LA Opera pays $14 million emergency loan from the county back early

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A Southland arts organization hit a high note on Tuesday when it repaid half its multi-million dollar loan from Los Angeles County. Elected officials applauded an earlier return on the money than they’d expected.

Two years ago as the L.A. Opera prepared to stage its first production of Richard Wagner’s "Ring cycle," the company realized that such an ambitious effort would put it through the financial wringer. So opera officials crossed Grand Avenue and asked the L.A. County supervisors for an emergency $14 million loan.

The county came through despite catcalls from other non-profits — and from observers, including some in the opera blogosphere, who questioned the wisdom of the venture amid an economic downturn. The five-opera "Ring cycle" proceeded on schedule and the L.A. Opera whittled the number of new productions per season.

In an unexpected plot twist, its general director Placido Domingo has presented the L.A. County supervisors with $7 million, a year before it was due. The early payment will save the company about $350,000 in interest.

That, and Domingo’s birthday later this month, prompted the supervisors to sing. We’ll spare you that serenade.

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