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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, January 30, 2014

The Business of Revivals

Impresario Michael Capasso may save two failed opera companies.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
In his proposal for a New York City Opera Renaissance, impresario Michael Capasso
suggests mounting Franco Zeffirelli's production of Tosca (above)
in Lincoln Center's intimate Rose Theater.
Act I of Tosca. Photo © Teatro Opera di Roma.
In a dramatic turn of events worthy of the operatic stage, two recently darkened New York opera companies have unveiled a plan to join forces and come back to life. The proposal, linked to yesterday on (and readable here) comes from Michael Capasso, the general director of the recently dimmed Dicapo Opera. The new hybrid opera company would be called (wait for it)

This document reads like a list of wish fulfillments for some New York opera lovers. It proposes the creation of a medium-sized, mixed-use company from the ashes of City Opera, the release of that organization from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the appointment of a new Board of Directors. These initial steps would be followed by fund-raising, a  free concert,  and ultimately a limited 2014-15 season.

A slate of six operas is suggested for the 2014-15 season, with both large and small-scale productions. The intent is to strike a balance between traditional and modern repertory much as the City Opera did in its heyday. The suggested use of multiple venues has echoes of the "run-and-gun" approach taken by City Opera in its final years under the directorship of general manager George Steel. In addition to the old Dicapo space on the East Side, (reserved for "shows with less commercial appeal") Mr. Capasso proposes moving his new company into Lincoln Center's Rose Theater, the medium-sized, acoustically excellent space that is the primary residence of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Located at the north end of the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle, the Rose Theater is generally associated with jazz. However, it occasionally doubles as an intimate opera house. The Budapest Festival Orchestra, Opera Lafayette and Royal Danish Opera have all mounted productions in this theater, Its modern facilities and excellent acoustics for voice would be a considerable improvement on the former New York State Theater, which was City Opera's home for over thirty years.

Reading through this document, one is struck by the calculated appeal to nostalgia and the equally calculated shots at the practice of Regietheater, the European movement to reimagine classic operas through the eyes of contemporary theater directors. Assuming Mr. Zeffirelli cooperates, this new company could be a haven for opera-lovers of a more conservative bent.

Given the length of this document and the detail paid to such issues as social media and marketing of this possible opera company, there is no reason for Superconductor to doubt its authenticity or the sincerity of Mr. Capasso and his backers. The much-publicized death of City Opera and the (quieter) hiatus of Dicapo have left a gaping hole in the opera landscape of this city, one which may be filled through following up on a bold proposall ike this one.

Appended to Mr. Capasso's proposal are statements of support from artists like Plácido Domingo, Martina Arroyo and Franco Zeffirelli. Most tantalizing for New York's conservative opera audiences: a plan to restore Mr. Zeffirelli's lavish,  beloved Roman production of Tosca (using sets currently stored in Italy) to the operatic stage. Other show planned for the Rose Theater include a New York premiere of Jake Heggie's opera Moby Dick and a possible presentation of Alexander Zemlinsky's opera Der Zwerg.

Of course, opera cannot exist without financial backers, and Mr. Capasso's dream will require substantial support from donors, help from the courts and the cooperation of Lincoln Center if this project has any hope of becoming reality. A lot of things have to go right to get this proposal all the way to the stage, but isn't that true for every opera performance?

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