Cher Public

“Dying together’s even more personal than living together”

UPDATE: “City Opera’s board voted Thursday to start bankruptcy proceedings next week and wind down the company’s affairs if it fails to raise $7 million by Monday…. If no one steps in to save the company, its current production of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole… could be City Opera’s final performance.” [New York Times]

EARLIER: New York City Opera… says it likely will fail in its goal to raise $7 million by Monday, the deadline it set for suspending the bulk of its 2013-14 season.” [Washington Post]

  • “If the Met is a luxury liner, then City Opera could be the life-raft…” — Renee Fleming.

    La Cieca has obtained exclusive footage of this afternoon’s NYCO board meeting:

    • operaassport

      If only Steel was as crafty as Walter Slezak’s Nazi, of course, some might wish he meets the same end. They needed Tallulah’s bauble to attract more fish!

    • I assume this is what Fleming had in mind:

  • stignanispawn

    As a former subscriber, I think it’s time for New York City Opera to hang it up — recognizing that even with bad governance and management the company has managed decent performances this past year.
    I see no future for NYCO’s existing configuration,which appears to be validated by the complete lack of interest and support for the fundraising campaign.
    New York’s musical life would be enhanced by two major opera companies, I’m just not certain that one of them will be New York City Opera moving forward.

  • La Valkyrietta

    They showed Lifeboat recently on Turner. The NYCO seems to need a Tallulah. :)

  • almavivante

    I will probably be lambasted for floating this idea, and my notion is most likely completely unrealistic, but here goes. Whatever one may think of Renee, she is the best-known and most visible American soprano of the moment, she once sang with City Opera, and she has spoken out now on its behalf. Apart from her association with Chicago Lyric, could she throw her weight behind City Opera as an influential fund-raiser, in a Sills-like manner? I cannot say whether, when she retires from the stage, she might have the chops to become an impresario (and City Opera may have long since expired by that time), but in the meantime, couldn’t she come to the fore to raise its profile among potential donors and persuade them to open their checkbooks?

    • antikitschychick

      For what its worth, I think this is a very good idea and I would go a step further in advocating that Placido join her in the fundraising efforts you suggest, if NYC Opera did indeed make formidable contributions to the launching of their careers. I think aiding an Opera company that is struggling but still manages to put out a fairly lucrative and respectable array of Opera/performance repertoire is a great cause for an Opera singer. Moreover, Renee’s consulting franchise w LOC, though valid on its own terms, nevertheless comes off as a vanity project in comparison to what almavivante is suggesting. Not by default but because of the way the circumstances have evolved and the dire situation the company is in.

      I mean, the Met raised 6 million on opening night so I heard…I’m sure if they host some sort of fundraiser gala they could raise a good amount that would at least keep the company functioning.

      Just to clarify though, I don’t say that the vanity project thing to be spiteful or judgmental as every artist is free to do as they please with their careers and philanthropic endeavors, but to just sit on the sidelines as a company that helped launch your career disintegrates seems comparable to AN and the Putin debacle on certain fronts. Moreover, to say that she has that kind of power and influence is more complimentary than burdensome…and it doesn’t hurt to try.

      Apathy and hypocrisy are after all, primos hermanos.

      Conclusion: we need a petition that requests that Renee dedicate a fundraising gala to NYCO :-D

      title/theme suggestions anyone?

      • operadunce

        If any American opera company can be said to have launched Renee Fleming’s career, it would probably be Houston Grand Opera, not NYCO. I think she sang only one opera there.

        • javier

          you are correct. it is more accurate say that hgo “launched” fleming’s career because with that company she sang roles that are/were central to her repertoire (the countess, arabella, violetta, and the marschallin) whereas at nyco she sang a few roles that got her no recognition (Mimi and Micaëla). anyway, as a young artist every gig is important because it makes your resume look better. but you can’t make an artist responsible for the finances of a company they sang 2 roles with nearly 25 years ago because they are rich and famous now.

          nyco needs a lot of money and sadly I don’t think that fleming or domingo can save it. people already know about the trouble nyco is in.

          I think the problem is that rick donors don’t want to give their money away to fund junk like the anna Nicole opera. what a sad way to go out.

    • The thing with Sills was that she was a brilliant politician and thrived in an leadership administrative position. Combine that with her long-standing career at NYCO (unlike most stars, she didn’t just launch her career there but stayed permanently), it was a good match. But I don’t think it’s necessarily a situation that can be replicated.

    • Mairsydoats

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but Steele floated this when he first arrived. If Renee had wanted to be involved, she would have become involved long before this. Renee belongs to the Met, where she was a young artist, not NYCO and certainly not George Steel. There are actually only a small group of big opera donors, you can find their names in the program for the Met and the program for Santa Fe, they are all over 70, some of them are over 80! For years NYCO has operated under the delusion that there was some young billionaire out there who was just dying to start writing big checks to the opera. There is not.

  • Jamie01

    I’m sorry to see them go for sentimental reasons, but between Les Arts Flourisant’s near-yearly visits to BAM, the operas that are a part of the offerings at things like White Light and Lincoln Center Festival, several unstaged performances each year at Carnegie, all the smaller companies like Gotham, and student productions at Julliard, etc. etc, I don’t feel starved for alternatives to the Met. Maybe in addition to incompetent management, NYCO was done in by this marketplace filled with more appealing options.

  • whatever

    so i’m confused: was there a major announcement at a staff and/or board meeting today???

    • Jamie01

      “City Opera’s board voted Thursday to start bankruptcy proceedings next week and wind down the company’s affairs if it fails to raise $7 million by Monday, said Risa B. Heller, a spokeswoman for the company. It appears increasingly unlikely that City Opera will meet that goal: officials said that the troupe has raised only about $1.5 million since it first made an urgent appeal for the $7 million this month.”

      • whatever

        thank you!!!

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Bankruptcy is just a ploy so they can reincorporate and open with a new name, like the City Opera of New York. It’s been done before in other cities. Steel has no track record in opera. $7 million dollars is much too much to spend on what they want to produce -- and that’s only for this season.How much money do they owe people already? How will bankruptcy help them? Just let it die.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      Apparently they can’t even afford a board room and (according to the AP article) prefer to hold today’s crucial meeting via conference call. That’s fine and good for technology, but…

      How irritating it is to read words from Steel claiming ‘we [City Opera],’ when he has nothing whatsoever to do with that which was City Opera. He’s not fighting for New York City Opera. He’s in it for his salary.

  • Gualtier M

    City Opera has a downtown address on 75 Broad St. Earlier this week I saw George Steel on Church St. downtown during lunch hour. He looked very unruffled, hardly like the captain of a sinking ship.

    I suspect that this indeed is a ploy to rename and reorganize their producting organization. However, they need to be respectful of the New York City Opera history, tradition and remaining physical assets and see that they are properly disposed of and not simply abandoned.

    New York does need two opera companies by the way. Paris, London, Berlin, Vienna -- the list goes on -- all have two companies. And no, the stuff at BAM, LAF, Gotham Chamber Opera does not, for me, make up for the loss of New York City Opera.

    • RosinaLeckermaul

      Actually Berlin has three opera companies. Ticket prices are extremely cheap thanks to government subsidies. If the NYCO could field a season at Berlin ticket prices, they might be a going concern. Of course they would need competent management!

      • phoenix

        And do the 3 Berlin opera companies maintain “competent” management, Rosina? Casting, productions, etc.? Ask some hard-core opera-fan Berliners and you would be surprised about how many differences of opinion would come up with.

        • redbear

          The three major companies in Berlin all have competent, even world-famed management. The city has tried to force them into some sort of cooperation but it hasn’t worked. Paris has five operas. Again, all competently managed by respected leaders. The guy who used to run one of them, the Theatre des Champs-Elysees, is now head of the Vienna State Opera and another, who was running Chatelet, left to run the Aix en Provence Festival and now La Scala. It’s all available on the internet if you want to look at the seasons in either city.

          • 98rsd

            It’s a lot easier to be “competent” when you have strong financial support from the government.

            • redbear

              But the US government does massively support the arts. Through the non-profit deduction, taxes that would go to the government are not paid. It is a huge sum and roughly equivalent to government funding of the arts in Europe. The problem is, in the US, it depends on the donor, not some official and the NYCO is competing against the ballet, the symphony, the art museum, a program to eradicate malaria, etc. When an entity has, through mismanagement long before anyone heard of Steel, spent an endowment of 60 million dollars, it was only a matter of time. If you were a donor and had five options for your million dollars, the other four would certainly look more promising than NYCO.

            • semira mide

              redbear is right about government support in the US. If I join the MetOpera Guild most of my contribution is tax-deductible. It’s too bad that opera companies haven’t figured out a way to do something similar for ticket prices.

        • Henry Holland

          I’ve been lucky to go to a production at each of the three Berlin houses, including productions at both the Unter den Linden house before the never-ending renovations started and at the Schiller Theater.

          What struck me is that each house has it’s own identity. The Staatsoper is for mostly traditional rep, with “stars” (however you might define that in a European context) and a really excellent orchestra. The Komische is the home for Regie and what some call “singing actors”, the rep being pretty eclectic. If had the money, I would go in June next year for A Midsummer Nights Dream, Die Soldaten and The Fiery Angel, but alas. The Deutsche Oper is probably the closest to the City Opera model, mostly standard rep but with some off the wall stuff (I saw Franchetti’s Germania and Resphigi’s long-lost Marie Victoire, which I really liked) in fairly standard “European” type productions.

          What was nice to see was that in all three houses, children/teenagers/20-somethings were common, it’s simply part of the culture that they go to the opera.

          As for how they are managed, I can’t really say, but after the dust up with Christian Thielemann over funds allocation between the three > him leaving the DOB, things seem to have settled down. I think the days of large public subsidies are coming to an end all over Germany (= higher ticket prices for a start), and all three strongly oppose any merger of any kind.

      • Often admonished

        First of all, they will need a theater that works for voices, not dancers.

    • Rory Williams

      Don’t you think he’s already “failed upward” to his next posting and this is just details? That’s my guess.

      • Mairsydoats

        Judging from the stories I have heard about how Mr. Steele has conducted himself he will not be offered another job in opera.

  • Feldmarschallin
  • Gualtier M

    Last ditch plea to subscribers/e-mail blast list:

    Dear (Gualtier or whoever),

    As you may have read by now New York City Opera is on the verge of canceling its season and filing for bankruptcy. You can read more in The New York Times and AP.

    We have until Monday to raise the rest of the money we need to save our season and save the Company, which means you have five days left to make a difference to us with a contribution. Here’s how you can help:

    Make a gift to NYC Opera by clicking here, or calling 212.870-5626.

    Make a pledge to our Kickstarter campaign by clicking here. All Kickstarter pledges are payable only if we reach our goal and produce our 2013-2014 season.

    Share this email with your friends, and spread the word through Facebook and Twitter. The more people we reach, the better our chances.
    Thank you and best wishes,

    George Steel
    General Manager and Artistic Director
    New York City Opera

  • Porpora

    I wonder about this matter of a name change, after having been told by a member of the company that it isn’t possible. And even if is, how would this “rebranding” attract funding? Letters have gone out to company members asking for donations, those who are on the other side of the lights. An act of desperation? It would seem so.

    This is what I believe happened today: The board could cough up a million if it wanted to, but it doesn’t want to because Steel’s leadership has proven to be a very bad business decision. The board will not openly oppose it, for the simple reason that they do not want the egg on their faces, even though we all know that’s where it lies. Instead, they are going to let Steel twist in the wind, insofar as those with rich friends do that sort of thing. He’ll be fine. He’ll move on to another position where he can do more harm, and everyone will save face. That’s what is really all about anyway: rich people looking like they are doing the right thing, but in the end, only doing that which serves their own agenda. And right now, supporting NYCO isn’t helping them do that. Why should they give good money after bad results. No. They have turned their back on Steel.

  • whatever

    there are two kinds of bankruptcy: liquidation and reorganization. (technically, that’s an over-simplification, but practically it’s fine.) do we know which kind is contemplated here?

  • bassoprofundo

    “If no one steps in to save the company, its current production of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole… could be City Opera’s final performance.”

    Fitting, considering the boobs and twats that run City Opera.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Mortier must have some pretty spiffy attorneys to have his dismissal in Spain cancelled this week.

    • oedipe

      Well, sort of. He doesn’t get his job back, but he becomes a consultant to Matabosch. It looks like a reasonable compromise.

      • oedipe

        In other, related, news: Roger Guasch, the General Manager of Aliança (Allianz) Barcelona, is apparently slated to become the new GM of the Liceu.

  • bjamcob

    Met. Opera = Apple.& City Opera = Blackberry.
    Anna Nicole, how ironic.

    I will always treasure going to City Opera back in the 70s.