Cher Public

All Sills final

You can tell a lot about someone from their garage sale. You can tell what’s important to them. You can tell where they’ve been and who they are., what their priorities are and the kind of people they associate with: all sorts of things.

I learned a lot about the New York City Opera from their online auction a few weeks ago.  

Near the end of last year, the New York City Opera, grappling with various debts, made the choice that instead of continuing to pay for storage of their productions-some of which date back to the 1970’s or before- they would hold an online auction of the items to raise money Things older than the famous Three Queens throne used by Beverly Sills in the NYCO productions of Bolena, Stuarda and Devereux, to items like the row boat from Cosi fan Tutte produced just last year. Many an opera fan would have been able to identify at least one of the over 3,050 items for sale.

In the end, almost everything sold. Even things like trailers sold as well as complete productions of various operas. My bet would be that this auction was a success for NYCO, but whether this auction was a success for the buyer… we,, the jury’s still out on that one.

My opera obsession wasn’t in full swing until around 2010. By that time, I was getting to one opera a year at best, and the Met was the focal point of my operatic excursions. I went to my first NYCO production in the winter of last year (Prima Donna) and despite what most critics said, I really enjoyed it.

I was long aware of the uphill fight to keep NYCO in Lincoln Center, then to keep it open, but I was a little late to reap the benefits of the company. Now that they’re producing part of their season in Brooklyn, it’s even more inaccessible for me as that I don’t live in New York City, and most of my trips are to Manhattan.

These items were like a final remembrance of what NYCO must have been, so I threw my hat into the ring for a few items to see what I could win.

Of the two lots I won, one were some props from the famous Manon with Sills (because, let’s be honest, it would be pretty cool to own something she used onstage), and the other were a lot of vocal scores.

Last Saturday, I finally brought the items home, which was an uphill battle in itself for a few reasons.

To begin, the auction house that organized the event was less than easy to deal with. On the website, each lot of props (which were what I was mostly interested in) were listed as something like “Assorted bottles, books, knives, jewelry and more” from whatever the opera was. When I placed by bid on the props from Manon seen below featuring “Assorted Small Props, Including Baskets, Glassware, Bottles, and More”, I thought more meant another glass or another basket. This is what I thought I won:

What I actually won was easily twice this amount in garbage bags, trays and other things. More, did not just mean another glass or another basket.Now I know that more is the caveat emptor for the items and I understand that it would take years to catalogue all the various items sold, but the more I got was absolutely horrendous.

Not only did I get all the items seen in the above photo, but I got easily two times that in filthy, dirty linens, trays with travel shampoo bottles glued to them, prop books and entire bolts of dirty fabric that required a separate box themselves. The basket of fake flowers you can partially see, must have given someone an allergy attack because they were riddled with used tissues.  I’m sure that even the most sentimental and discerning opera buff would agree that the majority of what I was given belonged in the trash.

Now, not only is there not enough room in my house for most of the junk (we already threw away most of the unusable items), but I feel totally duped and taken advantage of by Tiger Remarketing Services as well as NYCO. Also, Tiger didn’t tell me weight or dimensions of the items I won, so when I got an email from the third party shipper telling me that not only did I win over 100 lbs of stuff, but also that it would take “hundreds of dollars to pack and ship it all”, I was confused and angry.

So, opting not to spend the hundreds of dollars I didn’t think I would need to spend, I spent part of the day last weekend in Paramus, New Jersey, picking up the items and bringing them back home. It would have been easier to pick up the items straight from the auction house without paying for the pickup and storage fee. If they had told me more about what I had won, then maybe I could have planned more effectively. There were just too many loose ends for this auction. There was a lot to be desired with the organization. This was acutely felt as I was rooting through disjointed fabrics that appear to have been used to clean up after incontinent choristers.

There were more things that looked like this than not.

As I said, most of the fabric items I got were stained or soiled, along with items that were falling apart as it was. New York City Opera didn’t want to hire a dumpster. So they sold their garbage to me.

There is a fine line between history and junk. I got a little of both.  Amongst the rubble, there were quite a few gems, starting with the wooden swing by Beverly Sills swung on in Act One.

Also amongst the spoils are some packs of oversize cards which are undoubtedly from the Hotel Transylvanie scene…


and a scroll that, at a guess, was not.

Also included in the Manon collection were costume jewelry pieces the little sister has put to good use. Other props I don’t have room for were donated to my school’s drama department..

Finally, the other lot I won was a lot of vocal scores. I’m sure many of you will agree that whether you’re a singer or not, you can never have too many vocal scores. As a fledgling score collector, I thought this might be a cheap and easy way to strengthen my collection. In the end, I ended up with around seven piano-vocal scores of Emmeline (Tobias Picker) and a few copies of the libretto for The Glassblowers. That was it in the “assorted scores” lot. Nothing felt properly curated.

I assume that I might have had more consistent results if I had bid on one specific item like that terrifying looking Adonis head from Hoffman or the throne I mentioned above. I know that some of my disappointment came from setting my hopes too high, but asking for a glass without sediment still in it isn’t setting the bar too high, isn’t it?

In the end, my biggest complaint was the lack of care. Everything was dusty, dirty and unorganized. There was no love put into the sale of items. And with NYCO being the way it is now, they’re going need that love more than ever.