Saturday, November 08, 2008


So after following his plan as incoming general manager/artistic director to gut this season, it seems City Opera has been rejected by Euro-mandarin Gerard Mortier. As I suspected when he was first announced for the post, the culture clash did the union in, as it did Pam Rosenberg and San Francisco's: it looks as if Mortier was simply not committed to dealing with the financial end of things, necessary here as it is not on the other side of the Atlantic. When money dries up, plans must be adjusted; furthermore -- particularly given his ambitious plan for a budget 50% over the company's historical norm -- it was his own very real responsibility to ensure funds for this stuff even in a downturn.

Of course, the credit crisis (lately compounded, in a bit of irony, by the Obama election) brought things to a head sooner than one might have predicted, but the result itself isn't a surprise.

The short-term fallout is unfortunate, with next season's lineup being completely scrapped. It
was to have included Messiaen's "St. François d’Assise," Stravinsky's "Rake's Progress," Glass's "Einstein on the Beach," Janacek's "Makropulos Case," Britten's "Death in Venice" and Debussy's "Pelléas et Mélisande."
Of course, after this mostly modernist season delighted connoisseurs among acres of empty seats, he might well have been fired anyway.

The Met will be doing the Debussy and the Janacek in upcoming years, but I doubt it will ever do Messiaen's opera. Too bad.


  1. Who wants to hear those opera anyway? Call me provincial, philistine or whatever, the NYCO would be much better off if they would bring back Il Viaggio a Reims especially for the next year (Four dreadful years ahead sure needs a lot of Rossini).

  2. Who wants to hear those opera anyway?

    Well, I do. (Most of them.) That's the thing.

    But I have the sense not to expect this to be majority opinion. And to realize that this matters... absent some very deep-pocketed backers. In America, a cozy relationship with one government office and the press isn't enough.

    Of course, Rossini is something of a minority taste as well, though one that suits the young talent base NYCO has and can afford.

  3. Thanks jsu for responding. Sorry for my thoughtless comment about those modern opera if it offended you. I enjoy reading your blog tremulously.

    Would you be offended if I told you I found your blog because I was trying so see if there was anyone writing about opera / music like Jay Nordlinger since the SUN went down? (if I offended you again, my sincere apology).

    Recently I was told that one of my favorite baritones (Gino Quilico) was sing "St. François d’Assise" in Canada. Tell me about my minority taste.

  4. No, no offense taken! I enjoy getting different perspectives; I just wanted to be clear what I meant in the original post.

    I think Nordlinger's review style is uniquely his. (Among Sun reviewers I felt most kinship to Joel Lobenthal (ballet), and not just because we're both Veronika Part fans.) Nordlinger used to (when I subscribed, years ago) do regular music roundups for the New Criterion, and I suspect you can find him there again now.

  5. This is all very sad, because while I wanted to see much of what would have been put on, I realized quickly that not everyone shares my inclinations, especially people with a lot more money than I have. Billing this completely 20th century season was a striking move, but it certainly would have been safer to shift things over more gradually, and probably financially doable as well.

    I've been both bored and utterly delighted at the City Opera, and want it to survive.

  6. Add me to your St. Francois fan club. Call us the Stigmata Sisters. It is an amazing opera. I went to Paris a few years ago to hear it, and it was one of the most memorable performances I have ever heard.

    I also adore the Kent Nagano recording.

    I am sad about the loss of NYCO's upcoming season. Does anyone have a fantasy NYCO season they want to share. I posted my fantasy NYCO Trojan War season on wellsung.

    1. Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria
    2. Dido and Aeneas
    3. Iphegenie en Aulide and/or
    Iphegenie en Tauride
    4. Idomeneo
    5. Les Troyens
    6. Faure's Penelope (which I have never seen)
    7. Elektra
    8. Die Agyptische Helena
    9. Tippet's King Priam
    10. Walton's Troilus and Cressida.
    11. Max Bruch's Odysseus - amazing music, although not very stageable.

    Any others? Any other fantasy opera seasons?


  7. Joe, was the Paris production of St. Francois you saw the one at the Bastille with the wall of grass and Jose Van Dam dressed like a UPS delivery guy? I watched half of it.

    My crazy hope is the Mostly Mozart or the Lincoln Ceter Festival takes up the opera, perhaps with Ozawa or Robertson conducting. I would be happy with a semi-staged production if there are no directors who get Messaien's Christianity.

    NYCO's production of Flying Dutchman in 2001 was the opera that got me into opera.

  8. Given the expense and the space required, St. Francois would probably come around if it could be something like Soldaten, a short number of performances in a kind of festival situation with a lot of outside support, as opposed to being part of the normal run of a season.


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.