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61

“City Opera had waited too long to reinvent itself, Mr. Steel said. ‘I wish we had gotten to the business at hand faster’.” [Wall Street Journal]

58 comments

  • 1
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    “Mr. Steel said. ‘I wish we had gotten to the business at hand faster’”.
    VERGOGNA! What a schmuck!

  • 2
    damekenneth says:

    Infuriating! And so sad. Steele is a schmuck indeed.

  • 3
    perfidia says:

    I “love” that statement. He makes sure to remind you the demise of the company is not entirely his fault. And it isn’t really, but it happened under (and because 0f) his leadership. He should put on his big boy pants (or take them off) and take it.

    • 3.1
      98rsd says:

      Are you actually implying that the demise IS all his fault? I don’t know that anyone could have done better, under the grim circumstances he inherited. If the task was impossible (which I think it might have been) all the vitriol aimed at him is childish.

      • 3.1.1
        Quanto Painy Fakor says:

        NO! A real opera person with charisma, savy and a variety of skills might have prevailed. The lack of vision is and was appalling. However, an angel may still appear, but one wise enough to replace the leader.

        • 3.1.1.1
          Porpora says:

          Excellent summation, Quanto Painy Fakor! Steel has only been in the game for himself—that is clear enough for anyone to see who has two nickels to spend on City Opera. 30 cents of every dollar that is given to the company goes to him, which is unacceptable business practice.

          • 98rsd says:

            Um, if they raised 11.5 million last year, are you saying that his salary is $3,450,000?

            • Porpora says:

              Steel has been paid $340K for a job that should be paid no more than 150K based on the budget the (now defunct) company.

          • LittleMasterMiles says:

            Correction: From what I’ve heard, 30 cents of every dollar spent on tickets goes to him, which is not a very reasonable way to break down teh budget. The salary he’s been drawing is still unacceptable, of course.

            Nevertheless, I blame the board far more than Steel, who was handed an impossible task after the Mortier mess and other episodes of mismanagement.

            • 98rsd says:

              Exactly. The Mortier “plan” was never going to work--it relied on massively increased donations which would have been unlikely to have materialized. The Board (or perhaps the old Board, I’m not that familiar with who was there then, who’s there now) is responsible.

              Whether Steel would have done a great job or not under more normal circumstances is impossible to tell--except to some people on this site. It’s clear he’s not a turnaround genius, but he wasn’t hired as that. And there is no telling at this point for people who have as little information as we all do whether or not ANYONE could have made a difference.

            • Porpora says:

              Exactly!

        • 3.1.1.2
          98rsd says:

          And the name of that person is? (Please name someone who would have been likely to take the position at the time Steel accepted.)

          This nameless genius of superhuman abilities should be better known.

          • Mairsydoats says:

            Francesca Zambello. It was reported in the Times when Steel was appointed that Ms. Zambello thought she had a “handshake” deal to take over the opera. She expressed this to the NY Times and Ms. Baker contradicted her, practically calling her a liar in the NY Times.

          • Porpora says:

            Exactly! Fools everyone of them! Utter fools!

      • 3.1.2
        perfidia says:

        I am exactly not implying that. Read what I wrote again. And I would never be vitriolic about this situation (or gleeful, as some people seems to almost be). This is all terribly sad. However, it has come to pass under his stewardship.

        • 3.1.2.1
          98rsd says:

          You’re right, but you did say that it happened “because” of his leadership. Of course, you provide no evidence.

          • Mairsydoats says:

            The hundreds and hundreds of empty seats for “Monodramas” was a clue though. Not sure why you are so passionate about George Steel but it’s pretty clear he was the wrong man at the wrong time. NYCO expected him to learn on the job but did not have any cushion for him to do so. On top of that he really did not have a strong background in opera (I believe he produced two at the Miller, one of which was a full on import from Oberlin). And we know the story of his 6 weeks in Dallas. Without Lenny to help him get a job I wonder what will happen to him. Maybe Barney’s bow tie department? Oh yeah, they don’t have a bow tie department.

            • Porpora says:

              NYCO spend a ton of money on that show. What did they get in return? A handsome review from his lapdog at the NYTimes.

      • 3.1.3
        Harold says:

        I am saying the fault it all his. Steel is a parasite that attached itself to a sick organization and kept it alive long enough to such as much nourishment as possible for itself, both financially and for his ego. He will go down in history as a great villain with not redeeming qualities.

  • 4
    whatever says:

    well now we know which form of bankruptcy is contemplated:

    ” … City Opera’s board voted on Thursday to file for bankruptcy-court protection and dissolve the 70-year-old company if …”

  • 5
    bassoprofundo says:

    If you give them $500, they give you a downloadable desktop wallpaper.

    • 5.1
      armerjacquino says:

      Says it all.

    • 5.2
      98rsd says:

      All this piling on is sickening. What do you really expect from a company that is struggling to survive?

      • 5.2.1
        armerjacquino says:

        basso stated a fact: if you call that ‘piling on’ that suggests you know how embarrassing the kickstarter campaign is.

        I know very little about the struggles of NYCO and I have no dog in this fight, but the kickstarter has been a huge, huge mistake. If you want charity (‘a company struggling to survive’) then set up a JustGiving page. Kickstarter is about collaboration -- ‘help us do this and we’ll give you a small but worthwhile something in return’. To be offering desktop wallpaper for a $500 donation is embarrassingly naive, and reeks of laziness and entitlement.

  • 6
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Another tragedy --

  • 7
    Constantine A. Papas says:

    Indeed. The pressure on opera singers is so bad; and more than on any other artists. Their entire carrier depends on two undistinguished, fragile body folds: the vocal cords. Either they give you life or they give you death, artistically; and sometimes literally.

    • 7.1
      oedipe says:

      Yes, and some audience members are nastier towards (some of) them than towards just about any other performers I can think of. (I could give examples, but I don’t think it’s necessary, is it?)

    • 7.2
      bluecabochon says:

      It would be interesting and sad to know how many opera singers vs. non-opera singers (pop, jazz, blues, rock) have died by their own hands or by misadventure due to drugs, alcohol and the effects of mental illness and depression. I’ll wager that the non-opera singers have the edge here, not that this should ever be a contest.

      • 7.2.1
        Henry Holland says:

        Yes, opera singers have jobs that are dependant on “two fragile body folds” and yes, their life can be lonely and full of dull hotel rooms in cities they would otherwise not visit and so forth.

        Still, they lead fairly civilized lives, are often graduates of excellent schools (especially US singers), work in fairly glamorous conditions, are in an industry that being a heroin addict is a real liability etc.

        Having played bass guitar in rock bands for over 10 years in the late 70’s and early 80’s before I got tired of the struggle and got a “real” job, I can guarantee you that pop/rock musicians and especially people in fringe styles like jazz and blues have it much much worse than opera singers.

        I saw so many really damaged people who were in bands, surrounded by sycophants who would drop them the second they weren’t “hot” any more; massive drug and alcohol abuse (some of it by me; mmmm…..LSD…..mmmmm); musicians just about destroyed after 14 months touring, wrecks for months after but expected to record a brilliant new album and do the touring thing all over again; the absolutely vile, disgusting people that you had to deal with on the business side of things, the rock/pop music business being a hideous cesspool and on and on.

        Why *more* rock//pop/jazz musicians don’t end up like Kurt Cobain or Layne Staley or Janis Joplin is almost miraculous to me.

      • 7.2.2
        operaassport says:

        Professional wrestlers, by a country mile.

  • 8
    Constantine A. Papas says:

    Sorry! Of course, I meant career.

    • 8.1
      perfidia says:

      In another time, adley would have probably made millions as a Broadway/Hollywood tenor. He had the looks and a great sense of style for musicals. It’s too bad he didn’t record Tony in the Bernstein “West Side Story.” If an opera singer was born to sing that part…

  • 9
    Constantine A. Papas says:

    Look at what Boccelli has amassed with a constricted, nasal, and undersized instrument. Jerry had the looks and the voice to become a Hollywood song man of substance. May God rest his soul.

    • 9.1
      operaassport says:

      Remember Oscar Levant’s line about Esther Williams? You can apply that to Bocelli :)

    • 9.2
      la vociaccia says:

      Constantine- I do find it a tad ironic that a few posts above you were talking about much pressure people put on the quality of ‘two tiny vocal cords’ and here you are calling Bocelli’s voice nasal, constricted and undersized. Are we only supposed to have compassion for singers that you deem worthy?

  • 10
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    How much money did your Artistic genius spend to produce a more than 3hour long opera by Telemann in New York City?

  • 11
    98rsd says:

    Nowhere did I call Steel an artistic genius. Nor did I say I liked the dull Telemann. If, however, he had done Carmen, people on here would have complained that he should have done something unusual. If it had been an hour long, people here would have bitched about being shortchanged.

    And now the answer to how much was spent on the Telemann…no clue. I’m assuming you know.

    • 11.1
      Porpora says:

      What a stupid statement! Really. You can do better. Michael Kaiser himself said three years ago what the company should do: produce traditional operas that the publics wants to see. The public is not so educated as vapid opera queens.

      • 11.1.1
        operaassport says:

        Produce traditional operas that the public wants to see? Really, I don’t know anyone who went to City Opera for that. We have a place for that already.

        • 11.1.1.1
          Porpora says:

          What do you they financed all the unusual fare? You don’t know your history. You many not have gone to Traviata and Carmen. But plenty of people did which financed House of the Dead etc. That’s how it’s done.

          • operaassport says:

            Buh loney. The few core operas I went to played to half empty theaters while the unusual stuff was packed.

            • DonCarloFanatic says:

              As a young person new to NYC, I was daunted by the presumed formality of the Met, and the presumed dress code, and I definitely feared the prices. So I went to standard rep at the NYCO for several years before getting up my courage and going across the plaza to see opera at the Met. If over the years the prices and the rep became pretty much the same, then the reason to avoid the standard rep at NYCO would be that the Met had stars doing the same operas. Make sense?

  • 12
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Email logged in about 30 minutes before curtain:

    “Today we see the final performance of our successful run of the bold Anna Nicole. It has been such a joy to work on this vibrant and innovative opera, however it could well be the last performance in New York City Opera’s history.
    I’m so proud of this production, and so proud of the good work that NYC Opera has been doing. It would be heartbreaking, for me and for so many others, to lose a company that brings such vital works to the stage and that introduces such important artists to the world.
    We have until Monday to raise the rest of the money we need to save our season and save the Company….Thank you if you have already made a gift or a pledge!”

    • 12.1
      Porpora says:

      Successful? At what cost? Steel said (and these ears hear him say it) that he didn’t need the public. What he needed was critics and donors. That is who he put Anna Nicole on for. THAT is his success, which is nothing more than the hubris of a narcissist on the autism spectrum.

  • 13
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    There are also lots of empty seats when he conducts. How did he ever convince the board of directors of an opera company that he cares a fig for opera?

    • 13.1
      Porpora says:

      Because his main donor got him the job, and she was on the board at the Miller Theater—that’s how. Money takes, that is, until it stops, which seems to have happened recently. Otherwise, Herr Steel would still be in business.

  • 14
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    One thing cannot be denied: the influence of Andrea Bocelli on young singers!

  • 15
    redbear says:

    It is unfair to demonize Mr. Steel when the subject should be Susan Baker and the incompetent board who hired him. He arrived after the endowment was spent and the story’s end already known.

  • 16
    bassoprofundo says:

    Can someone please help me understand this Kickstarter thing… I don’t get what happens to the money already donated if they don’t reach their goal. Does everyone get their money back? or if they reach, say, $300,000, does City Opera pocket that $300,000, even if it wasn’t their goal?

    • 16.1
      manou says:

      From a comment on the Lebrecht site:

      “#1: it’s not free. Of that $1m, if they raise it, $50,000 will go straight into Kickstarter’s bottom line, and $30,000 to $50,000 will line the pockets of Amazon (who I think is the company that processes Kickstarter’s payments). These are the percentages Kickstarter shows on its own site (5% fee plus 3-5% payment charges).

      Thus, around $100,000 of that $1m fundraising total will not go towards any opera. At that level, you could definitely afford to employ 2 or 3 members of staff to do your fundraising admin, and have a little left over to top up the marketing you’ll have to do in any case (people don’t just stumble across your Kickstarter page do they …)

      But #2: if they don’t meet the $1m target then they get nothing, and all that effort and goodwill of hundreds of donors is just lost: pointless!