By Pierre Ruhe
For the AJC
The magical chocolate maker Willy Wonka, the demonic sexual predator Don Giovanni and a homicidal bride named Lucia are the stars of the Atlanta Opera’s 2011-2012 season, announced Thursday amid news that the 31-year-old company is starting to edge back from the financial brink.
“We’re making great headway toward stability,” said opera general director Dennis Hanthorn. “Last year’s decision to cut back to three productions [down from four annually] was tough and painful, but it ensures the viability of this organization.”
Still, the opera has never had an endowment and has recently burned through its cash reserves. Donations and ticket sales remain sluggish this season, with a “La Boheme,” in October, falling short of income projections.
“If we have one mistake, it’s over,” Hanthorn said this week. “That’s how close we are. I’m honest about it, I’m being transparent: we need to raise more money.”
Promisingly, for the first time since 2008, the opera