Rating City Opera's Plan For Survival

Three Views on City Opera's Bold Gamble

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Calling it a "bold plan to deliver world-class productions within reach of more New Yorkers," the financially-strapped New York City Opera announced its 2011-12 season on Tuesday at the Guggenheim Museum, in which it will move out of its longtime Lincoln Center home, the David H. Koch Theater, and perform five operas in venues around the city. 

Preceding that announcement, union members gathered outside in the broiling July heat to stage a lively demonstration against the move, and against the cuts that will result. City Opera says the move is the only way to remain viable; critics contend that it has not made necessary adjustments or taken appropriate steps to keep the company at Lincoln Center.

To offer some perspective, host Naomi Lewin is joined by three guests: Catherine Malfitano, a soprano, stage director and teacher who began her career at City Opera; James Jorden, editor of the opera blog Parterre Box and a columnist for The New York Post; and Ken Benson, an artist manager and vocal consultant formerly with Columbia Artists Management.

Programming note: George Steel, City Opera's general manager and artistic director, will join us at WQXR later this week.

Podcast producer: Brian Wise; Engineer: Bill Bowen


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Comments [9]

Michael Meltzer

To access, read and sign Catherine Malfitano's petition to save NYC Opera at Lincoln Center, use the following address:

Jul. 15 2011 08:03 AM
Carolyn from New York

The "board" should consider hiring a real General Manager and Artistic Director that knows opera-the music, opera-the art, opera -the singing NOT opera, as a means to make money or a legacy for oneself.

Jul. 14 2011 01:41 PM
Michael Meltzer

Phasing into retirement not long ago, I spent about two years as a part-time concert telemarketer, some of that for DCM, the agency that handled City Opera subscriptions.
I spent about a month with their City Opera account, speaking every day with past subscribers, past single-ticket buyers and cold-calling other serious music patrons. I listened to people with distinct and thoughtfully-arrived-at preferences explain why they would buy, why they would not buy, or why they would order their Met tickets first and see what's left in the budget, how they remembered "the old days," and what they thought of the current programming. It was an education.
I get the uncomfortable feeling the "bold new programming" at City Opera was designed for an audience that may not be comprised of the people I spoke to on the phone, that there is still a strong theoretical aspect to the expected client base.
It is one thing to explain a new concept and have knowledgeable people nod their heads and tell you how smart you are, it is another thing to get them to put their hand in their pocket or purse and pull out a checkbook or credit card. I would suggest that Mr. Steel and company take a week or two out and go to the phones, start calling people and doing some serious listening, one-on-one. Guaranteed they will have food for thought!

Jul. 14 2011 03:49 AM
Gregory Klosek from Brooklyn, NY

"The People's Opera" w/ least expensive ticket prices TWICE what I pay at the "elitist" Met? I also live in Brooklyn, & might be semi-interested in seeing the Rupert Wainwright work at BAM. I'd like to see the Telemann work, but am not interested in traveling way, way up the least accessible side of Manhattan & paying $51 for the privilege. I've been a subscriber since Beverley Sills, but I'm not renewing. I have many pleasant memories, but it's over.

Jul. 14 2011 03:35 AM
CPG from Englewood, NY

I was at the NYCO in 1965 or `66 when Placido Domingo appeared in Ginastera's Don Roderigo. It was a magical night, hearing such a voice, and from one so young. NYCO has always been such an incubator, but I fear will never be again, given the current course. In my own home town, our arts center was on the verge of death before one person came forward and marshalled the forces necessary to turn its fortunes around and today, it thrives. The NYCO needs that kind of person now, and if they find such a person, we may hear neglected operas, new operas, and voices as I heard in 1965, a voice that still sings today.

Jul. 14 2011 12:35 AM
Harry Matthews from Brooklyn, NY

I suppose I should be happy to see two productions appear at BAM, a ten-minute walk from my apartment. It's a beautiful house with a rich history (the site of Caruso's last performance, for instance), but it's not where I expect to see City Opera.

That company has its own distinctive identity, linked to its home, first City Center, then the State Theatre, and its ensemble of artists. I've always enjoyed my visits to Lincoln Center, and I admired Mr. Steel's addition of provocative visual art in the theatre. If City Opera becomes a migratory band of free-lancers, it will lose its identity and my patronage.

It's symbolic, I suppose, that when I clicked the "Subscription Info" link on a City Opera e-mail I get an error message: "page not found."

Jul. 13 2011 10:24 PM
Tony from Bayonne, NJ

I agree with June LeBell, who by the way, I loved when she was at WQXR. She was such a pleasure to listen to in the evening.

Jul. 13 2011 09:57 PM
June LeBell from Sarasota, FL

A travesty. I loved NYC Opera but this is not it.
June LeBell

Jul. 13 2011 09:01 PM
Marilyn Chandley

I have to commute into the city to see the opera - I am not going to travel from one location to another. I was a loyal supporter of the NYCO until they started that approach years ago. I did hope that after the refurbishing of the theater, they would be back, but if not, too bad, it has to be goodbye.

Jul. 13 2011 07:11 PM

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WQXR looks deeper into the issues affecting the classical music landscape. 

Conducting Business is hosted by Naomi Lewin and produced by Brian Wise.

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