No Special Rules Apply to “High Culture”

A scene from the New York City Opera production of Mark Anthony Turnage's "Anna Nicole." Photo credit: Stephanie Berger/Brooklyn Academy of Music

A scene from the New York City Opera production of Mark Anthony Turnage’s “Anna Nicole.” Photo Credit: Stephanie Berger/Brooklyn Academy of Music

This article about the closing of the New York City Opera’s interesting because it explores several different themes about why the organization failed recently. It compares the death of the New York City Opera itself to the tragic life story of Anna Nicole Smith, who was the subject of the New York City Opera’s final performance.

It may be intellectually interesting to try to find the broader cause of a failure like this one, but until someone does and shares a forensic accounting-based analysis of the event, we probably don’t know everything we need to know to understand why the New York City Opera failed.

On the other hand, we do. It simply spent more money than it brought in. This is what you could consider the “laws of physics” when it comes to businesses. And be under absolutely no misconception: Those laws apply to any kind of organization, even nonprofits, that aren’t guaranteed to be funded by a source that has the power to use force to extract money from the populace.

Put differently, these laws of physics still apply and the consequences of not following them will show themselves eventually. This is true despite how lofty the ambitions of an organization may be.

I noted yesterday that Deborah Rutter, in her hiring as the head of the Kennedy Center, was hired as much for her ability to manage the business as to manage the art. Both of these are inevitable and critical functions of live arts and entertainment organizations.

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