Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
The Alamo City Opera is no more. After the April death of its founder, Mark Richter, the organization’s 15-member board decided Thursday to dissolve the company.
Of her fellow board members, board chair Carol Karotkin said “they really understood that Mark was a creative innovator, and he had this stellar record of presenting intimate opera in San Antonio. The board felt his legacy would be best preserved by our action because without him it wouldn’t be successful in any other form.”
The company had previously announced its 2019-20 season, featuring three performances: Lucinda y las Flores de la Nochebuena, Frida, and The Threepenny Opera, and canceled its final performance of the 2018-19 season, Soldier Songs.
Recommended funding of $57,813 for the 2020 fiscal year was approved Thursday by the Arts Agency Funding Committee of the San Antonio Arts Commission. Asked about the disposition of the Alamo City Opera funding – pending the decision of its board to close or continue – Department of Arts and Culture executive director Debbie Racca-Sittre described Richter’s passing as “a blow to” the company.
“We’re hoping that they’ll either continue, or another agency will take up their programming, and then we could recommend reallocating those dollars,” she said before hearing of the board’s decision to close.
According to Karotkin, the board considered those options, along with a potential merger with another organization, or hiring another director, but ultimately decided to shut down.
“Those hands went all up at one time,” Karotkin said of the eventual closure vote. “I think it’s a tribute to Mark, and also to a group of people who work together well,” she said of the board.
The City funding will be used to defray expenses related to closing the company, Karotkin said.
As of Friday, the Alamo City Opera website had been shut down, with its company history no longer readily accessible. Karotkin said Racca-Sittre and Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), a close friend of Richter, would be working to preserve his legacy.
Though still in development, Treviño said one effort would be a “Collaborative or foundation of some kind, focused on bringing our arts organizations together, focused on working with one another and helping each other out, and helping to advocate for resources and elevating the arts in a way that’s never been done before,” Treviño said.
Richter was a steadfast champion of fostering collaboration among arts organizations in San Antonio, Treviño said, and if a new organization is formed, “It’s going to be something that I think will help many of our arts organizations for many years to come.”
Treviño also said Richter would also be honored at the 2019 Distinction in the Arts Awards on October 10 at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.
Richter was a true innovator in a relatively new art form, Karotkin said, and, as general and artistic director for the company since its founding in 2012, did everything he could to produce high-quality opera.
“He was one of the frontrunners for the quality that led to the prolific-ness of this genre,” Karotkin said.
On May 1, Karotkin received letters of condolence from Italian opera stars Andrea Bocelli and Placido Domingo, who knew Richter personally. Domingo’s letter read:
Dear Friends of Mark Richter,
It’s with great sadness that I have learned of the loss of your wonderful impresario, arts supporter, and opera lover. He was a man of fine taste and a dedicated work ethic. In addition to the concerts we performed in beautiful San Antonio, there are fond memories of Marks’ personal warmth and kindness.
This is an unfortunate loss for the world of opera, and I send my condolences to family, friends, and the musical public of San Antonio.