Cher Public

An unknown object draws us

Could there possibly be any more providential day of the year for New York City Opera to announce their Annual Fall Vintage Event?

  • Harold

    He has taken an opera company and turned it into a thrift shop. I never would have thought it possible. NYCO should be put out of its misery.

  • almavivante

    Now, don’t get me wrong, what he’s done with/to City Opera is deplorable, but in all fairness, the New York City Opera Thrift Shop has been around for quite some time, on East 23rd Street. Not bad stuff on offer, either, though not as nice as HousingWorks.

    • brooklynpunk


      Sorry--I didn’t mean to step on your toes--i didn’t see that ya beat me to it, by a!

      • almavivante

        Great minds think alike.

  • brooklynpunk


    NYCO has had a retail Thrift Store, for fund-raising purposes, on 23rd Street (I think…?) for MANY MANY MANY years-- way pre-dating Mr. Steel’s reign do a number of non-profit Hospitals (Sloan-Kettering) , social-service agencies ( HousingWorks-which is a people with AIDs advocacy organization), among other needy and important non-profit groups..

    What ever one’s feelings concerning the current managment/situation of NYCO-- the least problematic/questionable should be their need for funds-which Organizational thrift shop operations can be a quick and profitable source.

    • brooklynpunk

      ..I should have also inclused such well-known operations , such as The Salvation Army/Good-Will/Oxfam Thrift Stores. While those are not “Arts ” organizations, the Stores DO a major aount of fund-raising for their respective organizations.

      I firmly believe that whatever it takes to keep the gelt flowing in, is a valid option--hey, i would offer to bake cup-cakes, for a NYCO bake-sale, if it would keep the Company alive..LOL!

  • Benedetta Funghi-Trifolati

    Are “this year’s selections” costumes taken from the former productions that are now being discarded, sold-off, dumped? What a sad, sad end to a once great and exciting Company. It’s like watching a slowly dying endangered rhino having it’s horn cut off by poachers. Shame on the Board and Administration who are giving public Master Classes in ineptitude and mismanagement.

  • DonCarloFanatic

    If I live long enough, surely I will see lots of “What were they thinking?” articles about the destruction of the NYCO we are currently witnessing piece by piece. I suppose all the records will go next, in a deliberate effort to deny and obliterate the NYCO’s sometimes glorious past. The costumes, the sets, the musicians, the grand vision, all going, going, gone.

    • brooklynpunk


      ” I suppose all the records will go next, in a deliberate effort to deny and obliterate the NYCO’s sometimes glorious past”

      With all due respect to you-seriously..

      ..isn’t that comment JUST A TAD BIT overly melodramatic?

      A vast amount of NYCO past castings/production info/visual and audio clips/ is available to the public either on the ‘net-- , in the collections of The New York Public Library for The Performing Arts/Lincoln Center/ or in a number of books / memoirs, by former members of the Company.

      There is one that I have in my own library at home ( I can’t recall the title/author, AT THE MOMENT) that details , fairly extensively, the history of the Company, from it’s beginnings up thru quite a number of years that they called Lincoln Center home.

      In other words..even if, for some bizarre reason-and for no valid purpose, someone at the current NYCO wanted to “obliterate” past history-- t would be impossible to do so.

      • DonCarloFanatic

        That’s reassuring to know.

        • atalaya

          The rumor last yeas was that NYCO was going to throw away its archives. A blogger wrote about it -- mentioning that two former NYCO archivists had told him what was about to occur. The blog write-up is here:

          The post generated a lot of attention (rightly so). Shortly thereafter NYCO announced that it would be preserving its archives.

          Now considering this latest story -- where Steel had planned to throw out the NYCO productions without telling the public and didn’t even think such destruction merited a story -- one can wonder if the rumor regarding the archives was true. Steel later claimed -- when asked -- that the archives would be saved. Of course, this was all after the outcry.

          Just like now he knows, because of the public focus, he needs to get rid of the productions “in the best possible way” as opposed to quietly trashing them, which seemed to be his previous plan.

          Assuming NYCO does have the archives in its new offices, it would not be a surprise if Steel does decide to trash a good deal of what’s there (if it hasn’t already happened) without telling anybody. And yes, he has completely earned this level of distrust.

  • almavivante

    It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that I don’t have an answer to the question I’m about to pose, but here goes: Forget everything GS has done since assuming the reins of City Opera. He gets hit by a bus on the way home tonight. He’s gone. Outta here. A bad smell that is now history. YOU are hired immediately to fill the vacancy. What’s your plan? What’s the first thing you do? The second? The third? What can you realistically project for, say, three seasons down the road? I repeat: I myself have no answers to these questions, as my days as an arts administrator are long over (and it wasn’t in a music organization, anyway). But to crib a term from our doyenne, the cher public is never at a loss to make suggestions, be they from the backseat or the safety of cyberspace. I would be eager to hear them.

    • DonCarloFanatic

      Great question. Others surely can answer in more detail, and with more knowledge than I possess, but I’ll give it a shot.

      My gut says first find someone who is popular with the people who have lots of money. Our sainted Bubbles cannot have been the only person in history who could make a rich person part with a dime. Fund-raising is absolutely key.

      Second, find someone with an understanding of opera who has the talent to shape a new and grand company. That’s a tall order, but it’s not impossible.

      Third, get concessions from the city of New York, just as a baseball team would, for cheaper use of a suitable venue, rebuilding, etc. No, the arts are not supported by public revenues in a big way, not like football teams, but there is still some snob appeal in mounting an ambitious art venue in what many consider the greatest city in the world. I wouldn’t mind some Bregenz-style craziness along the Hudson, myself.

      And after that it’s a matter of luck and persistence and offering deals to the opera singers who have to wait five years to go sing at the Met. The current system would allow a new NYCO to grab all the wonderful up-and-comers--exactly as the old NYCO did. That’s where we heard Domingo and Sill and Ramey first in NYC.

      Good enough for a start? Big enough vision? Impossible? Maybe, but then again, dream big and big dreams can come true.

      • Porpora

        Offering deals to opera singers who have to wait five years to go sing at the Met? This sounds like a decent plan, one that would entail NYCO returning to LIncoln Center. Why? Location, location, location. The way for the artists mentioned to get noticed -- Sill’s, Ramey, Domingo etc- was to be toe-to-toe with the Met.

    • My “plan” involves a different set of circumstances. In this fantasy scenario, I’m the new chairman of the board for the company, and what I would do is to scout young, smart impresarios who are currently presenting interesting opera (wherever they are) and who also have some savvy in the necessary but yucky task of fundraising. If it came down to a choice between an artistic genius of an impresario who was an idiot about money and a competent AD who was a whiz at talking up donors, I’d go with the genius and hire the fundraiser/talking head as a separate position with whatever title was necessary.

      I really do believe passionately that the success of an arts organization is primarily due to the art, not the organization. The public will come (if not sooner, then later) to brilliant art, even if the presentations make it to the stage on a shoestring and a tantrum. They are not going to flock to mediocre or unimaginative art because the company’s balance sheet is in the black.

      The problem is that (as in the case with Beverly Sills) the person who is so brilliant about getting the money the company needs is also going to want to be in charge of the artistic side of the process, and that is where NYCO stumbled badly under her leadership. There were certainly a lot of very good singers with the company at that time, but in general neither particularly exciting music-making or innovative production. (To be sure, after the first couple of years, Paul Kellogg’s artistic direction wasn’t particularly brisk either, and then, as we draw nearer to the present…)

      • Krunoslav

        “The problem is that (as in the case with Beverly Sills) the person who is so brilliant about getting the money the company needs is also going to want to be in charge of the artistic side of the process, and that is where NYCO stumbled badly under her leadership.”

        Cieca, are you meaning to imply that City Opera’s doing THE RED MILL and MARTHA for Shirley Silverman’s mahjong circle to enjoy was an artistic mis-step?

        • Well, to tell the truth, the operettas and musicals didn’t bother me so much. They could have been a good deal better performed, true, but the presence in the repertoire was not objectionable. There is (or anyway was) an audience for this kind of fare which wasn’t being done anywhere else around New York in a large-scale way, and the idea of a city’s “second” opera house doing classic vernacular musical theater is based on a successful and time-tested German model.

          No, I would say that in a way Sills’s failure is the same genre of failure as Peter Gelb’s: a lack of imagination about how to present the standard repertoire in an exciting way. When she produced Moses und Aron, Cunning Little Vixen or even something like X, I think Sills was doing the relatively easy part of an impresario’s programming job quite well. I would even argue that putting on Sherrill Milnes in Hamlet and Grace Bumbry in Medea is smart casting and programming in a sort of reactive mode (i.e., the Met’s not doing this, so we will.)

          The more difficult part of the job, though is casting, conducting, designing and directing a can’t miss Rigoletto or Carmen or Don GIovanni, because in a big theater doing more than a hundred performances a year, there’s going to have to be a lot of bread and butter rep. These generally sold okay, but they were also generally dreary and provincial, the kind of performance where the best thing you could say about the experience was “at least the theater wasn’t dark last night.”

          If I had to devise an acid test for an impresario, it would be to find a way to get audiences into the theater and excited for the day-to-day programming. Mortier seemed poised to do a sort of end run around this standard as he was planning to position the NYCO as a sort of festival-in-perpetuity. But certainly that would be infinitely better than week-long stints of an undercast, underproduced Traviata that you have to take the G train to find.

          • Arianna a Nasso

            La Cieca raises a good point. At one time, NYCO could offer a different production style in standard rep compared to the Met (the Corsaro Traviata, the minimalist Lamos Butterfly, the updated Tosca), but Gelb’s movement from Zeffirelli, Del Monaco mammoth realism changes the playing field. Forming more allegiances with certain artists as Kellogg did with Delavan and Flanigan, and Sills and Rudel did with many before, might be the key -- “I loved Lauren Flanigan’s Lady Macbeth last season, let’s see what she does with Violetta.”

          • thevicar

            a can’t miss don giovanni? like the alden production steel staged in 2009?

      • almavivante

        Well put, Cieca. Your alternate scenario is sound, and I appreciated your response. Do we have any nominees for the post-Beverly Sills rainmaker position?

        And to Krunoslav, dare I admit that I succumbed to a guilty pleasure when NYCO revived several operettas during the Sills era. Yes, the productions were forgettable, but I did enjoy hearing Martha and The Desert Song again. I worry, however, what next season’s Perichole will look like, though I’m eager to have it back on the boards after so many years.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    But Eric Hagmueller (who signed the cover letter) is a good guy and a survivor of the old City Opera.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Happy early Columbus Day! Did Marry McDaniel ever sing with NYCO? He is wonderful in this recording. I wonder why it is hardly ever performed.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      Sorry -- Barry McDaniel -- not Marry.

      • Krunoslav

        Barry McDaniel did not sing at NYCO, but he sang one (1) role at the Met, Pelléas in the 1972 NP opposite Blegen, Chookasian, Stewart, Tozzi and…wait for it… Adam Klein (still on the roster, no longer an Yniold) under Colin Davis. That staging had gorgeous, atmospheric sets by Desmond Heeley that were streets ahead of the decaying Home Counties Edwardian clutter favored in the house’s current Dr. Miller disaster.

      • manou

        Hattie McDaniel, surely.

      • Camille

        don’t be sorry, Qpfster -- the b is near the m, c’est tout!

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Just did a spot check of the Trovatore debut tonight and was so happy to hear real voices for a change. It will be very interesting to follow the progress of the exciting Carmen Giannattasio and Franco Vassallo. What fun -- opera back at the opera ! Bravi.

    • DonCarloFanatic

      It was wonderful. I had the volume up full blast and that made it even better.

  • Clita del Toro

    I liked it too--and Giannattasio—Brava!

    • almavivante

      I was in the house. Giannattasio really didn’t catch fire at first, and she stumbled vocally a bit during Tacea la notte. The first half (first two acts) was dominated by Dolora (of course) and by Vassallo’s Il balen, about which I disagree with reviews I’ve read. Isolating him upstage center made his romanza all the more touching, and brought home the point that although he’s the black-hearted villain of the piece, he truly suffers from his blazing lust and unrequited love for Leonora. In the second half, things ignited for pretty much everyone, and the performance was very enjoyable. Giannattasio’s cabaletta after the Miserere was impassioned and the duet with Di Luna (“Svenami!”) very hot stuff indeed. I will revisit this when Angela Meade sings her one perf early next year.

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Callegari is really whipping his way through that Trovatore now at the MET in fun ways. Here he is conducting OBERTO

    • Camille

      Clita! Where did you go?? I finally came back to listen, up out of my crypt late at night, and then you disappeared!

      Then I went and worked on your B. DAY present for TOMORROW!!

      BELLA SORPRESA in store!

      Tired and sleepy still =

      • Clita del Toro

        Cammiestestest, Dearestest I am ashamed to say that I left the radio to watch the end of Project Runway. But , I liked what I heard up until then.

        Thank you !

        xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo + xoxoxoxxoxo

        • Camille

          All is forgiven. I forgot you mentioned Project Runway.

          Well, it was not a Marx Bros. Nite @ the Opera last night, at least we have THAT to be grateful for. I am going to see what other roles Carmen sings—Puccini, ecc.

          Be ready for Birthday Magic tomorrow.
          Special message/tweet coming from JOAN C., as well!


          • Gualtier M

            I too was in the house last night. Agree with Almavivante. Carmen G. was nervous and probably still recovering from her illness. The audience really, really took to her and there was a huge ovation for her at the end. She was very moved and kissed her hand and placed it on the stage floor to kiss the stage.

            Her other roles include Mimi, Violetta, Amelia Grimaldi/Maria Boccanegra, Vitellia and Imogene in “Il Pirata”. Lovely woman and lovely big lyric voice -- not a spinto but a full lyric bordering on spinto. Needs to stay away from Aida and Ballo. I think Elisabetta di Valois is stretching it too but that is a role for ageing soubrettes these days.

          • armerjacquino

            Don’t be too sure that the hand on the stage thing was a sign of emotion- she did the same after the CG BOHEME earlier this year so it may just be her thing.

            (Captain Buzzkill writes)

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    For those of you who never saw him and for the rest of us who will never forget him

    • Benedetta Funghi-Trifolati

      Grazie. I always thought he could do more with one slightly-raised eyebrow or pinky finger than other singers/actors could with their entire bodies. Saw him as Scarpia, Iago, Falstaff and the Count in NOZZE. As Scarpia he managed to draw magnetic attention even while “dead” and lying on the floor with those glazed-over, open, staring-directly-at-the-audience-fish-eyes. To say nothing of the still menacing from the afterlife sound (which echoed and reverberated through the entire theatre) when he let his fist fall to the floor after Tosca retrieved the salvacondotto from his deathly grip. Maestro!