The New York City Opera said Tuesday it would close and start filing for bankruptcy after failing to secure a desperately needed $7 million through an emergency fund-raising appeal.
The city's second opera company, dubbed "the people's opera", opened its first season in 1944 and had set out to make the genre more accessible and affordable to the masses.
But the deadline on an emergency appeal expired at midnight on Monday with the company collecting only $2 million of the $7 million it needed to keep its doors open.
"New York City Opera did not achieve the goal of its emergency appeal," spokeswoman Risa Heller said in a statement.
"Today, the board and management will begin the necessary financial and operational steps to wind down the company including initiating the Chapter 11 process," she added.
The company's board decided last week to file for bankruptcy if the sum was not met, following enduring financial difficulty in recent years.
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New York's outgoing mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has reportedly refused to rescue the company.
While he said he would be "sad" if the opera company closed, neither the city administration nor his private foundation would save it, The New York Times reported on Monday.
"The business model doesn't seem to be working," he was quoted as saying.
Saturday's performance of Mark-Anthony Turnage's "Anna Nicole" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music was the company's last.
It had been the US premiere of an opera based on the life and death of the model and actress Anna Nicole Smith, who died of a sedative and prescription drugs overdose in 2007.
The opera was billed on the company's website as confronting the "issues of modern celebrity, greed and exploitation".
NYCO has helped launch the careers of several thousand young singers, including greats Placido Domingo and American soprano Beverly Sills.
"I am only one among many, many singers who have had essential early training and encouragement with this company over the 70 years of its existence," Domingo has been quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal.
"I think it's terrible that a city as big and as wealthy as New York can't support a second major opera company -- one that is able to take risks with repertoire, engage relatively inexperienced singers, and make other experiments," Domingo said.
NYCO, which also offers educational programs for children, had been part of Lincoln Center from 1966 until 2010.
But financial difficulties forced it to move to Lower Manhattan and significantly reduce output.
© AFP 2014