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Charles Castronovo and Ekaterina Siurina star as Alfredo and Violette in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of La Traviata.

Michael Cooper

It seems that the Canadian Opera Company can add auditors Ernst & Young to its list of favourable reviewers. At its annual general meeting on Thursday, the COC revealed that it had posted a modest surplus of $13,000 on its 2014-15 operations, compared with more than a million-dollar deficit the year before.

That's $13,000 on a $42-million operation, a tiny percentage – but it's not the size of the surplus that's important in these days of tight artistic budgets and growing costs, but its existence at all.

The COC managed this feat by reducing production costs for the year, mainly by presenting six rather than seven operas, increasing box-office revenue and matching record-high fundraising efforts.

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The COC presented its 55 performances to more than 105,000 people last year, averaging a healthy 92-per-cent capacity over the season.

But even with those impressive numbers, box office revenue accounted for only 26 per cent of the COC's total cash flow. And it can't increase very much more.

With costs inevitably inching up, and government grants stagnant, fundraising is crucial to the long-term health of major arts institutions across the country.

Without intending to, the economics of the arts in the 21st century have created a brand-new business model for their survival, where individual philanthropic donations, as opposed to individual ticket sales, are increasingly vital.

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