If you’re wondering why the relatively inexperienced George Steel was tapped for the demanding job of hauling the New York City Opera out of the basement — instead of front-runner Francesca Zambello, well, maybe this is why:
Zambello, currently in London creating a joint Royal Opera and Royal Ballet production of Tchaikovsky’s comic rarity “The Tsarina’s Slippers” … in discussion with producers Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza over whether “Rebecca” should open in North America or London…. three-quarters of her way through a Ring cycle for San Francisco Opera and is developing an opera-house-scale version of “Show Boat” at Chicago Lyric Opera… Meanwhile, for the Guthrie in Minneapolis, Zambello and playwright Marsha Norman are adapting Louise Erdrich’s passionate novel “The Master Butchers Singing Club” into a new play with music… also developing a musical with “Les Miserables” composer Claude-Michel Schonberg…. A scaled-down version of Zambello’s Disney show “The Little Mermaid” is in the works…. her current tour of “Little House on the Prairie”….
Or, on the other hand, maybe even the generally clueless NYCO board were appalled at Zambello’s midwestern-drag-show level of visual taste: