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Originally published Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 11:00 AM

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Connecticut Opera closes down, citing bad economy

The Connecticut Opera has gone out of business after 67 seasons, the latest arts group to fall victim to the economic downturn and sagging charitable donations.

Associated Press Writer

HARTFORD, Conn. —

The Connecticut Opera has gone out of business after 67 seasons, the latest arts group to fall victim to the economic downturn and sagging charitable donations.

Opera board President Brooks Joslin said Thursday the decision to shut down was made late last week. The opera's bank account was frozen and funding sources had dried up following a poor turnout at the November production of "Don Giovanni" at the Palace Theater in Waterbury.

The opera closed its Hartford office, laid off its half-dozen staff members and informed its 2,000 subscribers that they won't be getting their money back on two recently canceled springtime productions - "Daughter of the Regiment" in March and "La Boheme" in May.

Orchestras, ballets and opera companies across the country are facing huge deficits. The Los Angeles Opera is laying off 17 people, cutting salaries and will stage fewer performances this year. The Miami City Ballet is cutting eight dancers. The Baltimore Opera has declared bankruptcy.

The nation's premier opera company, the Metropolitan Opera, this week dropped four productions from the 2009-10 season and slashed salaries because of the economy. The Opera Orchestra of New York also canceled its two remaining performances this season because of the recession.

The nonprofit group Americans for the Arts estimates 10,000 arts organizations could disappear in 2009.

Connecticut Opera board Chairman John Kreitler told The Hartford Courant that group is not filing for bankruptcy because that would cost too much. He said opera officials are working with creditors to resolve debts.

"It's worse than sad, it's a shame," Kreitler said. "It's just another casualty of the economic conditions."

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Thursday that his office is looking into the opera's shutdown and planned to request financial documents from the organization on Friday.

"The Connecticut Opera, like any nonprofit or profit-making company, has both moral and legal obligations to consumers and contributors," he said. "It makes promises to contributors about how it will use the money that is donated, and it owes the money back if it fails to fulfill those promises. It can't simply walk away from its obligations."

Blumenthal said his office will seek refunds for customers, and look into whether the financial problems were the result of failed good-faith efforts or problems such as mismanagement.

Connecticut Opera had a yearly budget of about $2 million. Ticket prices for its performances ranged from $25 to $100.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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