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Borne back ceaselessly into the past

So, cher public, have you heard about this fabulous new plan to revive the New York City Opera under the direction of Michael Capasso? A keystone of the “Renaissance” of the company (as the prospectus puts it) will be to perform “period-consistent productions of standard repertoire” (e.g., the Franco Zeffirelli production of Tosca) in the Rose Theater. A more detailed plan, including scary photos of naked old people in Johann Kresnik‘s Erfurt production of Un ballo in maschera, may be found here.

61 comments

  • Liz.S says:

    Meanwhile in the city, Carnegie Hall will also keep us busy in 2014-15 season.

    October 26, 2014
    Harry Bicket’s English Concert
    Handel’s Alcina (opera in concert)
    Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-Soprano (Alcina)
    Alice Coote, Mezzo-Soprano (Ruggiero)
    Anna Christy, Soprano (Morgana)
    Christine Rice, Mezzo-Soprano (Bradamante)
    Ben Johnson, Tenor (Oronte)
    Wojtek Gierlach, Bass (Melisso)
    Anna Devin, Soprano (Oberto)

    December 7, 2014
    Gianandrea Noseda’s Teatro Regio Torino
    Rossini’s William Tell (opera in concert)
    Fabio Capitanucci, Baritone (Guglielmo Tell)
    Angela Meade, Soprano (Matilde)
    John Osborn, Tenor (Arnoldo)…

    March 18, 2015
    Philadelphia Orchestra, Maurizio Benini
    Nicole Cabell, Soprano
    Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-Soprano
    Lawrence Brownlee, Tenor
    Program TBA

    April 12, 2015
    Bernard Labadie’s Les Violons du Roy
    Dorothea Röschmann, Soprano (Dido)
    Henk Neven, Baritone (Aeneas)
    Hélène Guilmette, Soprano (Belinda)
    ALL-PURCELL PROGRAM
    Excerpts from King Arthur and The Fairy Queen
    Dido and Aeneas

    May 1 2015
    John Eliot Gardiner’s English Baroque Soloists
    MONTEVERDI L’Orfeo (concert performance)
    Soloists TBA

    • la vociaccia says:

      What a wonderful season of baroque music! Shame about the tenor in the March 18 concert though…he was so boring in that streamed concert from La Fenice.

      • Krunoslav says:

        Brownlee boring?

        No accounting for poor taste.

        • la vociaccia says:

          Well you got me. I can’t claim any sort of good taste (I am a Renee fan after all), and like many here say about Renee, I can appreciate the mastery of his instrument and complete command over his range, but I find him a dull interpreter, textually and chromatically. His Una Furtiva in the Fenice concert was greeted with very polite applause

          • Donna Anna says:

            I was at the Capodanno concert the day before the broadcast (along with la familia)and I was disappointed. His usually impeccable Italianate style was missing. Diego Matheuz’s lackluster conducting didn’t help.
            We heard Brownlee in recital last spring and he was excellent, so don’t write him off.

          • operaassport says:

            I agree about Brownlee. Lovely tone, but interpretively speaking, I find him lacking.

            Carnegie looks wonderful. Sign me up.

  • emeraldlulu says:

    Does anyone know if this proposal is indeed real?

    And if so, how does Capasso expect people to trust him with a larger company (especially when his financial prospectus seems so nebulous), when he basically ran DiCapo into the ground?

    As of the end of last year, they still owed performers pay for past shows (which they were owing even before they declared bankruptcy). He is notorious for this behavior, doesn’t pay his singers fair wages, and last I checked, was charging for auditions.

    Good luck with this proposal, but I for one won’t be holding my breath.

    • La Cieca says:

      There was also this.

      • operaassport says:

        Julianna di Giacomo -- a promising young soprano. Really?

        I heard her sing major roles at City Opera at least a decade ago (or so it seems) and she was described as promising back then. I liked her but how far into your career do you have to be before you’re no longer promising?

        • la vociaccia says:

          Operaassport, people were calling Beczala ‘promising’ in 2012, despite the fact that he was 45, 20 years into his pro career, and (crucially) had already sung a handful of leading roles at the Met from Lensky to Edgardo.

          There are many others. A singer can be called ‘promising’ as long as the aren’t a household name yet.

          • operaassport says:

            That’s silly. You can be “promising” for 3 or 4 years, after that you’ve either fulfilled your promise or gone past your sell by date.

            Ah, didn’t notice the date, assumed it was current.

        • rapt says:

          btw, note the date of the review--1/2 a decade ago.

    • Chris Fecteau says:

      As real as real can be, if there’s financial backing, which I believe there is.

      While I’m not the biggest personal fan of the most prominent name in the proposal, I’ve heard from a reliable (and involved) source that there will be additional leadership in place to serve managerial and financial needs.

      For the record, I think Michael Capasso has a pretty compelling programming track record at Dicapo and the basic artistic vision in this current proposal (different than the Met’s, harkening back to what NYCO was known for, and filling a particular niche in the city) could be a key ingredient for success.

      Not least important though, let’s hope that the financials include fair (and timely!) compensation for the artists.

      “in boca al lupo,” I say.

    • Lady Ears says:

      I hear that this is one of FIVE different proposals! Don’t know anything about the others.

      • Voce di coache says:

        And *I* hear that the some of the rest of these “proposals” were horrible. I agree with several others who have posted that the project needs a great conductor to pull the musical side of things. Curious who the “cher publique” would suggest.

    • Lady Ears says:

      I really tripped over the bit at the top of page 25 which pretty much says that it is the Board’s responsibility to make sure that the Executive Director feels like a very important person, who should receive every personal consideration and whose feelings they should not hurt. Really?

  • LittleMasterMiles says:

    I see they’ve planned Calisto for ’15-’16 AND they pledge to present productions that “preserve the aesthetic and historical settings as dictated by their authors.”

    Fantastic. They’ll be leaving the houselights (candles only, please!) up throughout the performance, and food vendors will hawk their wares in the orchestra level. The singers (including several castrati) will strike static poses for each aria with nary a hint of naturalistic acting. Surtitles will, of course, be eschewed, and true to the opera’s historical premiere in 1651, after eleven performances it will close, not to be revived for three hundred years.

  • kashania says:

    Programming at Lincoln Center will be comprised of large-scale productions of popular and
    commercially viable titles. Repertoire will be planned so as to not duplicate the MET’s
    programming in any given season.

    Um, doesn’t the Met do Tosca virtually every season?

  • Dominatrix says:

    Thanks you for posting that NYCO Renaissance proposal. It’s clear someone has done a great deal of thinking in putting this together. But I see a couple of areas of concern and humbly present them there:

    1. Board will consist of some of the old Board members. Bad. Some of those folks caused the NYCO to self-destruct because of their bad decisions. An entirely new Board needs to be created & Susan Baker deleted.

    2. Choice of Capasso is bad. He has extensive experience, but is unknown outside of New York. An internationally known person would be better to attract donors.

    3. No Music Director named. Very bad. If they had said, for instance, Riccardo Muti has been named as the new Music Director, that would have set the tone for the artistic standards that would be mandated. Unknown music director won’t attract singers who will have to sing for lower fees.

    4. Proposal is only “seeking to attract funds.” In other words, they have no big sponsors lined up who have said “I’ll donate $100 million to get this off the ground.” It also means the Board members are not coughing up money either. They expect others to do the donating. Not gonna work. Also have to go after money from Russian billionaires, some of whom have relatives living in the U.S. How about Billinghurst for that task?

    5. Donations made as contingent pledges, not cold hard cash. Won’t work. Need cold hard cash.

    6. Even first concert is not funded. Why not? Couldn’t they come up with anyone to sponsor the first concert? No confidence there. Have to find a corporate sponsor first.

    7. Use of indy contractors — bad, won’t foster company loyalty or feel. Plus, indy contractors are very expensive and a waste of money. If anything, they should use volunteers to write up the grants.

    8. No expectation of government or private foundations giving money. Are you kidding me? Government grants are what allowed the NYCO to get going in the first place years ago. They need both. Stupid dumb decision.

    9. Not enough staff. No artistic staff mentioned — someone to take care of singers’ needs. Who’s gonna secure replacements when singers cancel?

    10. Weird pay rates. $4,167 budgeted for conductors. That might have worked 20 years ago, won’t work today.
    $10,000 budgeted for stage directors — is that because Capusso is going to direct some of the productions himself and wanted to be assured of a good salary? Just asking.

    11. Programs too complicated for a company that has no money. While the idea of producing both standard and controversial productions is good, that’s only possible when you get a huge chunk of money, like the European houses. NYCO hasn’t even paid off their old creditors. Put your house in order before trying to present an overly complicated season.

    12. Loss of costumes and sets. NYCO auctioned off their sets and costumes. That means all new sets and costumes. Who’s gonna pay for it?

    13. Too small orchestra. Budget calls for 40 musicians, and theater can hold up to 65. Too small for bigger works. If you can’t afford a full orchestra, don’t try to be a big opera company.

    14. Plan to call former subscribers won’t work. Same questions I list here will be asked — why haven’t you paid all past bills, who’s gonna pay for all this?

    Here is my plan for how this should have gone down:

    1. Find rich donor who will contribute $100 Million to create new contingency fund and pay for first several productions, as well as free concert. Have no shame --start with Bill Gates, Mark Zuckenberg, then go to Russian billionaires (have lots of money and want opportunity to display it), to Chinese billionaires and Middle Eastern sheiks.

    2. Announce internationally well-known person as new General Manager (not executive director, which is a nothing title). Anyone would be better than Capasso.

    3. Announce internationally known and well-respected conductor as new Music Director, who will be allowed to choose and audition his own orchestra & chorus.

    4. No more than 3 new big productions, and 3 small or experimental productions.

    5. Tours, both domestic and foreign ok, but must be pre-funded, not based on perceived future donations.

    6. Hall of Fame wonderful idea. Name it after the $100 million donar, ie., American Opera Hall of Fame, Mark Zuckenberg Hall. (Zuckenberg just made $3 Billion in one day).

    7. Secure both private and government funding first. If you can’t present a case to them, how are you gonna present a case to anyone else? Or is your inability to pay off past creditors the problem?

    Sorry to be so down on the proposal, but it’s too heavy on marketing to obtain funds. You need to get the funds first. Otherwise, no one will have faith in your new venture.

    • Camille says:

      Then, this is all being put forth without having FIRST secured some kind of real money funding and having paid off their creditors? How can that be? I did not read the proposal and only inferring from what you have redactes here, Dominatrix.

      What are they going o do to get money? Another Kick-Start Campaign? That’s for college students. I really wonder who is thinking this up. Also, a big Maestro in the mix couldn’t hurt matters. The same Board?? Are they kidding? Who would donate to THEM? Not I.

    • Nathan Letourneau says:

      Bit of a catch-22 with marketing.
      I agree that funds first is an ideal approach, but there needs to be something to sell in order to attract funds.

      Mr. Capasso taking the opera out of BAM is a good idea, and using more reasonable resources such as DiCapo Theater is also good. I am not quite sure why he feels it necessary to use the Lincoln Center, however, especially when that venue was a major cost and cause for concern for the NYCO.

      I also enjoyed his idea of touring the cities that currently have no permanent opera company, and bringing global recognition through endeavors in UEA, China, etc. provided that these venues are willing to partner and absorb the cost of the tours. Visibility, and yes marketing, are key to this endeavor and to attracting donors.

      This is, however, a grey area. How will he convince the current donor base to return when they would not participate before. Especially while inviting members of the prior Board to join the new effort? Trust is key, and I believe that the prior Board demonstrated a lack of trustworthiness, at least in the eyes of donors. Surely if Mr. Capasso can convince Martina Arroyo and Placido Domingo to support his cause, he might be able to tap into the experienced arts administrators that exist in New York, avoiding those who would make donors weary?

      Certainly an ambitious plan. It seems that Mr. Capasso is persuasive and charismatic. He is a good spokesman, but needs a serious business strategist, supporter, and backer for the company to make any strides towards an initial season. A plan is essential, but now who will see this through?

    • zzzznombula says:

      MORE opera in NYC!! FANTASTIC!!! But -- - before we all get TOO excited about this proposal…… Let’s go back and refresh our memories in regard to the Dicapo gala fiasco of 2008…

      http://parterre.com/2008/12/20/snow-job/comment-page-1/#comments

      (If the link doesn’t take you there, just search on parterre for “dicapo gala” or “di capo gala”)

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    This singer had to postpone her career, but now she’s ready for the new City Opera. Her music stand even matches the piano.