Rufus and the battle to save the NYCO

8 Jan

A friend forwarded me an email from Rufus Wainwright’s website with the dramatic title: An Operatic Request from Rufus Wainwright. You can read the full text on his website. It seemed to meander aimlessly how important opera is to him and how the New York City Opera is in dire financial state (tell us something new, dear Rufus). He throws in some references to life and death for gravitas and closes with a request for everyone to go and buy tickets for the New York staging of Prima Donna. Instantly I wondered what was clearly missing…

Did not see an indication that maybe he would waive his fee to help out, or that he would stage a fundraiser to help the NYCO. Another option would be of course to ask the fans to donate to a fund or something, instead of just asking them to buy tickets.

I am not necessarily castigating his motives but I feel like calling out the negative effect his Prima Donna may have on the embattled NYCO. A company with a deficit running at: $6.717.000 should be involved with this vanity project that was unceremoniously dropped by the Met Opera a couple of years ago? Especially on the back of other commercially unsuccessful projects, that is continuing to sink financially and shrinking audiences. All opera fans applaud experimental new repertoire but not at a time when the company is about to be torn into shreds and possibly go bankrupt. Julius Rudel’s open letter last year clearly pointed the finger at the mismanagement of the institution and he is a man that knows from the inside the mess the Company is in. His advice is to push forward and be bold, not retrench and lose valuable personnel that will make its existence impossible.

New York, indeed like most big cosmopolitan centres deserves at least two major opera houses (as Wainwright points out in his letter) but using its scant resources, away from its rightful home at the New York State Theater (lately the David H. Koch Theater) staging an opera in French by an unknown operatic quantity like Wainwright is near incomprehensible, verging on the self destructive. I hope that a lot of Rufus’ fans will indeed show up (if the season doesn’t get cancelled altogether) and at least help recoup the costs of putting it up.

But it seems things have gone from bad to worse yesterday, with George Steel, the company boss, essentially freezing upcoming piano rehearsals for La Traviata. He and the board of the Company have essentially created an entity without a permanent home, no orchestra and singers for the time being. Let’s hope that a way out of the current stalemate is found very soon, otherwise a much admired institution will be lost.

Read More

New York Times report on the latest sad developments at NYCO

The blog of the musicians of the NYCO

New York Times on the NYCO deficit

The accounts of NYCO for 2010-11 (PDF)

Julius Rudel’s 6 June 2011 passionate open letter in the NY Times

Tony Tommasini’s conversation piece with Julius Rudel, published in the NY Times throws more light at the start of the current problems

The full text of the open letter from opera singers against the move from Lincoln Centre

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