Cher Public

Tony award

“For decades New York City Opera was a model of an organization with a clear mission. Now there may be no opera company, orchestra or ensemble more in need of a mission reboot…. Though Mr. Steel has brought tireless enthusiasm to City Opera and presented some exciting productions, he has been unable to give the company a clear profile.” [New York Times]

  • brooklynpunk

    It must have been an EXCEPTIONALLY slow news day, in the oerforming -arts realm, for Tony T to have to have felt the need to repeat all of these half-baked drecky theories and reviews, once again….


    • brooklynpunk

      …that should have read-“Performing-arts”….

    • Howling in Tune

      Actually, brooklynpunk, for opera (in the US, at least) the first weekend in June is always a slow news time.

      Come to think of it, is there any large-scale opera east of the Mississippi the first weekend in June other than the Spoleto Festival?

      Even west of the Mississippi, I think there’s only L.A., St. Louis and Fort Worth. (San Francisco’s season starts next weekend.) And the latter two deliberately schedule their seasons to be when things are slow elsewhere.

    • mirywi

      I believe the point is Gelb Hates Opera.

      • mrmyster

        miri -- I believe the point is, really, that Gelb does not know opera. I have never heard him enthuse about opera, only about certain productions. Sound
        about right?

  • Howling in Tune

    I’m sticking my neck out a bit by saying this, since there’s a big portion of the Parterriat that seems filled with rage toward George Steel, but here goes.

    I think it’s unfair for Mr. T. to criticize Steel at this point for not having given City Opera “an identity.” It’s too early. The company has been in emergency mode since before Steel got here, and the season just finished is the first one with a balanced budget in at least a decade.

    Think about how the vagabond season that just finished came about. Round about the time you’d normally expect a season announcement, there’s a big set of board meetings, and then the board chairman and Steel come out and say that they can afford a season budget of $15 million -- which means they can’t afford to stay at Lincoln Center. (Or, as it turned out, the existing contracts for a standing orchestra and chorus.)

    It sure looked to me like Steel got that budget figure only a few days before the rest of us did, and only then could he go out and throw together a season -- including finding venues.

    How can we expect City Opera to have any artistic “identity” now, when it’s only just crawling out of triage?

    You might or might not like the way Steel played his cards, but you have to acknowledge that circumstances (and the City Opera board) gave him a horrible set of cards to play.

    Now that Steel and the board know what they have to work with in terms of a sustainable budget, they can really start focusing on what kind of opera company they want to make with that budget. After a few years, then we can fairly start kvetching about what kind of identity Steel (or any successor) is giving New York City Opera.

    • Howling in Tune

      Speaking of Mr. T, our formidable doyenne and the cher public are hereby invited to Photoshop an image of Anthony Tommasini with a mohawk and lots of bling.

    • operaguy

      I have to agree. I don’t think Steel was a good choice, but he has been fighting fires since he arrived. I think, like his colleague across the plaza, he lacks the experience in opera production and the love of and knowledge of opera to be an eciting GM, but he does at least seem to know the meaning of a budget.

    • Le Jester

      Dear Howling,
      I must disagree with your observation that it is unfair to criticize Steel for not having given NYCO an identity. Didn’t it already have an identity well before he arrived? True it may have had some extraordinary challenges in front of it, but I believe these could have been sucessfully addressed by a competent leader with a historical perspective. Steel is a bad manager and an egotist. A good manager with a solid respect for the history of the organization, and an ability to acknowledge mistakes of the past had a fighting chance to stay at Lincoln Center and recruit sufficient financial support to ensure its continued survival. Unfortunately, Mr. Steel is not the man for the job and NYCO is now forced into the ignominous position of wandering the desert for 40 days and 40 nights if not longer.
      Le Jester

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    How nice of the NYT to provide so much space for that man to say absolutely nothing people do not know already. Perhaps it’s part of the silent agenda to have Francesca Zambello replace Peter Gelb.

  • Bosah

    I think people here assume they’re the only ones reading the NYT. The article was interesting and informative, especially for people not regularly following the issue -- which would be most people.

    Sometimes I wonder if some people here would rather not see any articles or coverage of opera in the mainstream press. This sort of dovetails with my observation that the great 30-minute HBO documentary following a masterclass with Fleming got no mention here by anyone, either. Why is that? It’s an interesting question. I mean, how often does a major network spotlight pure opera singing? Why don’t we want these things covered in a way that is accessible?

    Yes, I’m generalizing and I apologize in advance for that. But it’s something that has perplexed me for a while.

    • brooklynpunk


      With all due respects to you… this sort ( this current TT article) of journalistic masturbation really drives me up the friggin walls….

      Do you really think that “most people” who read this ad-nauseum re-hashing of re-hash have not “been regularly following the issues”, from day One?--REALLY??

      This sort of paper-wasting nonsense comes across--TO ME-- as the same sort of “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” that we are victims of, from the neanderthal opponents of the current Presidential Administration who, regardless of the solutions attempted/ the magnitude of the original crisis/the relatively short period that the solutions have been put in place/ just want to kvetch--without any real or practical suggestions of their own-- in some ways, the mess City Opera and our Nation find themselves in , (at least financially--and from an equally inept prior Administration) are similar-- and require time--and hard work- to make right again

      • ianw2

        I dunno BP. I think end-of-season evaluations are very common, particularly as they fall in the arts news lull between season end and festivals start. There probably would’ve been a similar piece about the Met had Gelb not imploded over Opera News at the same time as the season wrapped up.

        • brooklynpunk


          You’re probably right--


          If I have to read --ONE MORE TIME-- about “The People’s Opera/Mayor La Guardia/ “The good old days”/--I am going to--SCREAM…!!!!

      • Bosah

        I appreciate your point, and it does seem old and rehashed since we’re following it, but yes, I do really believe that a lot of people reading this won’t have been following the issue. People are busy. They probably had some idea, but not like they’ll read here. Of course, I could be wrong, but that’s my impression. Maybe I might have a different perspective because a lot of my friends are casual opera fans who wouldn’t know most of this.

        Anyway, whether I’m right or not, I’d rather have it on the media radar than completely off, and let’s face it, they can’t write a thesis or a white paper for the opera crowd. ;)

      • Howling in Tune

        I gather that what Bosah means is that the readership of the arts pages of The New York Times includes a lot more people than just those of us who care so much about opera that we hang out at Parterre Box for the sole purpose of talking about it. Many of those other readers may not have been following the sad saga of City Opera since day one.

        But yes, brooklynpunk, we can see that this sort of journalistic masturbation really drives you up the friggin walls…

        Actually, this sort of journalistic masturbation has a name. “Thumb-sucker” is the term of art I’ve seen used for the genre.

        Sometimes a thumb-sucker’s purpose is to make a statement that, though obvious, the world-at-large expects a major newspaper to make. (For example, the City-Opera-is-important-to-New-York-but-it’s-now-in-peril-and-we-must-all-hope-that-it-gets-better column that Mr. T. has written in the Times a couple of times already.) Smart writers, editors and readers all know that thumb-suckers of that type are dull, but if the Times didn’t run one every so often after reporting all the bad news about City Opera, many people would conclude that the Times was rooting for City Opera to fail. (There are people who think that anyway.)

        And sometimes thumb-suckers get written and published because it really is a slow news week, but the paper is getting published anyway and something has to go into that space.

        Thumb-suckers may drive some of us up the friggin walls, but they’re a minor-but-necessary evil.

  • ianw2

    “What matters,” he said, “are sold-out houses and balanced budgets.”

    No, what matters is presenting good work and an artistic vision. Of course you can’t do that if you’re bankrupt, but balancing the budget should never be the raison d’etre of an opera company.

    I banged on about it at the time, but I wish NYCO’s decision to roam around the city was based on artistic, not financial, motivations. I love the idea of really being part of the city, but of course they did it for all the wrong reasons.

  • paddypig

    I miss the nyco of the late 70s and early 80s when they were at their best. The problem recently was similar to the problem Gelb has, NYCO did too many new operas in regie productions which the critics may have creamed their pants over but the average operagoer had not interest in. In their prime nyco offered a real alternative the MET not just in price. In addition to solid standard rep with younger or established american singers such as Soviero, Rita Shane, Linda Kelm, Jon Fredric West in standard and often more beautiful productions. The Turandot, which I believe was the discarded Rome Opera production which had originally been done for Nilsson in Rome was gorgeous. They were adventurous in that they would do the complete Alfano ending some seasons or the original Butterfly as presented at the premiere. Though occassionally scheduling was wierd. (NYCO and the MET both doing LA TRAVIATA on the same night), they were a real alternative. Then there were the rarities. In addition to the three Donizetti queens, we saw Pearl Fishers, a stunning CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN, Martha, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HARVEY MILK (BORING) MOURNING BECOMES ELEKTRA,The fabulous Handel opera productions for Lorraine Hunt and
    David Daniels We also got to see many MET stars cross the plaza to do roles the MET would not mount for them. Milnes in HAMLET and Grace Bumbry in Nabucco and Medea, The Saint of Bleeker Street was wonderful. They also were successful with some of their broadway musical attempts, most notably A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC and Sweeney Todd and of course their production of PORGY AND BESS was infinitely superior to the MET’s produciton. They knew that the standard rep in realistic productions was their bread and butter and paid for the more adventurous rep, as did offering real International stars such as Bumbry, Milnes and De Los Angeles a chance to do roles that the MET was unwilling to give them. Remember when Renata Scotto directed a lovely LA TRAVIATA with Janice Taylor, NYCO was doing a new ROSENKAVALIER the next season. Scotto had recently added the Marchaillain to her repertoire. NYCO missed the boat beginning then by not inviting her to do it as she had hoped to. NYCO if they are to revive themselves needs to develop a simillar mix and at more realistic prices they have charged in the past few years if they are going to revive. I also remember, because I worked with them, when LAKE GEORGE OPERA was a real viable summer festival with an eight week season of six or seven productions in rep with singers like soviero, henry price, donnie ray albert, mary beth piel, etc . I miss NYCO but have little hope that it will ever come back.

    • calaf47

      “Remember when Renata Scotto directed a lovely LA TRAVIATA with Janice Taylor”

      The soprano was Janice Hall…and there was a PBS “Live from Lincoln Center”.

      • And the production was anything but lovely: when I saw it the first season the set for Act 2 scene 1 wasn’t even finished, and the whole thing altogether looked like it cost about $500. (This is besides the fact that Scotto really isn’t an opera director: what she created amounted to a provincial revival from the 1950s, complete with unison swaying hoop skirts.)

  • zinka

    Let us name all the absolutely marvelous artists who graced the stage of City Opera…the old house and the new…My God…the list is phenomenal..Some made the Met,others did not,but today they would be like La Scala of 1940 compared to what we see today(Are you jaded again,Charlie??).Try these:

    Arlene Saunders,Norman Treigle,Chester Ludgin,Gloria Lane,Camilla Williams,Frances Bible, Norman Treigle,Marisa Galvany, Olivia Stapp, Sam Ramey,Robert Hale, Johanna Meier….need I go on???????????????????

    • mrmyster

      Zinka, please do not overlook NYCO’s Dorothy Kirsten, Placido Domingo, John
      Alexander … yes, you do need to go on a bit!

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      Don’t forget Norman Treigle!

  • rysanekfreak

    Marianna Christos! People criticized her for sounding too much like Maria Callas. Margarita in Mefistofele was my favorite role of hers.

    • mrmyster

      Mariana Christos!! What became of her? I recall her roles in the early years
      of the St louis opera, ranging from Donna Anna (she was not mature enough),
      to Suzanne in Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s ‘The Secret of Suzanne,” said secret being,
      of course, that she smoked cigarettes. This was pre-Bloomberg naturally! Anyone know what Christos is doing these days?

      • Arianna a Nasso

        Christos died six years ago.

        • CruzSF

          No wonder people love her.

          • Regina delle fate

            Haha Cruz!

        • mrmyster

          Thanks Arianna, very sorry to hear it. She was
          capable of excellent work and seemed to have
          a strong future. I saw/heard nothing of Callas
          in her, however. I saw Marianna perform in
          duet with Evelyn Petros; they were wonderful

  • Henry Holland


    Mr. Steel initially spoke of doing a new production of Ginastera’s “Don Rodrigo,”

    Hahahaha, there goes the string of consecutive sellouts if they did that, though I’d do whatever I could to travel 3,000 miles to hear it live. And Bomarzo too……

    As for the NYCO 2012/13 season, Powder Her Face is a good choice in Feb. 2013, it might get a boost from the Met having staged Adès The Tempest in Oct./Nov. 2012. Never been to BAM, the venue seems too big for that and The Turn of the Screw, the space Britten great opera is done in needs to be claustrophobic, not a place you strain to hear a 13-piece orchestra.

    In a way, NYCO reminds of Los Angeles Opera, both companies having done some stellar work in the past > bad decisions > reduced circumstances. I’ve had some great nights at the State Theater, the production of Die Tote Stadt in the late 2000’s with John Horton Murray having no problem singing Paul was a highlight, as was Achim Freyer’s production of Moses und Aron in the early 90’s. It was also nice to hear the original Madama Butterfly, it was obvious to me why Puccini revised it so heavily.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

  • m. p. arazza

    “It must have been an EXCEPTIONALLY slow news day…”

    Although this piece was published online on Friday, in the print edition it’s part of the Sunday Arts & Leisure section (distributed to home delivery subscribers, of course, on Saturday). These distinctions, whether or not they mean anything anymore, are almost totally lost if you read the paper online. At any rate, in the Times I grew up with, reviewers regularly used their Sunday columns to repeat, often near-verbatim, what they’d already written during the week. For whatever reason, it’s as if a Sunday piece was supposed to be a recap.

  • Mairsydoats

    I think his main point, that there is no New York City Opera is a good one. I just about tore the marketing director a new one a few months ago when he told me that Steel makes about what Kellog made because the “administrative burden” of producing 4 operas is the same as Kellogs when he was producing 16! Face it folks, New York City Opera is now “The George Steel Enrichment Society.” There are better producers, better artistic directors and certainly better frontmen.

  • efrayer

    City Opera or Met Opera--try these tips for stylishly cuddling at the opera