Cher Public

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.

  • David

    I’m glad to see the stand being made against Regietheater with its ‘vulgar, sexual, political, or violent episodes.’ I certainly want sex, politics and violence to be keep well away from any production of Carmen, Tosca, and Don Carlos. And I don’t want vulgarity to intrude as I watch Don Giovanni shag his way around Europe.

    (Anyway, good luck to them.)

  • Krunoslav

    Wow. That’s an eyeful.

    I don’t fancy hearing dreck like IL POSTINO and STREETCAR, but MOBY DICK is well worth hearing/seeing. And some of the other rep plans, like DER ZWERG, make sense.

    Is anyone else thinking this plan might witness Domingo’s first Scarpia, just as 1944’s opener starred Dusolina Giannni?

    NYCO first did SAINT in, what, 1965? The mentioned Malfitano/di Giuseppe/Soviero performance was a telecast.

    • I want to say Julia Migenes was in that?

      Yes, I just checked and she was indeed the Anina in that production. According to her official bio, she was 16 at the time. That may sound a little far-fetched until you realize that, according to her official bio, she graduated from The High School of Music & Art at the age of 11.

      • Krunoslav

        Indeed, Migenes, pre-Johnson ( or at least the marital Johnson…) was Annina.

        That telecast w/Malftiano, Soviero (both so young!) and di Giuseppe is pretty amazing.

      • Krunoslav

        Well, she ( along with Anita Gillette and Carla Alberghetti (the Lotte Rysanek of Broadway) replaced Anna Maria Alberghetti in CAROUSEL during its 1961-3 run, when Migenes would have been 12-14 according to the official version.

        Who can forget Shirley Verrett’s 1971 Dewar’s Profile ad, claiming her to be 31 when she was in fact 40? The Dewar’s version would have made her 18 at the time of her NYCO debut in LOST IN THE STARS.

  • ianw2

    I usually hate going after someone’s gumption but…

    *it’s interesting how cheaply one can secure ‘the finest available singers, conductors, directors and designers’. I suppose some artists may have goodwill towards the idea that they work below their standard rate, but I’m not sure this is a sustainable model.

    *the graph on pg 3 is a splendid example of a graph not really saying anything

    *a lot of weight is being put on the symbolism of the Lincoln Center which I question. I’m not a New Yorker though so am open to persuasion (is this the only suitable venue?). I’ve previously said that I don’t think the model of flexible venues was a bad one, just that it was done for the worst reasons.

    *I have mixed feelings about VOX (noble, definitely, but how many of those works ever emerged out of workshop?) but good to see it back, would be better if there were a commitment to actually get some of these contemporary works on to NYCO mainstage (and how this sits with a mainstage commitment to accessibility in the very next paragraph).

    *Met apparently abandoning traditional stagings (do they know?). That paragraph treated with seriousness it deserves.


    *Good to see the credibility gap addressed in a couple of sentences.

    *Of course then we get to Lord, Protect Us From Eurotrash section of the proposal. Heaven protect us from any opera that may include vulgar, violent, political or sexual episodes (nothing like that in anything of the repertoire, mercy no!). This, curiously, receives more words than the less glamourous stuff like rebuilding credibility with public, donors and unions.

    *A lot riding on Lincoln Center coming onboard (do they know?)

    *Plans for regional and overseas(!) touring seem a little premature at this stage as a source for earned income.

    *Not clear on how they’re going to fund a permanent resident orchestra for four mainstage & two black box productions.

    *Seems be a reliance on developing corporate sponsorship at the same level as 2007 (what on earth could have happened since, I wonder?)

    *The finances again don’t really tell us anything at all, considering how much they rely on (unidentified) donors. VOX though seems like a bargain at $15K.

    *’Unsecured creditor payments’ are slightly worrying to be listed as TBD.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      When edited to be much shorter, this proposal just might fly and Mr. Capasso has the required determination and passion to make it happen. I think a bankruptcy judge will be convinced that it should be permitted.

      Stranissimo: “The Board will ensure that the Executive Director:

      ? Is complimented for exceptional initiatives;
      ? Is encouraged to take professional and personal leave for renewal;
      ? Is assisted when members overstep prerogatives or misunderstand
      their roles;
      ? Feels that the Board is aware of and sensitive to family situations and
      ? Feels that his/her performance is being assessed in relation to the
      Board’s performance.

      Why would one need a music director in the restructuring phase?
      Capasso knows enough about opera to handle that himself.

      I believe this will work.
      Here’s hoping they find the money and the support to make it happen.

      Lots of money in Muscat, Oman, Asia, etc!

      • ianw2

        I totally thought the title of that third clip was Butthaus.

        “In a move guaranteed to excite SOCIAL MEDIA and New York’s competitive press market; NYCO Renaissance will present BUTTHAUS in its New York stage premiere. This production, in a period-consistent style, will be directed by Michael Lucas.”

      • ianw2

        And yeah, it is kinda weird to put in some kind of proto-Governance manual the expectations on the Board to suitably compliment the ED or that they should be aware that occasionally he may be sick or have family issues that need sorting out. I’d hope that any strong Board wouldn’t be dealing with such mundane tasks as personal leave.

    • The real news is that the NEW City Opera will be at the United Palace Theatre at 175th and Broadway….Sept 2015. The NEW City Opera is an extension of Nickel City Opera in Buffalo NY…in its 6th season…under the direction of MET and NYCO Basso Valerian Ruminski. Nickel City Opera will bring it’s productions to the lovely 3400 seat Palace Theatre as the NEW City Opera with the spirit of the old NYCO.

  • Henry Holland

    From the link:

    Schreker-Der Ferne Klang

    I’m in, where do I send my donor check? /sarcasm


    Yes! I’d definitely travel to see that.

    Eötvös -Le Balcon OR Angels in America

    Why not the much better Three Sisters?

    Szymanowski-Król Roger

    Gosh, what a surprise, another opera “never staged in New York”.

    Anyone here heard an opera at the Rose Theater?

    • Nozze di Figaro at Mostly Mozart
      A Flowering Tree directed by Peter Sellars

      Mark Morris did Dido and Aeneas there though I didn’t see it.

      That stage looked very shallow to me, even with the pit cover raised. The Rose Theater website says the stage depth is 32 feet, with the back wall of the theater at 42 feet (that extra 10 feet is used for storage for “tower” seating used in the concert hall configuration.) So it’s unlikely the Zeffirelli Tosca could fit on that stage without significant modifications.

    • operaassport

      I don’t think classical vocal music works in the Rose. The acoustics suit jazz.

  • Lee B. Ahmo

    Not enough Handel.

  • Indiana Loiterer III

    I thought the Bondy Tosca was in period…

    More seriously, I find interesting the notion that the neglected repertory to be revived is invariably early 20th-century large-orchestra works--rather than, say, anything from the primo ottocento or opera-comique repertories--and that Handel and Rameau are to be relegated to a black box theater. I suppose that corresponds to New York operatic taste for the Big and Lush; but Rameau in particular demands spectacular stage treatment.

    • Indiana Loiterer III

      Also, it’s strange how little singers are mentioned, either in terms of presenting up-and-coming singers in suitable repertory before the Met gets to them, or in terms of establishing a repertory company of singers; I would think that would be one of the first policy decisions to make.

  • Don_Dano

    I rather like some of the ideas. I hope they get a chance to give it a try.

    Does anyone have anything to say about “Silent Night”? I was planning to skip Fort Worth’s festival this Spring, but if anyone has good things to say about this opera, I might reconsider.

    • Krunoslav

      Good production, pleasant evening n the theater, nott oo memorable but decent ‘music theater”. score. Bill Burden was wonderful in it, Liam Neeson mediocre and Kelly Kaduce vocally strained.

      • Krunoslav

        Excuse me-- Liam BONNER-- he should only live so long as to be Liam Neeson…

  • operaassport

    Period consistent productions?

    NO NO NO NO.

    How about just good, thought provoking, theatrically compelling productions? Period.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Regina also knows it can work as long as there’s no sugar water

  • Dawn Fatale

    Here’s the thing. Who is going to give the resurrected City Opera any money? I bought a subscription to NYCO this year and gave them a very modest donation and I might as well have spent that money buying bottles of Pappy Van Winkle 23 year reserve and then flushing them down the toilet. Fool me once….

    Secondly, the budget figures seem to have been pulled from thin air. There’s no way to do a lavish in-period Tosca for under a million dollars in NYC unless they are going to project photos of the Zeff Tosca on a screen while singers in street clothes perform the opera.

    Lastly, they are, in effect, starting a new opera company from scratch. If they could pull off one opera and do it really well, that would be a fabulous thing, that might build them the goodwill to get more donations and actual subscribers. Unless they have $10 million dollars in a bank account somewhere, announcing this season and then being unable to deliver seems a surefire way to kill a new opera company before it has a chance.

    • ianw2

      Yes, it was bizarre how comfortably that core concern was glossed over in preference to reassuring us that there wouldn’t be any of that nasty regie in NYCO Renaissance, no sir-ee.

      And there was the bizarre section on how touring (Dubai!) will be an earned income bonanza just ripe for the taking before they’ve even mounted a single production.

      • Indiana Loiterer III

        Well it is a business proposal, after al. The whole digression into Regie was I suspect directed at possible large donors who have presumably stopped giving to the Met because of it; period productions of standard repertory would be perhaps the strongest selling point for them.

        • ianw2

          Which is why I found that touring section so weird. For a business proposal there was no suggestion that there was any market or even presenter interest in having NYCO Renaissance touring productions, let alone in the first few years of operation when (I’d hope) they’d be far more concentrated on building a strong home base than oohing-and-aahing over Dubai’s new opera house. If its aspirational, it’s the type of thing that could be knocked over in a bullet point (five year goals: establish viability of regional touring).

          To be honest, I’d imagine if some big-spending Emirate potentate was after some operatic cachet, the newly re-emerged second company of New York wouldn’t be high on their shopping list, regardless of its own merits.

          Though, to their credit, I don’t recall them stating anything about how the CHINESE EMERGING MIDDLE CLASS WILL SAVE US ALL WHEN WE TOUR TO HANGZHOU! RISING DRAGON!

          • Quanto Painy Fakor

            But the proposal is from Capasso’s perspective and his experience includes run-outs and some overseas ventures.

            And there are such presenters. It’s already proven… when you want cultural validity (i.e. parity with other cultural capitols) in Dubai, Oman, China, Japan etc. you book a Domingo, a Bocelli, a Flemming concert and a few new Zambello productions.

        • I find that unlikely. The Met is mounting six or seven new productions a year, all of them funded by gifts from donors. Mrs. Harrington excepted perhaps, I don’t know that philanthropists have such such strong feelings about “period authenticity” (which of course in this context actually means “the traditions familiar one generation ago.”) In general, donors want a good, exciting show, something that makes a splash and at least seems important. What they don’t want is something that looks cheap and dull.

          I also find the mission statement, such as it is, rather schizophrenic: first the core audience will flock to gawk at 30-year-old sets that were on view at the Met for nearly 100 performances, then they’re going to turn around and clamor for Francesca da Rimini, Goyescas and Silent Night? Not to mention A Streetcar Named Desire without Renee Fleming?

          • Krunoslav

            “A Streetcar Named Desire without Renee Fleming?”

            Sometimes there’s God… so quickly.

  • Liz.S

    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)
    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

      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

        Brownlee boring?

        No accounting for poor taste.

        • la vociaccia

          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

            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.

            • pobrediablo

              He sang better than the soprano.

          • operaassport

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

            Carnegie looks wonderful. Sign me up.

  • emeraldlulu

    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.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor
    • There was also this.

      • operaassport

        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

          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

            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

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

    • Chris Fecteau

      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

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

      • Voce di coache

        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

      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

    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.

    • Krunoslav

      “they’ve planned Calisto”

      Um, like, does that, like, mean we’ll be seeing Dancin’ Danielle’s unfat ass making like Beyonce?

      • armerjacquino

        There’s a kind of twisted nobility in the way you never, ever take a day off.

        • Krunoslav

          Like, Dani soit qui mal y pense.

      • Grane

        Well, at least there wouldn’t be a lot of static poses.

    • operaassport

      Miles: brilliant, just brilliant. Quint would be proud.

  • 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

    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

      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

      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

      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…

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

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

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