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Monday, February 22, 2016

City Opera Resurrection Enters Next Stage

"Renaissance" dropped from name as company announces spring season.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
"It's alive!" As Baron von FRONK-en-steen, Gene Wilder exults in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein.
Image from Young Frankenstein © 1975 Universal Pictures.
Today, the New York City Opera took the next steps toward regaining its place in the city's operatic community. The company, which sputtered back to life with a new production of Tosca last month, has announced a slate of a concert and two operas for the spring season, and dropped the word "Renaissance" from its name.

In a statement, general manager Michael Capasso said: "In continuing with my vision for New York City Opera, these three offerings of contemporary music balance the traditional Tosca production with which we re-launched the company in January. Historically, New York City Opera presented a combination of core and contemporary repertoire; this programming represents our commitment to maintaining that approach."

The first City Opera spring season since 2013 will open March 16 with a concert in the Appel Room, adjacent to Lincoln Center's Rose Theater. This concert, with the New York City Opera Orchestra under the baton of Gil Rose, will feature the world premiere of David Hertzberg's Sunday Morning. Mr. Hertzberg's work was originally slated to be produced by the Gotham Chamber Opera before that company went bust in 2015.

The piece,a cantata for soprano, string players and harp, will appear alongside Last Round, written for voice and nonet by Osvaldo Golijov and created as a tribute to Argentinean tango master Astor Piazzolla. Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Nine Shakespearean Songs brings a touch of Old Hollywood glamor to the program, and Alexander von Zemlinsky's Maiblumen blüten überall for voice and string sextet is a fine example of post-Romanticism. The program ends with a Bach cantata: "Widerstehe doch der Sünde."

The City Opera's next offering will arrive April 28 at Harlem Stage with the East Coast premiere of Hopper's Wife, a chamber music inspired by the home life of painter Edward Hopper and his spouse, sharp-penned gossip column queen Hedda Hopper. Composer Stewart Wallace's opera bowed in Long Beach a few years ago. The composer is best known for creating the opera Harvey Milk, based on the life and death of the San Francisco politician who became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in American history.

The season concludes June 22 with four performances of   Florencia en el Amazonas an opera by composer Daniel Catán. This marks the start of a City Opera commitment to perform operas in Spanish and draw on a new audience for the art form among New York's large Latino population. Inspired by the magic realist writing of Gabriel Gárcia Marquez, Florencia is the first major Spanish-language opera to be performed in New York since Mr. Catán's La Hija de Rappacini, itself a success for the Gotham Chamber Opera.

Although the press release ends on a cheery note with the promise of a further announcement of the 2016-17 season later this year, there is surprisingly little news emerging from this reborn opera company. Furthermore, this slate of chamber operas and new pieces suggests that Mr. Capasso is still at loggerheads with the singers that make up the now disbanded New York City Opera Chorus. Until this new company has established relationships with the singers of AGMA and the musicians of Local 802, this company is still on life support.
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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.