Los Angeles Opera is going to be $7 million richer thanks to a new gift from billionaire Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe.
The gift, being made through the couple's charitable organization, the Broad Foundation, represents the largest sum they have given to L.A. Opera.
"I think the opera is one of the great cultural jewels of Los Angeles," said Eli Broad in a phone interview.
"Having Plácido Domingo [as general director of the company] raises the view that people have of L.A. over the world. I think the 'Ring' cycle and other things they have done have had a profound impact on cultural tourism. We've been supporting the opera for a long time and I thought we should continue."
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In 2006, the Broads donated $6 million to the opera company for its first "Ring" cycle production, as well as an additional $1 million to support the Ring Festival, the county-wide arts festival held in conjunction with the operatic productions.
Since 1990, the Broads have given "significant six-figure gifts" in support of L.A. Opera productions, said an L.A. Opera spokeswoman. The couple has helped to underwrite productions, including "Pagliacci" and "Parsifal," as well as the opening of the 20th anniversary season.
The position of Eli and Edythe Broad general director at L.A. Opera is currently held by Domingo. As a result of the new gift, L.A. Opera said the couple's names will be used in perpetuity for the company's top management position.
Marc Stern, L.A. Opera's board chairman, said in a separate interview that the company has already received part of the $7 million and will receive the remainder over a period of time.
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"Plácido didn't ask for this. This was something initiated by Eli and Edye," said Stern.
He said that the gift will be used for general purposes, "but each year we will look at our repertoire and if there is something Eli and Edye particularly enjoy or are interested in, we'll talk to them about using a part of it and recognizing them."
Eli Broad said that he "wants to make sure the opera stays healthy" for the long term. He said that unlike the L.A. Philharmonic, which has the Hollywood Bowl as a reliable moneymaker, the opera company has had financial difficulties in recent years.
"Operas throughout the world have financial problems — look at the size of the productions compared to what they can make at the box office. Donations are an important part of [the company's] survival and I hope others will follow."
Broad said his wife is the real opera buff in the family. "She goes more often than I do," he said.
In May, L.A. Opera announced $4.3 million in new gifts for its young-artists program. The money is coming from the Colburn Foundation and Eugene and Marilyn Stein. The program, a paid residency for singers at the beginning of their professional careers, is now named Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program.
L.A. Opera's new season is scheduled to begin Sept. 21 with a production of Bizet's "Carmen" at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.