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New York City Opera: trials and tribulations


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113 replies to this topic

#31 miliosr

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 06:47 AM

http://www.nytimes.c...y.html?ref=arts

The Times weighs in with a lengthy article regarding the current state of things.

#32 dirac

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 10:01 AM

Thanks for posting, miliosr. Doesn't sound good:

Now, as George Steel prepares to open his first, sharply curtailed, fall season as general manager and artistic director — 5 productions and 35 performances, in both cases about a third of the usual number — some are wondering whether the “people’s opera,” which Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia helped found in 1943, can survive much longer. Even if the company succeeds in getting compensated for last year’s losses, it will have to find a way, in a punishing economy, both to replenish its endowment and sustain annual expenses of as much as $40 million.

“I don’t see how they could not close,” said Robert W. Wilson, a former City Opera chairman who now serves on the Metropolitan Opera board. “There is a slight chance that they can remain open, but where would the money come from?”



#33 bart

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 09:56 AM

A fascinating account of a very sad story. NYCO is so much a part of my own NYC experience that I can't imagine a world without it.

There's reference in the article to the difficulty that company may or may not have had to integrating into Lincoln Center. The move itself was difficult for many, but over the years it seemed to me that NYCO had become a real constituent of Lincoln Center, with nothing to be ashamed or apologetic about. There are references int he article to looking for alternative locations. What other options do they have?

Finally, Robert W. Wilson seems to be behaving in a rather unseemly fashion in some of his commments:

“I don’t see how they could not close,” said Robert W. Wilson, a former City Opera chairman who now serves on the Metropolitan Opera board. “There is a slight chance that they can remain open, but where would the money come from?”

[ ... ]

Some opera buffs question whether the company can attract the kind of wealthy, prominent trustees it needs to secure its future. “Who would go on the board who is anybody?” Mr. Wilson said. “I can’t imagine who you get to go on the board of a sinking ship.”

Is there such a thing as dancing on someone's grave before the death and burial have actually occurred? :D

#34 zerbinetta

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 01:12 PM

Finally, Robert W. Wilson seems to be behaving in a rather unseemly fashion in some of his commments:

I agree, bart. In the interests of disclosure, it should have been mentioned that Wilson promised NYCO $50 million dollars towards moving to another location. The gift was if and only if they moved.

When this didn't pan out, he took his toys and departed for the Met.

#35 Helene

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 03:13 PM

Finally, Robert W. Wilson seems to be behaving in a rather unseemly fashion in some of his commments:

I agree, bart. In the interests of disclosure, it should have been mentioned that Wilson promised NYCO $50 million dollars towards moving to another location. The gift was if and only if they moved.

When this didn't pan out, he took his toys and departed for the Met.

I'm getting a feeling of "I told you so" from Mr. Wilson, however unseemly the action of commenting is. Chnage of venue, especially to a smaller one, would have changed the focus of the company fundamentally, and Mr. Wilson isn't the only one who felt that such a change ws fundamental to the company's survival.

Many business people apply business principles when promising major gifts, and if he felt that donating under conditions he felt were unviable, it would have been like throwing good money after bad.

Ironically, a smaller, more flexible, more experimental NYCO would have been closer to Mr. Steel's experience. I'm sure onlookers in Dallas are not crying over Mr. Steel's woes.

#36 richard53dog

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 05:00 PM

Any suggestions for an alternate venue, should they decide to venture more in that direction?


That may be a can of worms that won't be able to be reopened for a while. As I understand it while Mortier was nominally in charge, he made the decision
that NYCO would stay in the NYST/Koch and part of the renovations include the expansion of the orchestra pit, which Mortier insisted on.

So even though Mortier is no longer in charge, it would add to the messiness to have NYCO change direction on staying/going. I have no idea but part of the whole renovation plan might include NYCO's committment to stay in Lincoln Center.

Although they settled with the orchestra, they still haven't settled with AGMA yet and they don't seem to have a lot of cash left. While the whole operation might be more manageable in a smaller venue , can they risk alienating further what subscription base they still have by moving? I feel that absolutely HAVE to have a 2009-2010 season to remain alive.

I personally would have loved to see the NYCO in it's own theater. I hope they manage to survive and maybe down the road if they are viable, they can
revisit that issue. There were briefly discussions about moving to a site just west of Lincoln Center across Amsterdam Avenue which sounded ideal to me as they could still be considered part of Lincoln Center but those plans are history.

#37 Helene

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 10:05 PM

There were briefly discussions about moving to a site just west of Lincoln Center across Amsterdam Avenue which sounded ideal to me as they could still be considered part of Lincoln Center but those plans are history.

I thought the Met quashed an effort for NYCO to be in a new theater in the Lincoln Center area through the LC governing body. Am I remembering this wrong?

For the life of me I don't understand how they thought that Mortier would ever show up and live within NYCO's budget, especially given the programming he was planning to bring. San Francisco Opera couldn't afford Pamela Rosenberg's plans, and Mortier's were like Pamela Rosenberg's five-year plan rolled into one. To me, it sounded delusional from the first rumor of it. The Met won't even take a chance to broadcast the new Chereau "House of the Dead", Chereau's debut at the house, in HD next year, one of two productions next season that go into Mortier turf, and that has Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting and Peter Mattei in the cast. And that's Janacek, for Pete's sake, not really cutting edge.

#38 richard53dog

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 05:00 AM

I thought the Met quashed an effort for NYCO to be in a new theater in the Lincoln Center area through the LC governing body. Am I remembering this wrong?


Well, the Met would like NYCO to go away, although they don't really share core audiences to a huge degree. The Met was more opposed to building a new
theater on the site of Damrosch Park/Bandshell than the theater diagonally across Amsterdam, (as I remember anyway). Imagine the NYCO playing even closer to the Met than they are now!

#39 volcanohunter

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 11:09 AM

The Met won't even take a chance to broadcast the new Chereau "House of the Dead", Chereau's debut at the house, in HD next year, one of two productions next season that go into Mortier turf, and that has Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting and Peter Mattei in the cast. And that's Janacek, for Pete's sake, not really cutting edge.

:clapping: I'm sure you're right, but I wonder whether the Met doesn't think of potential DVD releases when choosing what to broadcast in HD, and the Chéreau production is already available on DVD. Of course by that reasoning they shouldn't have bothered with the Laurent Pelly production of La Fille du régiment or the Caurier/Leiser production of Hamlet, but maybe different rules apply when Natalie Dessay is involved.

#40 dirac

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 05:41 PM

A new article on the state of play at the company, from The New York Observer. Comments?

George Steel has been general manager and artistic director of New York City Opera for exactly nine months now. In that time, he has thrown together an abbreviated but intriguing 2009-2010 season. He has brokered deals with the unions representing almost all of the company’s artistic staff, avoiding crippling strikes. He is on the verge of completing a major renovation of the company’s theater. He has tried to put City Opera’s tumultuous past two years behind it.

But despite his best efforts, Mr. Steel has faced opposition from the beginning of his short sprint to open his first season. A source with knowledge of the discussions told The Observer that this spring, an effort was mounted among former City Opera board members dissatisfied with Mr. Steel’s selection and the artistic and financial direction of the company to stage a coup on the City Opera board.



#41 Helene

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 09:54 PM

[Admin note: we got an edit and a reply caught in the cross-wires. Just to keep it straight}

Helene wrote:

[T]he idea of a board coup that would put Joseph Volpe in charge of New York City Opera is the biggest shock to my system since Brad Park went to the Boston Bruins and Phil Esposito and Derek Sanderson went to the NY Rangers.


bart replied:
It smacks of feuding over the body of an alleged loved-one right at a crucial stage of life-or-death surgery. According to the article, the Board rebels failed to get their funding. Are they surprised? Serious philanthropists and foundations must be running away from the NYCO Board -- both sides -- as from a plague. "With friends like this, who needs ... (etc.)?

#42 richard53dog

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 05:42 AM

[T]he idea of a board coup that would put Joseph Volpe in charge of New York City Opera is the biggest shock to my system since Brad Park went to the Boston Bruins and Phil Esposito and Derek Sanderson went to the NY Rangers.

It smacks of feuding over the body of an alleged loved-one right at a crucial stage of life-or-death surgery. According to the article, the Board rebels failed to get their funding. Are they surprised? Serious philanthropists and foundations must be running away from the NYCO Board -- both sides -- as from a plague. "With friends like this, who needs ... (etc.)?



It's miserable that this has been dredged up. It's six month old news but being aired close the the NYCO's Opening Night which is just about three weeks away. The focus at this point should be on the season that Steel has been able to pull together against great odds; and they need all the encouragement
they can get right now.

"With friends like this..." Exactly!

(I had heard a rumor from an opera board last spring that Volpe was being considered as GM of the NYCO but thought, "no......they wouldn't". Evidently the rumor had some substance to it)

#43 dirac

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 08:54 PM

A financial update.

Mortier earned a salary of $65,000 and "severance" of $335,000. City Opera hired Mortier in February 2007 when he was still helming the Paris Opera. He was expected to take up his position in New York in September 2009.

Instead, the Belgian celebrity never arrived and resigned in November 2008, saying City Opera's budget cuts amid the global financial crisis prevented him from fulfilling his vision. The severance payment, a surprise, appears on the return along with smaller payments to departing executives -- among them the artistic administrator, Robin Thompson, and the executive director, Jane Gullong.



#44 Jayne

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 07:37 PM

ok, so if you were king / queen of the world over at NYCO - what needs to be done? Assume the board backs you 100%, what would you do to "right the ship"?

#45 Canary

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 08:03 PM

As an aspiring opera singer who lives in New York, I find the troubles that NYCO is having troubling. I simply cannot believe that New York is not able to sustain more than one opera house. New York is considered to be a world capital of culture, but this title does not stand up to reality. St. Petersburg, Vienna, Berlin, Paris and London all have more than one opera house, in some cases up to three different opera houses, and by these I mean three fully functioning, each with its repertoire of operas, opera houses. Having only one opera house in N.Y, considering that it is the largest, most cultural city in the U.S, is very limiting. Where are the experimental, chamber operas? What about the singers? If you are not hired by the Met, which if you are not a world star is practically impossible, you do not have a job? The ideal situation is Vienna, where the Staatsoper is the big institution, the Kameroper is the smaller, more varied rep. opera house, the Volksoper has musicals and operettas mixed in with traditional rep. In New York it seems that the Met has absorbed everything else, but the Mets rep is not able to be varied. the big Italian classics dominate season after season, while operettas, zarzuelas, Baroque and lesser known chamber operas are rarely if ever presented. For artists it is also difficult because to build up their career they have to leave New York.


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