Nevada Opera Lays Off Due to Financing

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The former Artistic Director for the Nevada Opera is speaking out about his termination, as well as the future of the association.

We were first to tell you that the company laid off most of its paid staff this month because of financial concerns.

Robin Stamper had been with the Nevada Opera since August of 1999. He's seen the company go through its tough times, but he also helped orchestrate some tremendous performances.

Now, he finds himself out of a job.

Former Artistic Director of the Nevada Opera, Robin Stamper, learned of his termination a few weeks ago when the board of directors told him he was being released.

"The irony of it is that in 2001 one I was sitting in the board room and they wanted to raise my salary. Now two years later I'm gone," Stamper says.

A total of three full-time staffers were let go, including the Managing Director Karen Haas. One other employee resigned and went to work for the Reno Philharmonic.

In a statement to KOLO News Channel 8, a Nevada Opera spokesperson...says the layoffs were strictly for financial reasons.

Said part of the statement: "The Nevada Opera has a 100-day plan and will be looking at several options, which include combining the positions of Artistic Director and Managing Director into one job to save money."

But, at least one opera performer doesn't see how the company will be able to continue to do shows.

"I know that without an artistic director we have absolutely no product to sell," said performer Mark Clawson.

Clawson says the "heart" and the "mind" of the opera company -- Robin Stamper and Karen Haas -- are now gone.

The Nevada Opera says despite the lay-offs, the performance of "Trial by Jury" at the old courthouse in July for Artown will go on as scheduled.

At this point, their two shows for next season at the Pioneer Center will still be performed..

Stamper says he finds that very hard to believe, if an artistic director is not in place soon. "Decisions have to be made by someone who understands voices, the theater, and how to make an audience happy," he says.

Opera officials say they plan on re-hiring a ticket manager, to replace the one who left for the Philharmonic.

They currently have a bookkeeper on staff and a person to handle the financial matters, including fundraising efforts.

In the meantime, during the next 100 days, the board of directors will be looking at other opera companies to see how they're handling these tough financial times.

As to why the Nevada Opera is having such financial difficulties?

One opera official I spoke to says the aftermath of September 11th has definitely played a role with not as many people are supporting the arts.

And, the "Trial By Jury" performance isn't effected because it's 100-percent funded by the city of Reno.