operatic musicals, concerts, festivals, and other formats are all on the table to try. So the only certain thing about the upcoming 2014–2015 season is that it will be not a little experimental as the Indianapolis Opera chases its encore.
“No one thinks we’re closing our doors, and the board is committed to not letting that happen, but we need to regroup, we need to rethink,” explains Woods. “I like to think of our coming year as the chrysalis stage, and we are going to unfold our wings and emerge very soon.”
We look forward to your unveiling, Madame Butterfly.
The Ticket 2014 coverThis article appeared in The Ticket, a 2014 special publication.