14 September 2013

New York City Opera: Business As Usual, Despite Challenges

By George Steel,
General Manager and Artistic Director,
New York City Opera
Guest Columnist

As you may know, last weekend I announced that, if New York City Opera couldn’t raise $7 million by the end of this month, we’d have to cancel three out of four operas this season; if we can’t raise $20 million by the end of the year, we’ll have to cancel the 2014–15 season altogether.

Almost immediately, people began to ask, “What happens to NYCO if there are no more operas produced after September 2013?”

Such questions are of course self-defeating and frankly ridiculous. NYCO has a proud tradition, under such distinguished general managers as what’s her name and the irritating old guy with the accent, of bouncing back from the brink of disaster time and again. Under my dynamic leadership, there’s no reason to believe that’s going to change. Besides, we have a Kickstarter campaign! What could possibly go wrong?

The people who ask, “What happens if you fail?” are probably the exact same people who were asking, “Isn’t there some way to stay at Lincoln Center, where people at least know where to find you?” and “Are you sure you want to alienate the very artists who once made this company great and who might have helped you now?”

Well, you can see for yourself how foolish those questions were. Look how great everything turned out!

The NYCO logo: A resounding rebuttal to those
who say that City Opera has become a black hole,
endlessly sucking money out of the universe.

We’re doing a better job than ever of fulfilling our mission: bringing opera to the people of New York City. We’re not confined to one theater, or any theater at all!

There are no limits! Just yesterday in Times Square, I listened to one of our esteemed orchestra members playing the Habanera from Carmen for passersby who may never have heard opera before!

Of course, that violinist was panhandling for tourists, because we can no longer afford to hire musicians full-time. But still! Mission accomplished!

And I’d say she made about four dollars before the cops chased her away.

Even if, in the near future, NYCO has no home, no productions, no artists, and no cash, we will continue to pursue our goals, exactly as we did for how ever many decades we have been in existence.

For instance, I am currently planning to launch “Opera on Wheels,” one of the most innovative programs since the bookmobile and the Nyco® Felafel Cart. We’ll send out a van with a boombox and a loudspeaker, bringing recorded opera, and possibly ice cream or tacos, and reaching every neighborhood in the city. If you’ve got a valid New York drivers license and some old CDs, why not volunteer to help out?

Also, let us know if you’ve got a van to lend us. Have you checked the prices on rentals lately?

I’m not making this up, you know:
One of the “gorgeous” rewards for Kickstarter pledges.

Come Hell or high water, NYCO will continue our educational programs, which now feature special classes in papier mâché in New York’s public schools, using our own supply of wet paper left over from the archive that flooded during Hurricane Sandy. Kids love to play with wet paper!

And while the kids are making masks and ashtrays and Christmas ornaments (all of which we’ll be offering as premiums for Kickstarter pledges), we can introduce a new generation of New Yorkers to the wonderful world of Johann Christian Bach.

We’ll also be staging “flash mobs,” with impromptu performances of scenes and arias in exciting venues such as the Fairway Market and South Street Seaport. Such productions are a great way to reach new audiences, and they’re incredibly inexpensive, because we don’t pay for them.

In addition, I’m currently actively seeking out compromising photographs or video of wealthy people and political figures. This is difficult work, but I know it will pay off for NYCO. Let me know if you hear of any leads.

Meanwhile, let’s emphasize the positives, shall we? We’re no longer reliant on that minuscule portion of our audience that used to show up at our performances because the Met was sold out and hey, we were right across the Plaza. No, we now have a dedicated audience of people who really work to find out what we’re doing and where we are.

Not your grandfather’s NYCO:
What a flash mob opera might look like.

Our board stands firmly behind me and my innovative management ideas. These are the same people who thought it was a good idea to go dark for a season, the same people who hired one general director whose experience was in state-funded European companies and another whose experience was in a university concert series. It’s their vision and their support that make NYCO what it is today, and I thank them, as I’m sure you do, too.

Finally, there’s one more question that’s come up a lot lately: “Why should I throw good money after bad?” I object to the question on principle, as you might expect, but let me try to address the concerns behind it.

Imagine New York with only one major opera company. Imagine New York without a showcase for rising American artists. Imagine New York with nothing more than memories of historic productions, legendary singers, and repertoire that ranged from crowd-pleasing classics to thrilling new discoveries. Above all, imagine New York without the sense of community — yes, of family — that opera can bring, year after year.

Well, you don’t have to imagine, because I’ve already tackled those problems. My point is, if you don’t give us the money, things can only get worse. Thank you.

Illustration courtesy of our friends at Parterre Box.

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10 September 2013

Man Waking from Surgery Stunned to Learn He Is a Joyce DiDonato Fan

A man coming out of surgery and still under the influence of anesthesia was talking to a lady next to his bed when he realized he was listening to a Joyce DiDonato album.

“Man, is that a great voice,” he says, CD in hand. “Whoa! That may be the prettiest voice I’ve ever heard. Who is that?”

“That’s Joyce DiDonato,” a friend says off-camera. “You’re a fan of hers.”

“I’m her fan?” the man says, his voice cracking. “Holy s***. Dang. You mean I’ve heard her sing live?”

“Several times.”

“Do I own her record albums and DVDs?”


The man eats a cracker while thinking about this. “How long have I been her fan?”

“Almost from the beginning, ever since you saw her in Mark Adamo’s Little Women. You’ve even met her.”

“I have?”

“Several times. And she has a new album coming out.”

“Oh, my God, I hit the jackpot!”

While the video was not available for republication here, experts believe it is authentic. Some skeptics, however, insist that the man is not waking from surgery, but has merely lost his mind due to intense deadline pressure as he completes the authorized biography of Madeline Kahn. “The scruffy beard is a dead giveaway,” said one analyst, Dr. Kevin Daly of the American Institutes for Amnesia and Something Else I Can’t Quite Remember.

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