Source Pravda.Ru

New York's Metropolitan Opera receives a $25 million gift

Science

A Texas oil family is donating $25 million (Ђ21 million) to the &to=http://english.pravda.ru/culture/2002/10/16/38207.html' target=_blank>Metropolitan Opera the biggest individual gift in the opera's 123-year history.

During a champagne-topped cast party after a performance of "Wozzeck" in late December the Met General Manager Joseph Volpe received a surprise phone call from Mercedes Bass.

"The phone rings, and she says, 'You know, Joe, we've decided. We're going to give you $25 million,"' Volpe told The Associated Press on Thursday. "I called her the next morning to confirm that I wasn't dreaming or drunk."

The "we" is Bass and her husband, Sid R. Bass, whose fortune rests on Texas oil profits that fuel lavish parties both in Manhattan and Forth Worth, Texas, the Bass clan's home base. Sid Bass is on Forbes' list of richest Americans, worth $2 billion (Ђ1.65 billion).

Although Volpe had had discussions with Mercedes Bass, who's on the opera's board, about a possible gift, "this was a surprise _ the amount and the timing," he said.

The $25 million (Ђ21 million) fills a big hole _ the failure of one-time Internet stock guru Alberto Vilar to meet his $20 million (Ђ17 million) pledge several years ago. It is unrestricted, meaning the opera can use it however it wants, Volpe said.

First, the money will pay the bills, including what Volpe said was "a couple of million dollars deficit _ minimum" on an annual budget of $220 million (Ђ182 million), even after he cut expenses by 5 percent.

Some of the money will bolster the Met's Saturday afternoon live radio broadcasts, a tradition that is funded only through the next four years.