Cher Public

must… curtail… season…


“I don’t see how they could not close…There is a slight chance that they can remain open, but where would the money come from?”

That’s Robert W. Wilson, former New York City Opera chairman, deftly nabbing the takeaway quote from Robin Pogrebin‘s NYT analysis of what went wrong for the company.  And wait until you hear the horror stories of “endowment invasion!” [NYT]

  • longtimelistener

    Well FINALLY the Times is on the story. Thank you, thank you, thank you. The the City Opera should be near death without even a mention in the Times was shocking.

    Must say I agree with the take-away quote “Where would the money come from?” I think the story is a pretty fair report. As I have been saying for months, it’s not about George, Gerard, Susan or even (Saint) Robin Thompson it’s about the money.

    Sad, but there it is.

  • Where’s Alto?

    This is supposed to be the point at which Alto, for the hundredth time since last October, steps in and reminds us all what a GREAT job George Steel is doing.

  • This is some of the best reporting I’ve read in a while. It’s nice to see an article that lays it on the lines. I find it interesting to note the connection of Susan Baker to Goldman Sachs. She’s now associated with two sinking ships. And for a company struggling to sell tickets after an aborted season, reviving unknown or little known operas seems foolish. This would have been the one time I would have agreed had someone decided to do only warhorses (albeit in fresh productions).

  • Scott Rose

    It’s asinine that The New York Times describes Esther as “dissonant,” negatively, as if in sympathy with those critizing the decision to stage the work.

    And, Michael Bloomberg is said to be worth $16 billion. He funded Republican candidates around the state and the country who to this day are blocking civil rights.

    $16 billion, but he doesn’t care enough about New York City Opera to help it get back on its feet. A leader with vision could and would.

  • mrmyster

    Is this really great reporting? I am lazy right now so will not go to Google etc. to confirm this BUT I think I see some real errors:
    1. Is next season’s Esther the first since the original premiere? Wasn’t it done five or more years ago in a revised version, with success? I seem to recall that.
    2. Was the enlarged orchestra pit Mortier’s idea? I don’t think so -- it was in the works before M. ever came along.
    3. Morton Baum, not Mayor LaGuardia, was the real spark plug behind NYCO -- Yes, Fiorello endorsed it and helped it along, but Baum and one or two others associated with City Center really created the company — it was actually called City Center Opera at first.
    This is just off the top of my head, but some of you local NYC guys more familiar with NYCO can vett this and I’ll bet you find more errors — I did not think the piece held any real news, nor do I think it was helpful to the cause. That Wilson quote is sadly damaging. Wasn’t he the W. Va. coal magnate who offered forty millions, matching funds, for a move from Lincoln Center? Boy, has he switched sides.
    Human nature is not always at its best on opera boards, is it?

  • Alto

    I agree, Mr Myster, that Wilson:s obviously malicious statements are despicable.

    And, Drew, why should I come forward with the irrelevant line that you dictate? The article is in no sense a survey of George Steel:s work for the NYCO, which after all has not yet been on display.

    The article, of course, could have been written by a bright high school senior with a firm grip of search engines and a half dozen phone numbers.

  • ellerveira

    J D Florez doesn’t have any time for Mortier, either, so it would appear:

  • Will

    Mrmyster, Esther was NOT revived by NYCO fove or so years ago despite an announcement that it would come back. Paul Kellog, who had an unfortunate habit of announcing seasons for sale and then changing them, cancelled the much anticipated (by some of us at least) revival, citing extremely expensive choral rehearsals as the cause.

    I hadn’t been able to get to New York for the original run and was very disappointed at the cancellation. I am not aware of a production by another company but it could have happened--anybody know?

  • whatever

    > forcing the opera to abandon its regular fall and spring seasons

    wrong! and the author missed a real opportunity to point out what is arguably the most serious management miscalculation in this entire sad affair. the opera was forced to abandon the koch; abandoning the season — and all the ticket revenues that could have come with it — was a CHOICE.

    and — really — shouldn’t we all be forced to abandon the koch every now and again?!? >smirk<

  • MontyNostry

    ellerveira (no 7) … Mortier has plenty of time for Mortier, though. I saw him at a conference recently and he spent 45 minutes expounding half-digested gobbledegook on aesthetics in surprisingly clumsy French. Why the man continues to get these heavyweight appointments is a mystery to me. Surely he is a spent force.

  • mrmyster

    MontyNostry, “spent force!” I LOVE it!!! I shall put it to very good use, thank you! hee hee.
    OK, Will, thank you too; Esther was announced but then not done; I knew I remembered something about it.
    Whatever -- good point! That whole episode for NYCO was so poorly handled; once again the buck goes back to the board and Mrs Baker and like the New York crook bankers, she is still in place. They deserve whatever happens to them — alas the public will suffer.
    If Bloombeg could be gotten interested in the situation I have a feeling a city take-over (temporary) of NYCO would be the answer, and Bloomberg could very easily finance it. Fire the board, put in good new management and a decent new board, indemnify costs (losses) for three years, and see if they can make a go of it. “Sources” tell me that changes are coming at the Met Opera — severe budget reductions, the expensive Mr Gelb may have to go etc etc. He has NOT done done well, despite huge public relations efforts. You can’t run a house on a star system when there are only dimming comets.

  • perfidia

    Just let the poor thing die so people can stop gloating and/or picking on the poor corpse. So sad.

  • ellerveira

    MontyNostry, well if you look at JDF’s schedule he also seems to have plenty of time, months empty in fact, and many weeks in succession with no engagements, so his “tan ocupado” didn’t, let us say, convince me.

  • balabanov11

    most telling is the supposed info from Baker, where she offered to resign, but no, Michael Kaiser felt it was too important to have a leader (hehheh) at the helm of the board. What kind of message does it send when there isn’t even a modicum of change in the board, which is responsible for all these problems, while the rest of the company is being decimated/restructured.

    It’s time for this company to go the way of the dinosaur. If it can’t learn from it’s oh so many Board mistakes, something new needs to take it’s place. That won’t happen with the same old crap being repeated.

  • Harry

    The opera world is full of networking ‘business iceberg’ people relinquishing themselves of commitments, and exclaiming they are now ‘wishing to focus on new challenges’. Thanking people for all the supposed support ‘they personally felt they did not receive’. Wishing everyone the best, whilst knowing they are leaving a sinking ship which they do not certainly want to be associated with. Blissfully forgetting their inputs, probably lead, to decision -making that helped cause the imminent ‘sinking’. Mustn’t fuck up one’s own CV if one can help it. One then might not get a chance to screw up the next cultural enterprise one is asked to be part of. And the World of musical make believe rolls on…..

    It is not for the common people ‘the paying audiences’ to ask the elitist mutual self brown nosing Boards (‘producers’ not financing the show) what they are doing…..’but just watch their opera companies do, go bankrupt AND die’.

  • longtimelistener

    11. I can’t claim “sources” at the Met but I thought Gelb was on pretty strong ground after the 125th Gala which was widely reported as being breathtaking. What third rails remain to trip him up, (the new Rheingold, the return of Mary “La Somnabula” Zimmerman, Paolo Szot getting a really big pimple on his nose) are certainly on hold until next season. N’est-ce pas?

    If the saga of the City Opera and Dallas has shown us anything it is that it’s very difficult to fill that top position in an opera house. First a Frenchy (“I’m not a Frenchy, I’m a Belgie.”) and then a newbee in the head chair “to the left” of the Met shows the paucity of available talent.

    If you have an alternative candidate (not Domingo, puhlease!) please feel free to throw his or her name into the flaming goblet of fire.

  • mrmyster

    LongTime: I feel pretty certain the problem is NOT a lack of managerial talent — though to convince anyone of quality to take on NYCO just now would be a daunting task. There is lots of opera management talent around. No point throwing names into the pot because there is no fuel left to cook it. That board is out of gas, and I have to agree with those above who say it is extinction time. Let NYCO die, and then perhaps be reborn with a fresh board etc. That is likely the best course. It’s like Detroit — we give them all that money, but it’s the same old GM and Chrysler that will continue to be producing the unwanted cars; WHAT has been done to make it different? Nothing. Have you seen the GM ads for new cars coming in Sept. It is exactly the same product as the year before and the year before that — such is the case at NYCO. It must have a genuinely fresh start.
    Longtimelistener: Gelb is on anything but strong ground. He is an entirely “non-artistic” person in the sense of classical opera, and Levine, who might be expected to know about such matters, is much distracted by Boston — where surely his future lies. The Met has no artistic direction -- hence, the so-called “star system,” which is not working. Tristan without “stars” does not work in a “star” house. Over the worsening depression of the next two years or so (think 1932-1933), you may expect severely shortened Met seasons and a new General Manager who is a cost-cutter, and not a lot more. Right now we have a money spender, who is not a lot more. The Met is in a very dangerous situation and the board is restless. Or, so several board members tell me. That’s all I know. I don’t attend the Met personally any more, and don’t much care about it. The “new” Met was not built for artistic purposes; it was a Rockefeller real estate development and that has colored it’s history for half a century. How many times has Phil. Hall been rebuilt? And State Theatre? And the size of the Met needs shrinking by about 33% — the whole Lincoln Center configuration is problematic and needs huge changes. Sorry, but it’s true.

  • Almavivalasvegas

    Too many people think they should support the Met and not NYCO. But the Met needs NYCO as a training company of sorts. A lot of people who are singing at the Met today got their much needed professional start at NYCO. I could make you a long list of examples.

  • Alto

    *well if you look at JDF’s schedule he also seems to have plenty of time, months empty in fact, and many weeks in succession with no engagements, so his “tan ocupado” didn’t, let us say, convince me.*

    So, if they over-tax their voices, we rail interminably against them. If they take time off — which with their fees they can eminently afford to do — we tax them with that.

    As I have often said, I cannot envy these people, even when I admire them.