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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

City Opera Occupies Financial District

Opera company moves into new office over a cigar store.
(No, really.)
The ITT Building at 75 Broad Street,
new home of New York City Opera.
Like a rebellious teenager threatening to move out of the house, the  troubled New York City Opera has finally made good on its threat and left Lincoln Center altogether.

The opera company, which announced earlier this year that it would not be performing in its longtime home at the former New York State Theater, had maintained offices in the building for the last eight months. Their new digs are at 75 Broad Street, located in the heart of the financial district. An advertised rent for office space in the building listed it at $33 per square foot. 

Built in 1928 as the ITT building, this 33-story office block sits on the corner of Broad and South William Street, two blocks from the New York Stock Exchange. It is nowhere near any theaters, opera houses, concert halls, or anywhere else that could be used for the performance of opera. Perhaps the company will perform in the nine-seat cigar lounge of tobacconists Barclay Rex, who have a store in the building.

In other news, City Opera's labor impasse with two unions (Musicians' Local 802 and the American Guild of Musical Artists) continues. Negotiations ended last week when the opera company declared an impasse. NYCO general manager George Steel has asked for a federal mediator to step in and jump-start a new session of negotiations. With the new offices only two blocks from the heavily guarded New York Stock Exchange, Mr. Steel may have chosen 75 Broad with the idea of using the New York Police Department as strike-breakers. Or maybe he just likes to walk to work.

Before that happens, the mediator's task will be to persuade the musicians that a contract stripped of health benefits and offering only ten percent of their former salaries is some kind of upgrade over making money to perform opera. In November, the company rejected offers from both the chorus and  orchestra to play for free in exchange for keeping their health benefits.

City Opera has until February to get their musicians in line (or hire scabs.) The company's truncated season is scheduled to open at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with productions of Verdi's La Traviata and Prima Donna, the new French-language opera by singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright.

The most disturbing rumor about City Opera comes from the blog VoiceTalk, written by singer Daniel James Shigo. Mr. Shigo published a story on Dec. 5 alleging that the opera company is planning to discard its archives. These include rare programs and photographs of the many stars who graced its stage in a history lasting more than half a century. Sad, but typical of the recent history under Mr. Steel's management.

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