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  • Writer's pictureZach Finkelstein

dell'Arte Opera, a Small Budget Company, Offers Relief Fund for Artist Alumni. First Payments Sent.

Despite the current financial crisis, dell'Arte Opera Ensemble, a performing arts company with an annual budget of less than $250,000 a year, has committed to giving "mini-grants" to its recent alumni. These grants will be provided for "those who have lost income due to the crisis, to help with necessary expenses like rent, food, and insurance."

The fund, at it its current size of at least $5,000, will be restricted to the last two seasons of singers. The application for alumni is brief, "only a few questions", with a blind decision-making process among three volunteer members of the board.

Middle Class Artist recently featured dell'Arte Opera Ensemble in our 'Heroes of COVID-19' piece when they distributed half the artist fees for their cancelled fundraiser event. Not only are they sending the first half of their alumni fund out ($2,500) to singers in need today, they are also adding the remaining 50% of artist fees for the cancelled fundraiser, paying artists in full for the event.

The remaining half of the Alumni Fund, along with any additional donations, will be sent next month, when dell'Arte "anticipates the need will be even greater."

According to artistic director Chris Fecteau, the fund was set up in response to a cancelled March fundraising event:

"When we had to cancel our March fundraising event, it brought to mind for everyone on our board that artists all around the country were likely to lose a lot of fees they were counting on for the spring.  It also struck me that in many cases, singers have already invested countless hours preparing roles, besides paying for new scores, coachings, and lessons. The board and I agreed to direct a portion of the proceeds from the silent auction associated with the event towards our alumni. When we quietly announced we were going to do that, an anonymous donor came forth with seed money of $5000."

Fecteau also had some words of advice for the alumni of dell'Arte:

"Do everything you can to keep yourself in good spirits.  Pursue whatever income opportunities you can that will sustain you through the crisis and beyond.  Tragic as it is to say out loud, going forward, our “industry” will be even less financially viable than ever before.  On the other hand, keep making good art, and stay engaged any way you can. 

Right now, dell’Arte is doubling down on supporting our current roster with language work.  Whether or not our August festival can be presented in some form, hopefully that work can be valuable.  We’ve got two sections of weekly Italian classes starting next week for those singers (via Zoom), plus lots of one-on-one coachings going on every day.  We’re laying out contingency plans for other class-work as well (in acting and Spanish), and the production and directing staff is communicating and planning remotely, and receiving early contractual rounds of payments where they’re due. 

I don’t want to put any undue pressure on our board, because we honestly haven’t been able to discuss it yet, but I’m hoping that we will be able to honor all our financial obligations regardless of what form the festival takes.  It’s definitely a scary time, because fundraising for the season is at peak during the spring, and who knows how generous our regular donors can be when they may be struggling also."

As for larger companies that are not paying their artists, citing Force Majeure, the Artistic Director of dell'Arte said,

"If a company has the resources to keep its obligations, that’s the only way to go.  I just don’t understand a company with a multi-million dollar endowment choosing to invoke Force Majeure. On the other hand, if a full payout on one cancelled production means the end of a company, I’m not sure that’s the best thing for anyone. Bottom line, opera artists pour out their whole beings into the work for years, often before they’re paid a cent – we owe it to them to honor that spirit."

If you would like to donate to dell'Arte's Alumni Relief Fund, click here, donate, and be sure to write "Alumni Artist Relief Fund" in the message line of your gift.

More to follow as the story develops.


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