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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Manahan Overboard!

City Opera Drops Music Director.
Former City Opera music director George Manahan.
Photo by Nan Melville courtesy Columbia Artists Management (CAMI)
The New York City Opera has announced that music director George Manahan will not be returning for its 2012 season. No replacement has been named.

The move marks the latest of many radical changes for this troubled opera company. In April of this year, City Opera left its longtime home at Lincoln Center, after claiming that its diminished endowment would not be enough to pay the rent on the building. The decision has led to uproar in the opera world, including a letter of protest signed by director Hal Prince and tenor Placído Domingo.

Now they'll attempt to survive without a music director, one of the key positions in any opera company. In addition to leading performances, an MD plays a key role in finding singers, administration, and overseeing all aspects of opera performance. This is the same role enjoyed by James Levine at the Metropolitan Opera.

In an interview with the New York Times, City Opera general manager George Steel said: "Given the size the company is now, it doesn't make sense for us to have a music director."


A graduate from Manhattan School of Music, George Manahan served as the music director of City Opera since 1996. During that time, the conductor led a wide range of operas, from the baroque music of Handel to modern compositions. He was a key fixture of the company for the last decade, and a steady hand on the tiller for this tempest-tossed opera company.

Mr. Manahan was conspicuously absent from the recent City Opera press conference at the Guggenheim, and is not scheduled to conduct any of the four operas that constitute NYCO's short season, beginning in the spring of 2012. The operas, scheduled for performance at BAM, John Jay College and El Museo del Barrio, include the New York premiere of Rufus Wainwright's first opera, Prima Donna, a Jonathan Miller staging of La Traviata, Mozart's Cosi fan tutte and Telemann's Orpheus.

New York City Opera's decision to leave Lincoln Center has been met with vehement protests from members of Local 802 (the musicians) and the American Guild of Musical Artists. Both organizations have been offered a vastly altered contract for next season, as the company moves from relying on a full-time orchestra and chorus to a series of sporadic, pick-up performances with no guarantees for singers or musicians. 
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.