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Can The New York City Opera Rise From The Ashes ?

   The demise of the beloved New York City opera in late  2013 is one of the saddest stories in the recent history of classical music    It had been  founded in 1944  with the support of legendary New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia , who was a great opera fan ,  as a far less expensive alternative to the glamorous but pricey Metropolitan opera , and was billed  as  "The People's Opera ."

    From  its modest beginnings , it grew to be a fixture of the incredibly rich and diverse classical music scene in New York .  It couldn't afford to engage the most famous and glamorous opera singers of the day , or offer sumptuous sets , which were the norm at the glamorous Met, which was supported by wealthy people and corporations , but in  its own plucky way was still able to offer quality opera at prices people could afford .

    A talented and  ambitious young  Austrian musician and budding conductor by the name of Julius Rudel, who died last year at the age of 93 , went to work for the company , and eventually became its  music director and manager , worked  mightily to  attract the best singers possible .  By the mid 1060s, the company , which had its home at the City Center , which still exists , moved into what was then called   the New York State  theater in Lincoln center , next to the  Met .  

   Such legendary singers as  the late Beverly Sills ,Placido Domingo,   bass Norman Treigle and others  turmed the company into one which could offer worlf class performances , encouraged by maestro Rudel .  The Met had moved from its  old home , which was soon demolished , into the  Lincoln center the same year .  The reprtoire of the two companies was very different , all though there was some overlap .  The Met concentrated on sumptuous productions of standard repertoire operas by Verdi,Puccini, Mozart, and Wagner etc , while the NYC opera did   much more unusual repertoire, by composers ranging from the time of Handel in the early 18th century to new or recen toperas .  In recent years , the Met's repertoire has become  much more diverse and adventurous .  

     Beverly Sills and thelate bass Norman Treigle triumphed in a new production of Handel's then rarely performed "Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesr ) , before  the operas of Handel  became popular worldwide .  This was recorded for   RCA  records and is still available .  

    But unfortunately, serious pronlems  began to plague the company several years ago .  The New York state theater, which had been renamed the David H. Koch theater becuase of generous financial support by  the  now notorious Koch brothers, had to go silent for a whole season  when the theater  went through  extensive renovations to   improve its  problematic acoustics and  redesign the auditorium   No alternate venue was found  for the company to perform .  Much revenue was lost , and the company was forced to abandon the Koch theater, which is also the home of the New York City ballet .  Critics agreed that the acousitcs  were now improved , but the company was forced to  assume a nomadic  exstence, going to various theaters in New York to perform . There were fewer performances and productions per season ,  and large scale operas were out of the question .

    Ther noted Belgian  opera impresario Gerard Mortier, who died recently ,  and  who had  been the manager of several important Europran opera houses as well as the renowned Salzburg festival, was engaged to become general manager , but resigned before  taking over because he   could not get the  generous government subsidies which were taken for granted in Europe , leaving the company in  the lurch . In October 2013, the company declared bankruptcy and has yet to be revived .  

    A number of welathy individuals are currently attempting to revive the company ,  but   the situation still looks grim .  Virtually all the major European cities have two opera companies, some even three .   This is a shameful situation . New York is one of the world's foremost centers for classical music .  There are still  a number of smaller companies in New Yorkm but they are forced by finances to limit themsleves to small scale operas , some of them   quite interesting .  The Juilliard  school,  the Manhattan school of music and the Mannes college of music also offer high quality performances  with some of the most talented and promising young vocal students in the country .  The Opera orchestra of New York offers concert perfomances, that is, without sets or costumes , of operas which are rarely perfomed today .  So all is not lost .  But New York just isn't New York wityhout the NYC opera .  
Posted: Jan 22 2015, 10:31 PM by the horn | with no comments
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