Cork Opera House emerged strongly from the pandemic to post a surplus of €260,146 for the 12 months to the end of March 2022.
The historic theatre had to close its doors on March 12, 2020 when Covid hit, decimating the arts sector, and last year, the venue reported a deficit of €226,247 for the financial year ending March 31, 2021.
But the AGM of the board of the Opera House was told this week that the venue had a surplus for the financial year ending March 31, 2022 of €260,146 — a combined surplus of €34,889 for the first two years of the pandemic.
Board chairman Tim Healy said it would not have been possible without the support of the venue’s key stakeholders, employees, and patrons.
Regular Arts Council funding, combined with an allocation of €663,342 from its emergency stabilisation fund for 2021 effectively covered the deficit incurred in the first quarter of 2021, and helped the venue cover itself for the remainder of last year.
Financial support from Cork City and County Councils was also vital, with the city council providing its annual grant of €250,000, deferring the venue’s capital repayments until after the pandemic and also restructuring its capital debt for the future.
And grant assistance from the Department of Culture and Arts allowed last year’s Christmas panto to go ahead in full, despite a last-minute 50% cap on audience numbers, helping to make the longer run of shows an artistic and financial success.
Opera House CEO Eibhlín Gleeson described the 2021-2022 financial year as one of the most difficult in the theatre’s recent history.
“The doors were closed to the public for seven months of the year,” she said.
“Once they reopened we faced many significant challenges, including reduced capacities, government-led restrictions, constant uncertainty about whether shows could proceed, and the threat of re-closure or cancellations due to outbreaks of Covid amongst our artists and staff.
“However, throughout all of the ups and downs, we remained optimistic and hopeful.”
Among the artistic highlights of that time was the launch of the Cara O'Sullivan Associate Artist Programme which celebrates the beloved soprano, who died in January 2021, by promoting four opera singers, sopranos Emma Nash and Rachel Croash, tenor Gavan Ring, and baritone Rory Musgrave.
The theatre staged a free outdoor opera programme at five locations across the city during summer 2021, and hosted a pilot event for the performing arts in July 2021 to help inform the industry’s safe reopening strategy safely — the first audience in the venue in 16 months.
“As we look back at the past 12 months, the word that comes to mind again and again is resilience — of our staff, the artists, our patrons, our voluntary board, our stakeholders and all of the people that make Cork Opera House a success,” she said.
But she paid special tribute to the venue’s “talented and tenacious staff”.
“Their dedication to getting Cork Opera House back on its feet was astonishing and humbling,” she said.
“We simply could not have done it without them.”