“Vittorio Grigolo could be the tenor of our times.”
– USA Today
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His new album featuring some of the most beloved arias and Italian songs ever written for the tenor voice Appearing in Roméo et Juliette at the Los Angeles Opera
VittorioGrigolo.com New York City Opera Sounds of America is a financial necessity, many believe that the move is nonetheless a grave mistake. A widely publicised letter signed by opera luminaries including Plácido Domingo and José Carreras states: “We are witnessing the dismembering of City Opera, piece by piece, person by person, and if it continues, it can never be undone. An opera company is a team, a cohesive family of soloists, chorus, orchestra and backstage and administrative personnel, which brings with it a shared point of view, a richness of context, ensemble values and a nest for nurturing young artists. If City Opera is transformed into a small ad hoc presenting organisation forced to deploy pick-up orchestras, choruses and soloists, it can never again achieve these things and therefore cannot retain its identity or its impact.”
One of the signatories, soprano Catherine Malfitano, says that City Opera “has lost its identity. It had an illustrious past and filled a vacuum in the city for innovative stagings. There used to be no problem filling the house. Something is wrong in the marketing department; something is wrong in the whole structure.”
“They can’t just say it’s too big a house and blame the financial climate,” she asserts. “That’s not the whole truth. It’s the way they are marketing themselves, maybe not pleasing the public enough, not creating a programme that gives something to everybody.”
The idea of leaving Lincoln Center is not new: many City Opera devotees over the years have suggested the company should escape the shadow of the Metropolitan Opera and find a permanent base elsewhere. But on this occasion those artists associated with City Opera say it was a stealth decision and that what they call the “City Opera family” was not consulted. They could have helped mobilise fundraising efforts, says Malfitano. But Steel points out that the company’s financial difficulties have never been a secret “and the company has talked about leaving Lincoln
Center publicly for an incredibly long time…so to say no one was consulted is off the mark”.
Cori Ellison, the company’s former dramaturg who left in 2010, says that, despite the rumours of a possible departure, “it came as a huge shock when it was announced”. People were “outraged” and “there was great resentment” over Steel’s referral in a recent New York Times article to the union negotiations as “theatre”.
“I think that leadership with the proper kind of vision and love of opera would be able both to conceive of viable solutions and to get them funded,” says Ellison. “To lose a dramaturg is like losing one lung, but to lose a music director is like losing your heart. So they have no home, no music director, no chorus, no roster. My question is, what at this moment separates it from the myriad boutique companies in town?” But Steel asserts that City Opera’s core mission – promoting young American singers and offering quality productions of traditional operas and new American works at affordable prices – is not under threat. Calling New York “a theatre with eight million seats”, he says that City Opera will thrive outside of Lincoln Center. “Coming out into the city and becoming a part of the fabric of New York is terrific for our mission and our city. In a city that has more than 200 theatres, there are tremendous opportunities to bring opera into new and unusual spaces.”
One of the greatest advantages to performing elsewhere, he believes, is that the company can stage operas in theatres of the size and scale for which they were written. Telemann’s Orpheus, for
Bernstein’s A Quiet Place, performed earlier in the year by NYCO, where protests have hardly been quiet n e w y o r k c i t y o p e r a o n t h e r o a d
Verdi’s La traviata February 12-18 at BaM’s howard gilman Opera house Brooklyn native Laquita Mitchell sings the title role, with tenor David Pomeroy making his company debut as Rodolfo. Steven White conducts Jonathan Miller’s staging, a co-production between Glimmerglass Festival and Vancouver Opera.
Rufus Wainwright’s Prima Donna February 19-25 at BaM’s howard gilman Opera house Wainwright’s first opera, for which he co-wrote the French libretto with Bernadette Colomine, has its US premiere. Melody Moore sings the heroine; Tim Albery directs.
Mozart’s Così fan tutte March 18-24 at the gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College Christopher Alden’s new production is his second in his Mozart/Da Ponte cycle. Christian Curnyn conducts a cast including Amanda Majeski and Jennifer Holloway in their company debuts.
Telemann’s Orpheus May 12–20 at El Museo del Barrio Gary Thor Wedow conducts this New York City premiere with Daniel Teadt making his company debut in the title-role.
Ticket info for all productions is: 212.870.5600/www.nycopera.com www.gramophone.co.uk www.gramophone.co.uk example, will be performed in the theatre at El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem, an intimate space ideal for Baroque opera.
Two productions will be staged at the Brooklyn Academy of Music: the US premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s Prima Donna and a new production of La traviata by Jonathan Miller. Così fan tutte will be performed at John Jay College in a new production by Christopher Alden, the second in his ongoing Mozart/Da Ponte cycle. There will also be a Shakespearean opera at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater in conjunction with the Public Theater (tickets are free).
City Opera has long been a launching pad for young singers. In an op-ed in the New York Times, Julius Rudel, City Opera’s general director and principal conductor from 1957 to 1979, wrote: “If we had become the travelling band that is currently being proposed, many of those careers might never have blossomed.”
“There are people who are living in the past and they are harder to bring along,” counters Steel. “Some allow their regrets to cloud the vision of the future, which is in fact quite exciting. Without a doubt, City Opera will continue to be a launching pad for wonderful careers and wonderful singers.” He cites next season’s shows as effective vehicles to showcase rising stars such as Melody Moore and Laquita Mitchell, the leads in Prima Donna and La traviata respectively.
Steel’s immediate goal is to stabilise the company financially and then increase offerings to between eight and 10 productions a year. Performing in the Koch Theater is still a possibility but “it makes more financial sense for us to rent the theatre than it does to be the landlord,” he says.
Jonathan Sheffer concurs that there are some alluring offerings next season. But given the myriad elements that will determine longterm success, he speaks for many when he suggests that the question of whether the company will thrive “remains a tantalising mystery”. G
GRAMOPHONE awards 2011 III