Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chairman Of The Board Tries To Save New York City Opera

(Photo: Fred R. Conrad/New York Times)
The New York Times offers up a profile of the new Chairman of the Board, Charles Wall, at New York City Opera. His major focus is fundraising, damage control in the form of a major marketing campaign and what repertoire to represent in what he hopes will be an expanded season at the David H. Koch Theater. "Opera was not Mr. Wall’s first love. Though he counts himself 'a fan,' he said that he was more familiar with symphonic music and that he was a die-hard fan of the American musical. And while ' Parsifal is not something I would rush to see,' Mr. Wall said, referring to the complex Wagner opera, he added that City Opera must continue to fulfill its mission of doing productions that may not immediately draw crowds." [Source]

The 68-year old company needs to figure out their current audience and future subscribers. This presents a dilemma in repertoire choices. Should they stick to the tried and true formula of standards (Traviata, Bohème, Carmen) at reduced rates, do rarely performed works (A Quiet Place, Intermezzo,  Erwartung) or attempt new avant garde compositions (Séance on a Wet Afternoon, Neither, la machine de l’être)? There is a difference between running an opera company dependent on ticket buyers as well as donations and a concert series that is funded by a college of university.

It seems the answer lies in a cross-pollination of familiar repertoire with a new directorial vision. Take for instance the Peter Sellars production of Händel's Theodora at the 1996 Glyndebourne Festival featuring Dawn Upshaw, David Daniels, Richard Croft and the late Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson. Why has this production never made its way to NYCO?