Well, the Globe story on the Opera Boston mess dropped today, revealing that the company's closing seems to have been not so much a case of malfeasance (as I once speculated), as a case of clashing egos, childish pique, and a culture of financial mismanagement. Which, of course, is all malfeasance in its way.
Long story short: Opera Boston was perennially over-extended, and lived hand-to-mouth, relying on a small clutch of wealthy donors - and particularly one Randolph Fuller, who reliably came through with at least 10% of the annual budget, and who seems to have begun some sort of vendetta against incoming General Director Lesley Koenig after she edited his program notes for Maria Padilla without his consent (or even a call of apology). No, you read that right, according to Edgers - even though it sounds like something out of Guy de Maupassant, that slight seems to have been the start of the feud. But then one gets the impression that Fuller had long held court on the Board, and had also always had the previous general director, Carole Charnow, in his pocket.
Koenig, however, may have played her own part in the company's collapse; cutting your biggest donor's program notes without even an apology is, well, a pretty big lapse in the bow-and-scrape world of arts-board etiquette. I'm surprised she did that. But then Koenig was already a star in arts management (whereas Charnow had little experience outside Opera Boston), and so probably had her own ego, and her own plans. And to be honest, she seems to have been aware of another major mistake the company made: budgeting on the assumption that they would win a major grant from the Fidelity Foundation, which did not in the end come through. This, plus low ticket sales for the season opener, plus Fuller's putsch against Koenig, essentially did the company in, according to Edgers.
Of course, in the final analysis, this is a story about Opera Boston's Board, and not about Koenig, or even the company's finances. In an admittedly bad situation, they made a stunningly bad call. Given the collapse of the year's budget, and even given a looming, expensive production in February, the company still had options - it could have re-grouped, made a public appeal, or abandoned one, but not all, its productions, etc., etc. It's hard not to get the impression that Fuller and his cronies simply took their ball and went home, and destroyed Opera Boston out of spite.
And it's worth noting that Fuller seems to have done this before - he brought down the Boston Academy of Music in 2002, apparently in a single day, over seeming dissatisfaction with its founding director; prior to that, he'd walked out of Boston Lyric Opera (which had the resources to survive his departure). And what that means is: Fuller will probably be back, with checkbook in hand, looking for a new favorite operatic entrepreneur. And I know it's hard for arts producers to resist that kind of temptation - but at the same time, they shouldn't forget what happened to Opera Boston; if you live by Fuller, you should always have a Plan B; because you could die by Fuller, too.