'Chicago Summer Opera' Refuses to Refund Young Artists' Tuition for 2020 Season
Updated: May 14
Chicago Summer Opera, a non-profit festival that provides training and performance opportunities for young artists in exchange for tuition and room-and-board fees, is cancelling its live 2020 production and refuses to provide an immediate refund of its tuition: $1,550 USD per session for instrumentalists and $2,550 for singers without financial aid. The festival "may be able" to provide a refund in May 2021, a year from now, for artists who have already paid, unless an "unforeseen circumstance" happens:
"At the moment the company is not able to give refunds. If an artist would like a refund, we may be able to complete this request after May 1, 2021, notwithstanding the continuation of the current COVID-19 epidemic or a different unforeseen circumstance."
According to a recent release, the program is replacing its live 2020 opera sessions with a "virtual Zoom opera" to "share with family and friends" for the reduced cost of $1,240 USD. It features "staging rehearsals in your own home" and "recordings of yourself performing recit", along with online coachings and lessons.
In a "Q&A session" provided in the document, the company asks itself, "Why are we offering a credit, but not a refund?".
It explains, "the company is not cancelling the season, but adjusting and postponing parts of the program due to extenuating circumstances...All funds that the company receives during a given year are not retained and go toward our performance mission. Before the COVID-19 epidemic put the season in jeopardy, the company already accrued a major part of its annual costs in preparation...including housing fees, wages, administrative costs, production, planning, marketing, audition tour, theater rental, and orchestra rights. Most of these costs are non-refundable, but their usage can be postponed. The company will use these costs towards the 2021 season."
In other words, they will be performing their opera (Handel's Alcina) by Zoom in 2020, and perform it again in the 2021 season, inviting people to the same role assignments.
The program has given its artists a one-week deadline of May 20, 2020 to accept this new, pared-down version of its summer festival.
(The full document sent from the company directly to singers and faculty can be downloaded here.)