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OBF 09 reaches artistic achievements, largest total audience

  • Jul 13, 2009
[caption id="attachment_2822" align="alignright" width="220" caption="Sven-David Sandstrom, John Evans, Helmuth Rilling. Photo: Jon Meyers"][/caption]EUGENE- Soon after the OBF Chorus sang the joyous refrains of Hallelujah from the season-ending performance of Messiah, our staff, donors, volunteers, and artists celebrated as well, having reached new artistic achievements and our largest-ever total audience. Having weathered the economic climate with a manageable drop in ticket revenue, we’re looking ahead to a gala 40th anniversary season in 2010 that will feature the return of Thomas Quasthoff and Bobby McFerrin and a further presence throughout the state. “We knew, considering the economy, that we were going to take a few bumps at the gate,” said John Evans, OBF executive director, talking before the final performance of Handel’s Messiah. “But through partnerships and new outreach programs we were able to connect with more listeners than ever before. We aimed high artistically, and by every measure, achieved our goals.” Those included the addition of a second concert in Portland and one in Bend, and the residency of Portland Baroque Orchestra that led to a sellout in Portland and two highly attended events here in Eugene. The multi-arts collaboration with the Eugene Ballet and Oregon Shakespeare Festival, “A Midsummer Nights’ Dream,” was our season’s biggest ticket seller. The taiko-infused On Ensemble and Savion Glover’s hoofing attracted new, younger audiences. And the July 4 “Red, White and Rhapsody in Blue” was performed for 15,000 at Eugene’s Art and the Vineyard. Total attendance approached 43,000, largest total reach in our history. By far the most ambitious effort, said Evans, was the co-commission, production, and world premiere of the new Messiah by Sven-David Sandström, jointly undertaken with the Internationale Bachakedemie Stuttgart and backed by funding from Eugene’s Hult Endowment/Oregon Community Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. The July 9 performance was met with a spontaneous 12-minute ovation and a deep emotional response from the performers, composer, and conductor Helmuth Rilling. The work was recorded for international broadcast, and will receive additional performances in Europe under Rilling’s direction later this year. Ticket revenue exceeded $439,000, a modest 12.5% dip from our record setting season in 2008 and a 5% increase from our 2007 ticket income. Evans said the numbers reflect economic factors, with fewer repeat and add-on purchases and a slight decrease in out-of-state visitors. “We had just a 7% decline in the number of ticket-buying households,” he noted. “Generally we saw fewer multiple purchases.” Sponsorships, individual contributions, and foundation support were strong, positioning the Festival on stable ground for 2010. “We’re in good shape for a solid future,” he said, adding that three combined gifts exceeding $465,000, announced at the OBF Gala at King Estate on July 11, pushed the OBF’s Saltzman Endowment to $9.25 million, fast-approaching its goal of $10 million.