By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York City Opera, established 70 years ago as "The People's Opera," said on Tuesday it was closing and filing for bankruptcy protection after failing to raise enough money to stay open.

The opera company had been hosting an urgent fundraising appeal, saying it needed to raise $7 million by the end of September to stay afloat.

However, it only managed to raise about $2 million, a City Opera spokeswoman said.

"New York City Opera did not achieve the goal of its emergency appeal, and the board and management will begin the necessary financial and operational steps to wind down the company, including initiating the Chapter 11 process," it said on its website.

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.

"The last performance was on Saturday," the spokeswoman said.

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.

Facing financial troubles, the company in 2011 moved out of Lincoln Center, where the city's other opera company, the Metropolitan Opera, is still located. It had since used various, more modest venues around the city.

The company had tried to raise $1 million of its goal on Kickstarter, an online fundraising site, but fell short.

The Kickstarter site showed that as of midnight on September 30, slightly more than 2,000 backers had pledged about $300,000 before the effort was called off.

"It is with much regret that we announce the end of our fundraising campaign on Kickstarter and the cancellation of the 2013-2014 Season," the company said on its website.

(Editing by Dina Kyriakidou and Diane Craft)