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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, December 3, 2015

They're Back From the Dead

And they're ready for Tosca: The New York City Opera Renaissance.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Original art from Iron Maiden's No Prayer for the Dying.
Painting by Derek Riggs © 1990 Iron Maiden/CBS Records.
The above headline suits the giddy anticipation that some opera lovers in New York have regarding the resurrection of the New York City Opera, the long-running company that bit the dust in 2013. In stories reported yesterday in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, it was announced this week that the New York City Opera Renaissance will move forward with its plans to bring the historic company out of bankruptcy and get back to the business of putting operas on the stage.

First on the new company's agenda is a production of Tosca, to be staged in the small but comfortable Rose Theater, an extension of Lincoln Center located on Columbus Circle. The grand drama of this opera will be mounted in a mid-sized theater, far more acoustically friendly than the company's old digs at the former New York State Theater.

The production is announced as being scheduled for January 20-24, and is advertised as the "New York premiere of the original 1900 production of Tosca" using sets and costume designs based on those by Adolf Hohenstein's legendary Rome production of the opera. (The Hohenstein-inspired show replaced an elaborate plan to mount Franco Zeffirelli's popular but over-the-top version of the show that used to tread the boards at the Metropolitan Opera.)

The New York City Opera Orchestra is scheduled to play under the baton of Pacien Mazzagatti. Singers are yet to be announced, although a November article in the New York Times mentioned tenor James Valenti and baritone Carlo Guelfi as potential cast members. As of this writing there is no word on any negotiations between Mr. Capasso and the American Guild of Musical Artists who represent choristers and orchestra members working in theaters in New York.

NYC Opera Renaissance is a conflation of two troubled companies: the moribund City Opera and the (also shuttered) DiCapo Opera, which was resident for many years in a church basement on the Upper East Side. (Dicapo was quietly folded a few years ago, and, according to the Times, still owes money to its artists.) Spearheading the new City Opera is Michael Capasso, the former artistic director of Dicapo, now in place as General Director of the resurrected firm. Leading the financial side is chairman of the board Roy Niederhoffer, a former member of the old City Opera board and Board President Jeffery Laikand, the former Chairman of the old NYCO Executive Committee.

Until yesterday, the opposition to a season or even a production of opera under the City Opera banner came in the form of Gene Kaufman, a local architect who had his own bid to resurrect City Opera at its old home of City Center. According to the Times, Mr. Kaufman's version of City Opera would have staged opera under the direction of Robert Lyall, the general and artistic director of New Orleans Opera. In a peacemaking gesture, Mr. Kaufman and his group New Vision For NYC Opera agreed to a buy-out of $300,000. The company is now free to move forward out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The new opera company has said that plans a 2016-2017 season with 36 performances, divided between the Rose Theater and the 200-seat Theater at St. Jean's: the former home of Dicapo. Four large-scale operas are planned for the Rose stage, and two chamber operas will be staged at the St. Jean. The schedule has yet to be announced, but for now there's Tosca, the show that opened the original City Opera back in 1944.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats