Cher Public

Opera Boston shuts doors

According to  a statement issued this morning, Opera Boston is ceasing operations as of January 1. [Boston.com]

  • whatever

    “Page not found”

    Hope boston.com got this wrong … this would be very sad news indeed.

    • whatever

      alas, this does indeed appear to be the case:

      http://www.boston.com/Boston/culturedesk/2011/12/opera-boston-closes-down/MDom3aXpy6Qt79t98MFCmI/index.html?p1=News_links

      (hope i inserted the link correctly.)

      what terrible news for opera, for boston, and for the artists and staff.

      my partner and i have enjoyed a number of visits to The Hub to take in productions there; we were particularly impressed with the Pulizter Prize winning world premiere of Madam White Snake.

      i will say: it always struck me as odd that a city boston’s size had two similarly-sized (and styled) opera companies; i wonder if there’s any chance of somehow combining with BLO?

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Combine with BLO ? Probably not a chance in Hell. Boston has always been a city with unstable opera companies. If only the formidable Sarah Caldwell were still in good health and at the hight of her powers -- but the grave prevents things like that from ever happening. Condolences to the staff people there are losing their jobs, especially at this time of year.

  • Will

    whatever, they really weren’t styled similarly. From the beginning, OB was more adventurous, more exploratory in repertory. Their wildly satirical, beautifully acted, sung and played production of The Nose scooped the MET by a year. Nixon in China was a superb production, and their world premiere Madam White Snake won the Pulitzer prise.

    They also presented a healthy amount of bel canto and, in addition to standard repertory. The two productions this season now canceled — The Midsummer Marriage by Tippett and Capuletti/Montecchi by Bellini perfectly illustrates the range of opera we got from OB.

    Boston Lyric Opera has its own vision, values, and approach to repertory and but is slowly becoming more adventurous — perhaps goaded a bit by OB’s success, ironically. They have instituted an experimental series in whatever venue is suitable for the work at hand; this year they’re producing Davies’ The Lighthouse. Still OB is a deeply sad loss.

    • whatever

      historically, i’d agree with this — but BLO seems to me evolving a bit under its new leadership. i’ve attended several of their site-specific performances … i suppose compared to the company’s history they could be called experimental — here in manhattan we’d probably call them “tuesday”.

      besides, with today’s news the hypothetical takes on an added dimension.

  • Will

    whatever, they really weren’t styled similarly. From the beginning, OB was more adventurous, more exploratory in repertory. Their wildly satirical, beautifully acted, sung and played production of The Nose scooped the MET by a year. Nixon in China was a superb production, and their world premiere Madam White Snake won the Pulitzer prise.

    They also presented a healthy amount of bel canto and, in addition to standard repertory. The two productions this season now canceled — The Midsummer Marriage by Tippett and Capuletti/Montecchi by Bellini perfectly illustrates the range of opera we got from OB.

    Boston Lyric Opera has its own vision, values, and approach to repertory but is slowly becoming more adventurous — perhaps goaded a bit by OB’s success, ironically. They have instituted an experimental series in whatever venue is suitable for the work at hand; this year they’re producing Davies’ The Lighthouse. Still OB is a deeply sad loss.

  • The demise of Opera Boston was entirely predictable.

    We attended Opera Boston’s “Der Freischütz” in 2008, “Tancredi” in 2009, and “Fidelio” in 2010, and the performances were so poor musically and theatrically that they were painful to endure.

    It was apparent that the company had fatal attendance problems. We always attended on Sunday afternoons, and only “Fidelio” had a respectable audience in what was a very small theater. We were told that the Friday evening and Tuesday evening audiences were even smaller than the Sunday matinee audiences.

    About a year ago, some uninformed person came on here and wrote about how lavishly-funded the company was, and how sizable were the company’s audiences. He had not a clue what he was talking about, and at the time I tried to correct the misinformation he was offering.

  • Constantine A. Papas

    Cleveland Opera went out of business; now Boston. Are Met’s HD telecasts killing regional opera companies?

    • kennedet

      Yes they are. Thanks for addressing a subject that has been debated, argued and will never be resolved. This is the price of progress. Seniors have told me that they will never pay for a year’s subscription to an opera company when they can go to the movies and pay $25 and see the nasal hairs of the singers.The Met announcer states that the audience should support their local opera company but it’s to no avail. Thankfully, there are many who will do both but not enough to keep the opera companies solvent. It should be stated that there is no equivalent to a live performance and all the technical and HD broadcasts will never triumph over it.

      • warmke

        Sweeping generalizations are dangerous, as are inaccurate time lines, although I love both when writing passionately as well. The companies mentioned above were in serious trouble for severe structural and financial problems that existed before the Met HD broadcasts came to be; anecdotal remarks by seniors prove nothing. Met HD broadcast haven’t sunk regional opera, a thousand factors have made it increasingly expensive to produce during a difficult recession. There has been a parallel collapse in orchestras not explained by the Met. Only the fittest survive, and the companies mentioned made disastrous mistakes with general management, most simply being the tendency among arts managers to deny that the situation is critical and prepare for the worst. Universities and other non-profits saw this coming years in advance and prepared for it, several provincial opera managers (not always the brightest bunch) kept putting out the deck chairs on the Titanic. Let’s not blame everything on Peter Gelb.

        • warmke

          Lol -- I know I will get my ass kicked on that one, so let me parenthetically insert that I also know regional opera managers who are quite brilliant at mastering the wide range of skills needed to keep the companies afloat. Some of the recent fiascos weren’t being led by junior Einsteins, however. I don’t count Boston, not knowing the participants, and have much sympathy for what they were trying to do.

        • kennedet

          Your convictions are correct Warmke. Obviously responsible management is at the forefront of any organization. By no means do i mean to imply that the Met Broadcasts are responsible for the total demise of opera companies. There are past articles in the NY times that quote opera managers who state that the broadcasts have not helped. I have no way of knowing if these managers are incorrect in their assesment. However, I don’t believe “only the fittest” survive. There are too many unforseen circumstances that can absolutely demolish opera companies.

  • dallasuapace

    For 50 years or so we’ve usually had at least two opera companies in Boston, and they come and go. BLO used to be the secondary company and then they became the primary one when Sarah Caldwell’s company finally ceased operations. BLO is often very mediocre, not worth bothering with IMHO. Opera Boston did some interesting things, and lots of things not so interesting.

  • parpignol

    could be NYCO next, which would surprise nobody. . .
    Boston has never quite managed to make it as an important opera city; it’s a small town of course, and the BSO, perhaps together with the MFA, have managed to corner established sponsorship and funding for symphony and museum in such a way that opera (and ballet too) has always been struggling to make it. . . on the other hand, I will say that such companies as Boston Baroque and Boston Cecilia and Emmanuel Music made Boston into quite an amazing place to discover Handel’s operas and oratorios. . .

    • aulus agerius

      Personally I thought the Tancredi (with Podles, Forsythe and Manucharyan) had very high musical standards and the production was interesting as well. I didn’t notice the Cutler Majestic theater being particularly small but I did notice the fine acoustics and admired it generally.

      • parpignol

        I don’t mean that there has not been some great stuff in Boston, going back to Caldwell days, just that opera enterprises have struggled for funding and stability, and it’s never become a securely institutionalized part of Boston cultural life. . .

      • semira mide

        Agreed! That Tancredi was worthy of Pesaro -- ok, the production was a tad nuts -- somehow having to work in the soprano’s obvious pregnancy into the plot was probably a challenge. But Podles and Forsythe gave Boston something memorable. Rossini would have been delighted. The Met’s Armida should have been as well done.

        • Will

          Like all companies, OB had its flops. But its successes were very real and in some cases significant.

          New England has now lost the Connecticut Opera, The Granite State Opera and now Opera Boston. Opera North (also in NH) is struggling to survive after the destruction of all its costume, prop and scenic stock during the severe Hurricane Irene floods. The loss to the region is serious and it will be years, if ever, before there will be recovery.

  • Nerva Nelli

    This happened so quickly that the artists engaged for The Tippett in February did not get warned before this press release went out. A real shame.

    Lest we forget, Baltimore Opera and Orlando Opera have also gone under.

    • Arianna a Nasso

      And Opera Pacific. Though it, Baltimore, Orlando, and Connecticut all shut rather quickly after the Great Recession hit hard. It’s rather surprising that it’s taken so long for another regional company of stature to close. Wonder if this means we’re starting a new wave of company closures.

      If so, what will this mean for young singers? Will fewer enter the field? Will more drop out sooner when they can’t get enough work?

  • Bluessweet

    This just demonstrates that opera is what closes on Saturday Night…at least these days.

    Philly is down to three performances PER YEAR in the Academy and two small venue additions at the Perlman.

    There is an absolute ton of young singers who want to perform. Just in my region, I see Rutgers, Westminster, TCNJ, Temple, Curtis, AVA and perhaps even West Chester, all filled with aspiring singers.

    Unfortunately, I do not find an equivalent number of aspiring audience members. I am usually looked at with about the same interest that Jo-Jo, the two headed boy inspires, when I talk about my interest in and enthusiasm for opera.

    If the crowd in the venue where I attend the Met’s broadcasts is any criteria, in ten years there will be no problem at all…the audience will all be dead or in continuing care, and that includes this writer.

    None of my offspring, grandchildren or great grandchildren, sisters, cousins or aunts are interested.

    Operetta is a dead thing in this country and, except for a very few musicals (oh the HORROR, musicals!) the only things that play are Walt Disney extravaganzas or Wicked or some rock and roll kind of presentation. R&R is here, it seems, to stay.

    But really I do wish…

    Happy Holidays to all.

    • Will

      Cast properly, Sondheim revivals are doing quite well, at least from what information reaches me.

  • kennedet

    Happy Holidays to you also.Thanks for your very insightful comments.

    The essential act of introducing opera at the early stage of a child’s development in the school setting is the only saving grace for opera. If it is not introduced in the home, the schools are our only salvation. Many will not like it but those that do will either pursue it as a vocation,advocation or will be our future audience. It’s devastating to realize that the simple act of not teaching classical vocal music would cause this state of affairs. There was a time when classical music was the only music taught in the school system. It should be a mandatory part of every primary school’s curriculum.

    • Will

      Not, sadly, when one of our major political parties has a vendetta going against the arts, wants to completely eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, and wants to cripple the educational system in this country because it knows an educated, literate electorate is not its friend. I’m too discreet to name any names.

  • tancredipasero

    Kennedet is exactly right -- there is no substitute for early childhood education. It doesn’t even have to be opera per se -- any kind of active musical training will do; it opens up the ears and gives an ability to process music that very few people can acquire later in life. The kid who has learned to play an instrument, even at a basic level, or has sung in a choir and learned to read music, is then in a position to react to whatever strikes the fancy in adolescence or adulthood. It’s sad but true that people who don’t have this early exposure usually don’t “hear” in a meaningful way anything much beyond a beat and a tune -- maybe just the beat. There are exceptions, but damn few. Right, it should be mandatory (want to know why US and European orchestras today are full of Koreans? It’s mandatory there -- god bless them!). Not to mention that it tends strongly to improve math scores, etc etc

  • toitoitoi

    The Met broadcasts (and I include the HD) can only do good for classical music; not everyone is fortunate enough to live within driving distance of a decent opera company, much less a great one. One can’t reasonably decry the lack of musical education as an ongoing threat to support of the arts, then say that the Met is killing regional companies with its HD performances. The villain here is the economy, and the cuts people have had to make not only in their charitable giving but in their discretionary spending. Add to that the fact that managing a small nonprofit is no easy thing, particularly if management isn’t focused on keeping a grip on the bottom line. Audience creation is key; EVERY conservatory, college, and university had better get cracking and send students to public schools to do Intro To Classical Music programs -- and for cheap or nothing, since that’s what schools can afford these days. Make outreach performance a part of their required curriculum. Point out to the students that they’re buttering their own (eventual) bread by helping to create an audience for their art.