Music News & Reviews

Sacramento Philharmonic draws patrons back into concert hall

Conductor Michael Morgan leads the Sacramento Philharmonic in a dress rehearsal at the Mondavi Center for the Arts at UC Davis on Saturday, March 18, 2006. The Sacramento Philharmonic saw robust demand for tickets after announcing its new season in early 2015, said Executive Director Alice Sauro.
Conductor Michael Morgan leads the Sacramento Philharmonic in a dress rehearsal at the Mondavi Center for the Arts at UC Davis on Saturday, March 18, 2006. The Sacramento Philharmonic saw robust demand for tickets after announcing its new season in early 2015, said Executive Director Alice Sauro. Special to The Bee

The Sacramento Philharmonic has posted solid ticket and subscription sales so far in its 2015-16 season after going dark last year because of financial troubles. Ticket sales and subscriptions for the season have outpaced expectations, a bright development for the 19-year-old orchestra, which has struggled since the 2008 recession.

The Sacramento Philharmonic saw robust demand for tickets after announcing its new season early last year, said Executive Director Alice Sauro. “Two months after we sent out renewal forms, we got 876 subscribers,” said Sauro. “By October, we had over 1,000.”

The orchestra made its comeback performance in June with a rendition of Mahler’s Second Symphony at the Community Center Theater. That performance was attended by 1,648 patrons; more than half were subscribers. The cavernous Community Center Theater seats roughly 2,400.

At its most recent main-stage concert, in January, the orchestra performed Mozart’s “Requiem” under the baton of gifted young conductor James Feddeck. It sold 998 single tickets and 1,066 subscription tickets for the show. The Sacramento Philharmonic had not drawn a crowd that big to the Community Center Theater since 2009.

Sauro had expected it would be difficult to restore trust in the orchestra after years of financial woes and the cancellation of last year’s season. “We never expected the response would be so positive,” she said.

The orchestra merged with the Sacramento Opera in 2013 under an umbrella organization called the Sacramento Performing Arts Alliance, an effort to stay economically viable amid declining attendance, shaky finances and a changing arts patronage landscape.

The alliance hired a consultancy team, called T3, in 2014 to reorganize the orchestra. Many on the team were Detroit Symphony Orchestra staffers. Sauro also hails from the Detroit Symphony, having worked there 29 years as a musician and orchestra manager before coming to Sacramento.

One result of the reorganization: The orchestra opted to use a succession of six up-and-coming guest conductors for its concerts instead of former music director and conductor Michael Morgan, who had led the group since 1999. It also spurred formation of a new board of directors.

This season, the orchestra is operating on a $1.68 million budget, with a similarly sized budget planned for the 2016-17 season, Sauro said. The orchestra intends to announce its new season within two months.

It is not clear what the reorganization means for the Sacramento Opera, or whether the city will ever see grand opera staged again, as that organization had done since 1982.

Edward Ortiz: 916-321-1071, @edwardortiz

Sacramento Philharmonic: ‘Ravishing Rachmaninoff’

When: 8 p.m., Feb. 20

Where: Community Music Center, 1301 L St., Sacramento

Tickets: $38-$48

Information: (916) 808-2000; www.sacphilopera.org

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