Exclusive: City Opera's George Steel Rebuts Critics, Looks Forward

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The "people's opera" will have a reduced season next year, but the company's general manager and artistic director hopes it's not for long. In an interview with Naomi Lewin, George Steel said the financially struggling New York City Opera will eventually get back to performing 8 to 10 productions a season.

But besides a $5 million deficit and dwindling endowment, the opera is also wrangling over a new contract with its musicians. Steel said that most American opera companies don't guarantee a definitive number of weeks for their musicians:

City Opera's union musicians are protesting the company's move from Lincoln Center and calling into question the company’s stewardship.

On Tuesday, City Opera announced plans for the upcoming traveling season that include performances of La Traviata and Prima Donna at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Cosi Fan Tutte at John Jay College and Telemann's Orpheus at El Museo del Barrio.

Steel also addressed questions about leaving Lincoln Center. He called the conversations with the arts complex "very productive," adding that his statements about possibly returning to David H. Koch Theater have been misconstrued.

Steel said he has no qualms about finding appropriate rehearsal spaces when the company travels around the city. He noted that the orchestra is already accustomed to using outside spaces and the destination theaters will set aside time for rehearsals.

Steel also acknowledged that the company put itself in a difficult position by announcing that it would leave Lincoln Center in May without saying where it would go, what operas it would produce or with what casts, but it had little choice at the time. And in a reflective moment, he noted that his job turned out to be a far greater challenge than what he initially signed on for but he remains confident about getting it on a stable financial footing.


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Comments [2]

irving marks from new york

Naomi. Next time you plan on going to Berkshires, I would be happy to have you visit with me. I am on the board of Berkshire Bach Society and very involved with music for many years. I Liked the review of you and your life in music. Irving Marks

Aug. 04 2011 03:25 PM
David from Flushing

Once the Koch Theater finds new tenants, the question of the City Opera returning there will be settled. As the sign said in the old barber shops, "If you leave, you lose your place."

I still feel that the company's debt and labor problems will spell its demise. I will miss the many original things they did. Unfortunately, I fear that the potential closing, along with the recent disbandment of several regional orchestras, are just the beginning of the consequences of an aging classical music audience. We will not live forever.

Jul. 15 2011 07:21 AM

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