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Arts on the Weekend
New York’s Second Opera Is Back
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  • vepxistqaosani

    But, but … you didn’t mention the directors! You clearly have no idea what opera’s supposed to be about today.

  • WigWag

    I was a big fan of the original New York City Opera; I subscribed for twenty years and didn’t stop until they moved out of Lincoln Center. It pains me to say this, but the new incarnation of City Opera is never going to work. My guess is that they will shut down within a couple of years. This has nothing to do with their new indoor venue (the Rose Theater) or their outdoor venue (Bryant Park). Designed for music (in this case, jazz) the Rose Theater has excellent acoustics and excellent sight lines; it’s a great place for opera. In fact its better than NYCO’s old home, what, at the time, was called the New York State Theater. The NYCO’s original home was built for ballet, not opera, there were numerous dead spots where you couldn’t hear anything and the theater itself was horribly ugly and non-functional in a 1960s sort of way.

    The new City Opera is making the same mistake as the old City Opera in its final years. It’s producing operas that only a tiny percentage of opera goers are going to want to see. To be financially viable, the opera needs to attract tourists who believe a visit to New York City is not complete without a high cultural experience. It also needs to attract customers from the tri-state area who like traditional opera but have little interest in contemporary or avant grade programs. To put it bluntly, its the filled houses for Mozart, Rossini, Puccini and Verde operas that provide the operating income which subsidizes the lesser known contemporary operas.

    The Metropolitan Opera gets this. They understand that a substantial proportion of their audience are tourists who want to see the beloved favorites not a bunch of operas that they have never heard of. The Metropolitan Opera does those too, but they understand that its the repertory that pays the bills. New York City Opera should be positioning itself as the poor man’s Met. There are plenty of tourists who would go see opera but they don’t want to pay $300 for an orchestra ticket. There are also tens of thousands of metropolitan area residents who would like to go to the opera every now and then but don’t want to break the bank to do it. They don’t care if the performers are famous, but they want to see their old favorites.

    There are probably even a few opera fans like me. I used to subscribe to New York City Opera because I liked seeing young singers passionate about opera and just embarking on their careers more than I liked seeing aging stars who were as likely as not to be phoning in their performance after having little to no rehearsal time. At the City Opera the singers actually enjoyed acting; at the Metropolitan Opera, as often as not, there wasn’t even a pretense that the singers should act. I subscribed to the Metropolitan Opera for a while. I stopped because it grated on my nerves too much to pay hundreds of dollars for an orchestra seat to watch an opera that far too often I wanted to walk out of. In New York City Opera, that same orchestra seat cost a third as much; if the opera was no good; it simply didn’t sting as much.

    I enjoy contemporary opera and I think it should be supported; but my opinion about this is very much in the minority. A season consisting of operas entitled “Fallujah,” “La Campana Sommersa,” “Los Elementos,” “Angels in America,” and “Aleko/Pagliacci” is simply not going to cut it. NYCO’s most traditional performance this year will be Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide.” which undoubtedly qualifies as one of the worst operas that I have ever heard.

    • Andrew Allison

      I’m one of those unfortunates for whom Opera (as opposed to the music) is torture, but your argument makes a great deal of sense to me.

  • Proud Skeptic

    There is a reason that operas go in and out of bankruptcy…it is a beautiful but expensive art form that only a tiny, tiny percentage patronizes. I am not part of that percentage.

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