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New York City Opera files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York City Opera filed for bankruptcy protection on Thursday after announcing earlier this week that it had failed to raise enough money to stay open and would close its doors.

An urgent fundraising appeal by the 70-year-old company, dubbed "The People's Opera," raised only about $2 million of the $7 million it said it needed by the end of September.

Citing declining revenues over several years, the opera company said in court documents filed on Thursday that it canceled its current season and "does not intend to continue producing opera seasons in the future."

"Absent a drastic change in circumstances, another cultural or educational institution being willing to partner with or adopt NYC Opera, or a miraculous increase in donations, NYC Opera will be forced to conduct an orderly wind-down of its operations," it said.

It listed its liabilities in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy documents at $5.6 million.

Also in the documents, it said it attributed its financial decline to "a troubled economy, decreased donations, and increasing pension obligations" as well as a crowded entertainment market, competition with the Metropolitan Opera, New York City's other major opera company, and a decrease in arts education, arts journalism and arts on television and radio.

This season, the company was presenting "Anna Nicole," an opera based on the life and death of Anna Nicole Smith, a Texas stripper best known for marrying oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall when he was 89 and she was 26.

Founded in 1943, the New York City Opera was dubbed "The People's Opera" by New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. The company was intended to promote young performers and composers, present new works and fresh interpretations of classics and make opera affordable and accessible to city residents.

The company helped launch the careers of such stars as Reneé Fleming, Beverly Sills, Frederica von Stade and Placido Domingo, according to its website.

(Additional reporting by Nick Brown; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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