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Mortier to head New York City Opera

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Paris ballet fans must be in tears :) This news item was in the NYTimes this morning:

Gerard Mortier, one of the opera world’s pre-eminent modernizers, who made his mark over a quarter century with sometimes shocking, up-to-the-minute productions, will become general manager and artistic director of the New York City Opera in 2009.

Mr. Mortier, now the director of the much larger and more complex Paris National Opera, will succeed Paul Kellogg, who leaves in May as general and artistic director.

Any news of this in the French press, or word of a successor?

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Best of luck to Mr. Mortier in New York City - he is forced to retire in France, having attained the age limit set by the State for his position. His successor, Nicolas Joël (from Toulouse's Capitole), was announced a few months ago. But I believe Mortier will not be missed - he's received heavy criticism for his productions over the last few years.

If only he could take Brigitte Lefèvre, POB's artistic director, with him... :)

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A phone interview with Mortier, by David Watkin, reveals a number of new developments for NYCO.

One has to do with the talk that the Opera would be moving:

[ [ ... ] Mr. Mortier said he would halt the company’s intense and protracted effort to find a new home, which included failed attempts to move to Ground Zero and to a nearby site on Amsterdam Avenue. Instead, the company will stay put in the New York State Theater, whose stage was built for ballet, but will travel for performances elsewhere in the city. He said he had recently visited the Apollo Theater, the Hammerstein Ballroom and the Armory.

“I like to work with the things I have,” Mr. Mortier said. But he left open the possibility of a future move.

Another has to to do with the Opera's relationship with NYC Ballet:
Mr. Mortier also said he would seek collaborations with the New York City Ballet, which also performs at the State Theater and has historically had a tense relationship with the opera; reduce the number of productions; and move toward a “stagione” system, the more typically European arrangement in which one opera is presented at a time.
And then there's the question of museum v. modern:
Most of all, he said he would import his rigorously contemporary sensibility. “The most dangerous thing for opera is to make it something in a museum,” he said. “Even an old piece by Mozart has to tell us something about today. To be modern is to be sensitive to everything that happens around you.”

Mr. Mortier has relentlessly pushed to reconceive opera’s standard works for modern times. His influence, through the directors he has nurtured, has spread throughout Europe, helping make the current age of opera director-centric rather than diva-dominated.

“The New York City Opera has to go into a new direction,” he said. “If you don’t renovate, you disappear.”

It sounds like Mortier (and those who hired him) have been hard at work already. I've been out of the NYC Opera loop for a while. How does it strike those who spend a lot of time at the State Theater? -- brilliant? intriguing? predictable? scarey? :blush:

Here's the Link: Mortier Interview

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bart--thanks for posting this, it's fascinating. Of course, now that we see that 'even NYCO is all Lehman Brothers', we see something of what's happening in arts funding even in established organizations. But this article made me feel very strongly that, even though it sounded like Mortier might revamp NYCO, that it surely can do better. This was very good on detail, and I finished it thinking 'Good riddance!' I don't know if it will prevent a Glass opera about the life of Walt Disney, but NYCO should be able to do better than this kind of wheeling/dealing thing, what with leveraging all over the place, only to fail to get the ace in the hole, flight to safety in T-bills, or whatever you'd call it, at Bayreuth. Now 'maybe nobody wants him'. Other great artists figure out how to 'make do' (and sometimes very well) when they don't get all the money they demand, and I needn't name them.

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Other great artists figure out how to 'make do' (and sometimes very well) when they don't get all the money they demand, and I needn't name them.

It was not a case of Mortier "demanding" the money; he had been promised the 60 million by the board and that was among the terms of his contract. The board then decided he'd have to make do with 33 million, barely enough to cover a typical season at NYCO. The board broke the contract, not Mortier.

If they weren't going to get behind him and finance the deal he was promised, what was the point of his coming?

Susan Baker (Board Chairman) is quoted as saying the old style NYCO is "financially broken". It will take a major fundraising General/Artisitic Director the likes of Sills or Domingo to bail out the company. This is not a commodity thick on the ground, especially in these times.

I fear for the future of NYCO.

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If they weren't going to get behind him and finance the deal he was promised, what was the point of his coming?

None. And I'm glad he didn't. I can't imagine the board broke the contract for any reason but that they had no real choice, but I hadn't been aware of what he was like, artistically and personally, until this article. His solution, 'running a deficit on purpose, borrowing...' has the air of extravagance that does not work so well right now as it would have a year ago. There were probably clashes of egoes, and he could easily afford not to do it. Even if one 'fears for the future of NYCO', I don't think he would have worked. People do have to be flexible to survive right now, and there are various versions of asking for huge credit lines which are all being reversed from what they were before Lehman (including pulling them from people with perfect credit scores, etc), with all sorts of instruments being denied that were very easy to get and often granted without asking as recently as a few months ago.

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I took the "financial deficit" argument to be one last plea from Mortier to make this project he'd worked so hard on for almost a year work.

He may not have turned out to be a good fit but he may also have energized a company that has been positively morbid since the departure of Paul Kellogg.

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