The Metropolitan Opera in New York City has announced a $25 million gift from socialite Mercedes Bass and her husband, Texas investor Sid R. Bass.
The largest individual gift in the Met's history is mostly unrestricted and comes at a time of increasing financial stress for the company, the New York Times reports. According to outgoing general manager Joseph Volpe, some of the money will be applied immediately toward this season's operating deficit, which is expected to reach $4.3 million. The gift will also fund costs related to the Met's audience-building initiatives and, if necessary, its Saturday afternoon broadcasts, which have been financially troubled in recent years.
"The Met's angel has shown her face," said Volpe, who is retiring this season after sixteen years as general manager and forty-two years at the opera. "In many ways, it kind of caps a wonderful career that I've had."
The Bass's outright gift, for which naming rights have been discussed, makes up for the unfulfilled pledges of Alberto W. Vilar, an investor and arts philanthropist who was indicted on fraud charges in June. The Met added Vilar's name to its Grand Tier in recognition of a $20 million pledge he made several years ago, then removed it when Vilar, citing health concerns, failed to make good on the pledge.
According to Mercedes Bass, a drop in giving after 9/11, the Met's current financial challenges, and the transition from Volpe to Peter Gelp, who takes over as general manager of the company next season, prompted the gift. "It's really the duty of a board member to support the institution in a time of need," said Bass. "For us, it's a good time to do it."