Few arts groups are able to announce whopping gifts totaling $21.5 million at their annual meeting — as Seattle Opera did Tuesday at McCaw Hall.

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Few arts groups are able to announce whopping gifts totaling $21.5 million at their annual meeting — as Seattle Opera did Tuesday at McCaw Hall.

Not surprisingly, the company is expected to balance its projected $21 million budget for the 2006-07 season.

The recent gifts to Seattle Opera include $15 million from Gerard (Jerry) Hanauer, with $10 million going to the company’s endowment and $4 million to be used in annual support over the next four years; the final $1 million will be given later, as it’s incorporated in Hanauer’s estate plan.

The next five seasons will also see a total of $5 million from the Nesholm Family Foundation and John and Laurel Nesholm, to be used for artistic initiatives (including the commissioning of a new opera for 2010). And Susanne F. Hubbach has given the company $1.5 million, one-third of that for the endowment and the rest for the support of annual operations through 2012.

All the donors are longtime supporters of the company. Hanauer commended Seattle Opera’s “beauty and excellence,” adding, “My company, Pacific Coast Feather Co., is a world-class company, and I have had for numerous years now the same feeling about Seattle Opera.” The Hanauer gift will more than double Seattle Opera’s endowment, bringing the total assets to $18.6 million.

The Nesholms have attended every Seattle Opera production since 1969, not long after they met, and long have been among the company’s most generous and committed supporters. John Nesholm said, “We feel that it is important to be able to realize Seattle Opera’s exciting plans for future productions.” Hubbach said she was “happy to help [Seattle Opera] continue to be one of the best opera companies in the world.”

“We’re thrilled about these gifts,” said Speight Jenkins, general director of Seattle Opera. “Because of constantly escalating costs, we couldn’t continue to present opera at the highest level without this support. We’re working for our future, for my successor, to ensure that there is a stable base for our company. It’s a tremendous responsibility to balance our budget, and we have done so for 13 of the last 14 budgets — I’m very happy about that.”

Audited financial information for Seattle Opera will not be available until December. The company’s next production is Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” which opens Aug. 4 — an appropriate title for a company that’s flying high at the moment.

Two Artists of the Year were announced at the meeting as well. In the performer category, honored was Mariusz Kwiecien, who appeared on the Seattle Opera stage as the Don in “Don Giovanni” earlier this season. Picked in the conductor/designer/director category was conductor Asher Fisch. Fisch will conduct the Opera’s summer production, “The Flying Dutchman,” currently in rehearsals.

Melinda Bargreen: mbargreen@seattletimes.com