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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.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Brother, Can You Spare $250,000?

City Opera seeks help to balance its budget.
A certain economy informs costume design at
the new City Opera. Image by Wacky Clip Art. 
by Paul Pelkonen
Despite reducing costs by cutting the expense of cutting orchestra, chorus and residency at Lincoln Center, the New York City Opera is still facing financial problems.

In a letter sent to the author's personal mailbox, City Opera general manager George Steel is soliciting donations of $250 in an effort to help his troubled opera company balance its budget for the fiscal year. The letter mentioned a fund-raising goal of $250,000

In the past calendar year, Mr. Steel has made headlines on this blog and elsewhere. The company moved out of its Lincoln Center home at the former New York State Theater, citing the high cost of using the facility. Then, City Opera cut its schedule to four operas and a total of just 16 performances.

Over the winter months, engaged in a messy dispute with Musicians Local 802 and the American Guild of Musical Artists, the unions that represent the company's orchestra and chorus. That dispute was resolved in January in an eleventh-hour compromise that favored the opera company.

Since the City Opera will only pay artists for performances on its shortened schedule, choristers and orchestra members were hit with a 90% pay reduction. Also, a sharp reduction in rehearsal time for opera performances resulted in slapdash play from the orchestra in all three performances reviewed this spring on Superconductor: La Traviata, Prima Donna and Così fan tutte. (Telemann's Orpheus, which ended the 2012 season, was not reviewed.)

For 2013, the City Opera plans to present another four operas, with just four performances of each. At BAM, the company will offer the New York stage premiere of Thomas Ades' Powder Her Face and a new production of Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw.

Then, in a return to its old home at the newly renovated City Center, the company will perform Rossini's Mose in Egitto and Offenbach's La Perichole. At the season announcement press conference, Mr. Steel seemed very proud that the company was providing its own sets and costumes for all four operas.

Guess that's where the money's going.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats